Job market / Work experience

Still looking for an internship….?

Everyone has got an internship or work placement lined up for this summer except you – right?  Well, appearances can be deceptive – there are plenty of students still looking for work experience. And the good news? Many of them find it.

Don’t panic!

Easier said than done. Our natural instinct is to worry and compare ourselves unfavourably with everyone else. The atmosphere at Warwick doesn’t always help either: everyone seems terribly focussed and job ready and this plays out in numerous conversations along the lines of, “but all my housemates have got internships” or just as frequently, “everyone knows what they’re doing….except me“.  Let me be the one to burst this particular bubble. No they haven’t….and no they don’t!

3D Character and Golden KeyAnd despite what doom merchants may say to the contrary, it’s rarely too late. Yes, you might have to review your options and be a little more resourceful in your search, but there’s a very good chance if you want it badly enough – and you put the time and effort into your applications –  you will find work experience for this summer.

Finding an internship

If you want to go into a sector where formal internships are pretty much a pre-requisite then chances are you’ve already applied during the autumn term application frenzy. The competition is intense so don’t berate yourself too much if you were unsuccessful.  The good news is that all of the major graduate job portals are still advertising summer internships, but the window of  opportunity is  closing so you need to be really proactive.  You can’t afford to sit and wait.

Where to look:
  • myAdvantage – use the advanced search. 28 internship programmes available.
  • Milkround  – internships available across sectors e.g. marketing, consultancy, finance, law.
  • Inside Careers –  internships in finance, IT, consultancy.
  • TARGETjobs –  internships in engineering, IT, technology, R&D, law,manufacturing, management, marketing & finance.
  • Gradcracker  – internships and work placements in engineering.
  • Indeed – job search portal, use keywords to define search.
  • Twitjobsearch  – use the advanced search to set criteria.
  • Warwick initiatives – check the info for Green Steps and Warwick Undergraduate Internships Programme.

Make sure your applications are up to scratch: if you’re already tried and failed to secure a city internship, avoid making  the same mistakes. Get your application/CV/cover letter checked – don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. It’s important to be realistic about your chances: if you didn’t get past the initial application sift, then maybe you’re aspirations extend beyond your current situation. The most coveted internships are very competitive so most students will be disappointed. This doesn’t signal the end of your career hopes – you just need to explore other avenues.

Same field, smaller company?

It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, so make sure you expand your search beyond the big corporates. You’d be surprised at some of the opportunities you can unearth by looking in the SME (small and medium size enterprise) sector. Over 99% of British businesses fall within this category, so it would be short sighted to overlook this sector for potential work experience placements. But, year on year, students tend to dismiss SMEs because they can’t compete with the ‘Big Players’ when it comes to formal, structured placements (with the £ to match). What they can offer is some real hands on experience, and the chance to make an impact that might not be possible when you’re jostling for space – and recognition – with many other interns.

Approximately a third of SMEs rely on speculative applications and I suspect for work experience opportunities the percentage is even higher. You will have to do much of the legwork yourself.  If you’re lucky you may come across one of the few advertised ‘vacancies’ but you need to know where to look….

Finding advertised placements:
  • Step –  quality placements are available to penultimate year students. The ‘Step Classic’ initiative offers project based summer placements for students from any discipline.
  • Enternships – if you fancy joining the top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs, this may be a good place to start. Most of the vacancies are for grads, but they do offer summer internships/placements as well.
  • Guardian Jobs: SME jobs – check listing type for internships.
  • Professional Institutions &  Associations – use the job sector pages to identify the relevant association. Not just for information, resources, networking and advice – some of them do offer placements. This is the first one I checked: AdMISSION – work experience and internships (IPA )
Being more resourceful:
  • Yell – ok, this might seem terribly retro, but it’s  a great way to find SMEs in your local area. Haven’t managed to find a vac scheme?  Try a local solicitors. Didn’t get the internship with PwC? Approach a small accountancy firm.
  • UK Small Business Directory – search by county, then category e.g.  Bristol > Accountants in Bristol
  • Local and regional press – you might not see an advertised vacancy, but topical news stories can highlight growth areas and recruitment trends. Is a particular SME expanding? If so, it’s worth sending a speculative application.
  • Harness your social networks – tell people you’re looking for a work placement. If they don’t know, they can’t help!
  • Talk to a Job Service Adviser – they can help you work out what you need and where to look.

If you’re going to make speculative approaches then follow these basic principles: find a named contact  – ring if you have to –  send a really polished CV and cover letter (and remember it’s not what they can do for you….) and make sure you’ve a) done your research and b) it shows! And if you don’t hear anything – make a polite call, or send an email. The onus is on you to make the effort, not the employer.

In a nutshell….

…you can find a work placement for this summer, just don’t be too disappointed if it isn’t an ‘internship’. Work experience doesn’t need a grandiose title to be worthwhile!

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