During the hustle and bustle of university life, the extra stress you pile on when looking for professional work whether as a part of your degree or during a gap year or summer holiday, can have a massive effect on your academic performance. My advice to help limit this is to start early!
There’s a lot more to do than you think. I personally believe that the best time to start researching companies and potential internships is around August/ early September before uni courses start again; most major companies also start advertising around this time. Finding work is as much about you liking the company as it is them liking you. Don’t fall into the trap of making multiple applications just to secure something if there is a large chance you might really dislike the job.
The first thing to consider is the size of the company you want to work for. It’s okay if you aren’t sure, but try to picture where you feel you will be most comfortable. Some people enjoy being part of a bigger organisation for a variety of reasons; for example, company reputation, the financial benefits or how well structured and developed their placement scheme might be. It could be that you might prefer a smaller company because there is always the chance that you will have more responsibility and may be challenged more- this is not always the case, but it is a possibility.
The age demographic of the company might also be a vital thing for you to consider. For example, when I reflected on my internship summer of 2015 I realised that one of the main reasons why I enjoyed it so much was because of the age demographic of the firm. It was a lot easier for me to settle in and feel like part of the team because there were a lot of graduates who were also new and had just left university that I could relate to and learn from. Some people prefer smaller firms where they might be the only student working there, whatever your preference, try and find out as much as you can about the company and the type of people already working there.
As obvious as it sounds, do your best to find out what type of work you will be required to do as a student. The main services that the firm offers may not necessarily be similar to the tasks you will have to complete once hired. I myself, and fellow undergraduates have all experienced interviews with companies for placements, or even received job offers and then found out that the type of work required is not necessarily something we are particularly interested in. It may sound silly, but it is very easy to be misled by a major company that probably hasn’t even put out an informative job description. I’ve even dealt with companies that haven’t sent out job descriptions until the day before my interview and when I received it I immediately knew that job wouldn’t be for me.
Think about location. For some people this is an afterthought, but in some cases you may have to live away from your home/university and so you have to consider accommodation and transport. Don’t make the mistake I did of securing a placement that didn’t have a set location. I will soon be working for a massive company with multiple sites, when I got the placement, I didn’t have a car *smh*. Luckily for me I have managed to sort this out but it would have been an absolute disaster if I couldn’t even get to work every day. Another reason location is important is because, (especially if you are away from home), you need to ensure that you have enough income to support yourself. You may be working voluntarily, you may not have a large salary or you may be completing an industrial placement which means your student loan is largely reduced- whatever the case, don’t put yourself in a position that will leave you starving or homeless!
With that being said, don’t let the salary determine whether or not you consider a job. It is likely that at this point in your life you don’t have many financial responsibilities and no one is depending on you, therefore this is your opportunity to learn and soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as you can before you officially enter the working world. I learnt a lot last summer at a company that paid quite a basic wage but at this age, money isn’t the motivation- learning and experience is!
One final thing to remember, especially if you are completing an industrial placement, is that your placement might have to be accredited by a professional institution in order to contribute to your degree/ as a diploma. This may not apply to every course or every university but make sure to find out from your course director if you have such requirements.
Here are some sites that might be useful to you when searching for placement and internship schemes:
I hope this wasn’t too long! Stay tuned for CV, cover letter, applications and my interview tips!