I remember looking for an internship in the careers guidance building of the University of East Anglia back in 2008. I was in my penultimate year at the university, studying environmental science and international development. I had no previous work experience, no idea about the value of my skills and no clue where to start looking for work.
I decided to do an internship because I needed the chance to apply my skills in the workplace and sample working life for the first time. Looking back certain factors ensured the internship worked for me, so here are some of the insights I learned.
Before you commit, it is really important to decide what you what to achieve from an internship so you choose the right one for you. I wanted an internship that would stand out on my CV and allow me to make new friends but would not interfere with my university studies. I chose the STEP London Internship Programme because they place candidates in paid internships for three months over the summer and organise events for their interns to meet each other and share experiences.
I was placed with a construction company called Lakehouse, an industry I would never have considered looking into. The internship was really inspiring; my role involved taking control of a project. I had to carry out market research to identify new business opportunities within the company’s business development team, gaining valuable experience and useful industry contacts.
Many people highlight the disadvantages of internships where the interns aren’t given challenging or interesting work. An internship should be a mutually beneficial arrangement, where you gain valuable experience and the employer uses your skills to benefit the company. When you are interviewed by a prospective employer, remember it is also your chance to iask them what they have to offer.
I was looking for a career direction and to gain confidence in my abilities. My internship gave me the opportunity to try out an industry which I had not previously considered and broadened my horizons. It prepared me for the working environment, which some of my friends have struggled with having gone straight into work from university, enhanced my CV and helped me negotiate future jobs. When the recession was at its worst and I found myself unemployed, having those contacts helped me to find work again.
Not everyone has a good experience of internships. However, if you know what you want to achieve from doing one, this will help you to challenge yourself and the employer to make sure you have a worthwhile experience.