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Putting experience to work

by James Callander June 30, 2015

​Internships are a must-have for students looking to secure a top graduate job, and can speak volumes on your CV. Making the most of those lengthy university holidays and getting some exposure to the working world can have a huge impact on your graduate job hunt.

The majority of students will be drawn to the biggest and best companies for work experience, and it’s definitely worth aiming high. British businesses are always on the lookout for ‘bright young things’, and an internships is one of the best ways to assess potential recruits – an extended interview of sorts!

The key to your career…

This month’s Highfliers report confirmed that over a third of this year’s entry-level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already interned for their organisations – proof that internships can be a great way to showcase your skills and get your foot in the door.

Competition for the top internships is rife, especially in the most cut-throat sectors. But there’s still a lot to be optimistic about… over 80% of the UK’s leading graduate employers are offering paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates. What’s more, High Fliers reported that over two-thirds of employers provide paid vacation internships for students in their penultimate year, and over half offer industrial placements for undergraduates.

So despite tough competition, the opportunities out there are plentiful, and the rewards could be life changing.

Size doesn’t matter

You don’t need a gold-plated internship to get ahead and secure a great job. Experience at a small or boutique company can be as – if not, more – valuable than an internship at a big bank or consultancy. It’s more important to be ‘work ready’ than to have the most impressive name on your CV.

In fact, you can often get a lot more out of placements at smaller companies that provide tangible, marketable experience which you can take forward when applying for graduate jobs. If you can get involved in lots of aspects of the business it looks great on your CV and can also help you narrow down your post-University career choices. Another great thing about a spell at a smaller company is that it increases your chances of being exposed to, and working with, the higher decision makers in the company. Simply sitting next to a manager will help you glean small but insightful tit-bits about ‘how to do business’. It goes without saying that you can learn an awful lot this way!

What needs to go on my CV?

  • Make the most of your internship by being concise

  • Put your project work into context. 

  • Emphasise specific skills you were taught. 

  • Reference precise moments 

It’s fair to say that internships are extremely popular with both students and employers. They offer a great introduction to businesses you might want to work for, and to students that you might want to hire.

Whilst internships are tough to secure, getting any type of experience that helps you become ‘work ready’. This can only be a good thing, even if it’s not a very competitive opportunity… Just being in a work environment is great for listening and learning; a chance to sit in a busy office is a fantastic way to pick up the intricacies of the world of work.

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