Published in the Student Advertiser.
The ‘internship’: a fundamental component of further and higher education and one which – if completed well – can potentially lead students to full-time graduate employment. Uh-huh…
You’ve heard the clichés before; those individuals moaning about the time they had to make someone a cup of tea for less-than-minimum – or perhaps no – wage. So-called internships are erected by sarcastic bosses who find your presence to be more of a hindrance than a help, who prey on naïve students to deal with the mundane aspects of their jobs whilst basking in the light of their own fancy titles. Stigma says that internships are co-ordinated by people under duress, industry ideals who have forgotten so much where they came from that they cannot see your worth. They are, in turn, attended by weak and desperate individuals who fail to see their own.
Great. So… Now that we have mortified some of the mythical aspects of interning, I think it’s time to straighten out the subject by definition and discuss what the actual, real-life benefits of getting industry experience are.
A degree doesn’t say everything about YOU
How often do you meet someone with a really elaborately-titled degree and instantly feel your value diminishing?
My guess is at least once a month at some social event with friends of friends, where your best chance of survival is through small talk.
Similarly, how often do you meet someone who doesn’t have a degree or external qualification and experience an ego boost? Or how about meeting someone who has recently won a volunteering award for however-many-hundred hours? Do you feel shallow in comparison?
There’s a reason why everyone has been telling you to maintain extra-curricular activities outside of your degree/qualifications and it’s not only because competition is so high that you every interview ought to be treated like a Britain’s Got Talent audition. Your studies tell employers about your ability to research, apply knowledge, argue and, most importantly, show that you care enough about learning to have continued beyond the school leaving age of 16.
However, too many of us are reliant on ‘having a degree’ when it comes to job applications. Volunteering at an institution relevant to your chosen career path is a sure-fired way of demonstration determination – a very attractive quality in a job applicant. Volunteering will also show everyone you speak to that you are enthusiastic enough about your field to be involved in it free-of-charge. Securing a paid internship is also a good way of showing employers that a firm believes in you enough to invest in your talent.
You needn’t worry now about the various sports teams, political societies and jobs you’re planning to take on after reading this, though. So many students are so deeply involved in the social aspects of studying that even a small amount of voluntary work will make you stand out against your peers.
Experience is for life, not just for a C.V.
The ultimate early-twenties nightmare is turning up to a job you’ve worked your ass of to secure only to realise, ‘hey, this isn’t for me – I’m away back to my hourly-paid role in Tesco.’
Experience looks great on your Linked In profile, and I mean great. The more quality institutions you can add under ‘voluntary experience’ on your C.V., the more it shows just how great a candidate you could be for a job role. But there’s something about work experience that people tend to forget: it allows you a day/week in the life of a job you could be in one day. And you might hate it, so it’s best to work that out while you’re still in your stabilisers.
Work experience placements are usually unpaid but full of opportunities to learn about your work ethic: how you cope in pressured situations; how you cope when things go wrong; how well you manage being stuck on something and do you have the confidence to ask for help when you need it? Fundamentally, work experience placements are so you can look at something and decide, ‘will this get me out of bed in the morning?’ Therefore, it’s integral that you expose yourself to as much as possible.
You are the future – and everyone knows it
It might never have occurred to you that big companies might actually be grateful to have you on board – well, most of them are. When a student approaches a large firm with a hunger to learn more, they flag up on the radar as an ideal candidate for future employment. A lot of the time, a passion for learning new things and a track record of showing you can is really all that employers are looking for when it comes to hiring the company’s Team of the Future.
Most students now feel down at the prospect of having the future on their shoulders – but this ought to be used to our advantage. The top bosses won’t be around forever and we just need to do as much now as we possibly can to convince everyone that we are the candidates fit to fill their shoes.
Convinced? I hope so. Unfortunately, time, money and various other factors – I don’t know, like, essays – can prevent students from getting the work experience they so need. Luckily, there are various external organisations that can provide students with the means to do this.
The Creative Scotland and Young Scot ‘Time to Shine’ Nurturing Talent Fund – a small bursary of up to £200 for 18-20-year-olds designed to support individuals embarking on a creative project related to literature, media, music, theatre, art and so on. This can include travel to and from a suitable work placement (that doesn’t offer funding of any sort).
Creative Scotland Open Project Funding – a large bursary designed to fund individuals seeking to develop skills or artistic practise, projects that present something of new or high quality, or, a project that encourages new people to get involved in creative or artistic activity.