Why did you initially want to do an Internship?
I knew an internship would enhance my CV and further my career prospects, as well as giving me useful relationships and contacts. I wanted to gain experience and develop my skills in a role and industry I would want to go into after graduating from University. The idea of obtaining a year-long placement in arguably the most competitive time for employment was an extremely attractive proposition and one I was determined to succeed in. The entire reasoning for my choice of University and course was the fact it was a sandwich course allowing a year out working. At the time of applying I was 20 years old with average A-levels at an average University with an average CV, like the majority of 20 something year olds. Competition was high with thousands of other students going to University and attaining a degree, in today’s world, having a degree was becoming the norm, I knew a placement would help me differentiate myself.
Was it easy to get an Internship?
My idea of differentiating myself through an internship was shared with a large number of other students and I soon realised that it is not just jobs that are incredibly competitive and over applied for, it was also placements and internships that were equally hard to find. Obtaining a placement in the first place was perhaps the most difficult part and I had certainly underestimated the scale of the task. After receiving limited assistance from my University along with hundreds of fellow students competing for the same position, I independently set up introductory meetings and informal chats with family friends and senior management. Attaining an internship requires dedication, determination and a large amount of effort as well as picking yourself up when things don’t work out. One of the most difficult aspects of searching for an internship is rejection and failing to get the position you wanted. After several meetings and interviews I soon was offered a position at Jobs Direct. I feel if you put the effort in and dedicate your time to the process, you will get your reward, but it is no easy feat.
What were your experiences during the Internship?
Comparing a year placement with a year studying at University would result in so many differences, but I have the ability to reflect and learn from both. As a student going into a working environment with fairly limited experience, I encountered difficult times where I felt overwhelmed, stressed and at times unhappy. However, I reflect on these times as positive and part of my self-development on this huge learning curve, signifying the start of my career journey. There were difficulties and daunting actives from the small tasks, such as answering the phone, to larger scale tasks such as attending meetings. I realised they have been positive factors in my experience, and these are only overcome with practice by jumping in head first and tackling them. I learnt a lot about myself in one year, doing a placement was incredible and something that cannot be achieved through reading books and doing exams.
What difficulties did you encounter?
The major difficulty I would face before I had even started was my contract and more specifically my wage. Based on the industry standard and what other companies had been offering as well as what my friends were on, I felt my wage was considerably below average. As an individual who is extremely motivated by money, at times this was a burden and obstacle to overcome. However, I looked positively on this as not only was I grateful for the opportunity, I also knew of individuals who were not being paid for their internship. Depending on how you interpret a difficulty, I felt I faced difficulties each day where I either learnt something new or had to work hard at something. I feel my experiences and difficulties toughened me up and only improved my skills and outlook on my career.
What were your major achievements?
Perhaps one of the greatest achievements I could give myself was actually obtaining, completing and seeing through the internship. From the day I started I had witnessed fellow colleges’ leave who started prior to me. This reminded me that to do a job that is unenjoyable or doesn’t suit your needs and skills will not last long, therefore finding the perfect match is key. I feel I achieved more than I would ever have imagined prior to starting, perhaps one of the most unexpected aspects was the fact I will be leaving with genuine friends who I will certainly be staying in touch with. I enhanced my interpersonal skills and confidence which I feel are fully optimised in working environment, making me a more attractive candidate for a future job with an increased amount of skills, requiring less training time. This idea that future employers will see me as less of a risk with experience is another key achievement I feel I have gained which will remain a key factor for a number of years when applying for future positions. It will also allow for the process of obtaining the desired job easier through an enhanced CV and the relationships made.
Was the year worth it?
For me personally, the year out working for a company in the real world has no doubt given me skills and experiences that I would not have learnt at University. The time scale of a full year compared to other shorter placements, such as summer placements, has given me the opportunity to develop over a long period of time. A year-long placement does take determination and at times feels like a long stretch, it is a large commitment and a happy state of mind is certainly required. I found support was there if needed through my University and supervisors which made me feel well looked after during the year. My colleges understood my position and were always looking to help me develop and pass on their knowledge. There were times where I felt I was doing repetitive laborious tasks in which I was learning very little, but I soon matured and understood that at times work isn’t always fun and responsibilities occasionally had to be uninspiring.
What would your advice be to someone looking for an Internship?
My advice for somebody who has just finished their A-levels would be to explore courses that offer the option of a year-long internship. This is after all optional and if an internship doesn’t materialise or doesn’t become a possibility, the course and graduation remains the same. For a student currently on a sandwich course deciding whether to obtain one, I would advise highly on taking it and couldn’t recommend it more. I feel it is a massive undertaking with a number of difficulties to overcome, but feel the advantages outweigh these and in the long-term it will be extremely beneficial. Not only does it look fantastic on your CV, employers will look fondly on it and it will boost your career prospects.
Upon reflection of my internship and final summary, I would suggest to Universities, companies and the Government to welcome the fact that in the future the majority of University courses incorporate a sandwich style course with a year placement. With rising University fees, it is not only an ideal way of going towards paying off these debts, it prepares students for the real world. In my opinion and my own experiences, I feel the majority of students are naive and University does not prepare students enough for working life. I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed my internship, making friends, developing my skills and most importantly giving me a clearer idea of what career path I want to go down. I now feel much more confident graduating from University knowing that I have gained experience through my internship and I am ready to embark on my career path.