From the 29th – 31st of January, University of Cumbria held their Futures Festival; a series of lectures, events and socials designed for students’ to make contacts in industry, network with other students and also ask questions. I was asked to speak on a Graduate Intern Panel, as I am currently an intern for the University of Cumbria Students’ Union. This is possibly the most terrifying thing I have done (and I used to work in retail) but I thought that when I was a student, it’s something I would have loved to do, so after doing a good impression of Darth Vader doing labour breaths, I did it.
As well as myself, there was also a UCSU elected Officer, a UoC Alumni who was doing a HR internship with the Uni, and speakers from the UoC careers service, the UoC Internships Scheme, and Graduate Talent pool, and organisation that provides help and information to those doing/wanting to do an internship (they actually spoke at last years Futures Festival when I was studying, and were the most informative thing I went to!). It was really informative, so I wanted to make a post with some of the information that was shared!
- As soon as you do any ‘meaningful’ work for an employer, you are owed a wage
This is cheating slightly, as this was something that I learnt last year, but companies are NOT allowed to not pay you for an internship. Doing works experience/shadowing or something like that is fine, but as soon as you being a worker, i.e. actually do any work for the employer, you are owed a wage. Graduate Talent Pool has helped students who haven’t been paid after completing an internship, so if this is the kind of situation you’re in, get in touch.
- You can apply for an internship at any time.
Companies don’t work to an academic timetable, so they won’t be waiting until your semester finishes to start looking for an intern. You can look and apply at any time – a speaker from prospects said that once upon a time, it was easy to predict a sort of cycle where companies would start recruiting, but now with industries changing, it’s no longer the case. Some courses will also try and accommodate you if you’re doing an internship, but it is best to speak with your lecturer or the head of your course before accepting any offers.
- You don’t need to look in your area
This one I found a bit hit and miss, but that’s because I want to work in the area that my degree is in. This isn’t actually the case for a lot of people – sometimes after three years of study, people realise they hate the subject they’ve studied, or they might just not be cut out for it. But internships aren’t necessarily looking for you to have a degree in whatever internship they’re offering. It’s best to look at what transferable skills you have from your degree – in almost every degree you learn to analyse and evaluate information, you learn communication skills, you learn time management, you do a hell of a lot of research. All of these are skills that can be transferred to a whole load of different areas. It might be good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new.
- They might not even ask what your degree is in – and they definitely don’t ask your grade
Building from my last point, a number of speakers said that they hadn’t been asked what their degree was in for a long time – this is because employers aren’t looking for degrees, they’re looking for skills. Adding to this, something my lecturers always drilled into us was that grades don’t matter. It was your personality and your portfolio that got you a job, nobody cared if you got a 2:2, 2:1 or a first. I always only half believed this – it wasn’t until I was about half way through my internship that I realised my current employers have never asked what grade I got in my degree, or even asked for proof I finished my degree. For all they knew I dropped out, failed, ran away from university and started spoon whittling.
- Don’t worry about not getting a placement/works experience whilst at uni
Hardly anyone actually gets one – unless it’s part of your course that you have to, it’s rare that anyone manages it. This is especially true in the case of creative industries I think. One or Two people on your course will be lucky enough to get one, and if you do that’s great! But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t.