Ah summer time; the time of year of freedom from alarm clocks, holidays, BBQs… and summer internships.
It wasn’t until second year that I became seriously active at searching out some internship or work placement opportunities. I had worked in retail before and have done some volunteering during my gap year, but never had I done any office work.
Getting that experience
As soon as second year hit, I was applying for internships roughly two or three times a week. I regularly went to employability workshops hosted by the Career’s Team. I highly recommend people to go – they are free and incredibly useful. Some argue that this may have been too early but the cathartic party me of year one was over and it is never too early to apply! The new term commences this September so now is a great time to start looking. You hear horror stories of students missing out because they did not know about application deadlines. Some worry about their statement’s quality looking rushed because they left it last minute. Don’t let your chances of finding the right career become subject to lack of preparation!
A leaflet from one of Southampton’s graduate fairs last semester. These are held a few times a year and are not just for final years – click on the link to find out when the next one is!
It is a good idea to apply for as many opportunities as possible. As well as going for mainstream companies and organisations, I also applied to a few of Southampton’s Excel work experience programmes and the Study Abroad programme. Spending a semester or so abroad is an excellent way of getting a well rounded university experience. I was set to head off to the University of Adelaide in Australia but chose to stay in England instead as I managed to secure myself an internship with the Civil Service.
I have heard good things about the British Civil Service and their graduate programmes even before applying. Applications are a few clicks away online which made the whole process incredibly accessible. And after a challenging selection process, I’m now having the pleasure of completing a two month internship with the Civil Service at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Westminster.
Outside of the office
What am I doing here?
It most certainly is not making coffee and filing all day.
As well as shadowing my colleagues and coming to meetings, my project here looks at supporting mental and physical health for people at work. This is as opposed to just giving up on health and letting go of valuable staff. For me, the ethical nature of this project has kept my interest in it so far.
Working 9 to 5 does have its tests for someone who’s used to getting up for breakfast at 6 pm and having dinner at 6 am*. But, in terms of knowledge acquisition, working such hours have become incredibly rewarding. The DWP’s work inevitably affects you and me at one point in our lifetime and I am especially grateful for working in an organisation that deals with issues at the top of the political agenda.
What have I found so far?
Whether it’s when you’re waiting for data to be gathered or when you’ve finished your tasks for the day, it is true that some projects experience quiet moments. But I actually think that this is the point of an internship – in fact, I think it is one of the best things about it. This blank space in your schedule is prime time for you to go ahead and find out about what your colleagues actually do. The first advice I got from my line manager when I first started is to never be afraid to join people for lunch or to invite them for a coffee. Not only does this come across as enthusiastic but once you know more about them you may find that you’re actually really interested in their work. If you do, you could ask to shadow them for a day or sit in at one of their meetings, if they didn’t mind. Chances are they won’t. People love talking about what they do and it is a fun and practical way for you to figure out what you want in your career!
Having lunch with the colleagues
Ultimately, there are plenty of opportunities out there for you to get some experience. It is just the case of proactively searching for them, so go out there and have fun while you’re at it! Good luck!
*NB: Author is particularly guilty of this.