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The Lowdown

Advice, General advice, Work Experience September 16, 2007

The Lowdown

THE LOWDOWN

BLUE-CHIP INTERNSHIPS

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

The big companies usually run internship programmes over the summer holidays. They offer the chance of money, business insights and networking opportunities.

They are also seen as a key way to recruit graduates, and as ABN AMRO states, "By the end of it, we want to be in a position to make you an offer for a place on our graduate programme."

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT?

Usually, employers will only take penultimate-year students. But relevant degrees are not always necessary. For example, Ernst & Young takes students from any discipline but asks that they should display, "individuality, team-working skills, commercial drive and energy."

GET AHEAD

The first step is to use your careers service. They’ll provide you with advice on who is offering internships – and will help you write your application form.

But it’s up to you to find a placement. The majority of organisations will have detailed information on available schemes on their websites. Be warned, competition is fierce and you’ll need to apply very early.

ON THE DOWN SIDE

This might sound surprising, but applying for an internship can be more competitive than applying for a graduate job.
So don’t expect the application process to be easy – it can often involve several stages of interviews and aptitude tests
and you’ll need put in a great deal of preparation.

LINKS

Visit individual company sites for information. Research your internship application as you would a real job.

INTERNATIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Everything from teaching in developing countries, casual work and travelling, voluntary work or formal internships with one employer. You’ll just need to decide what suits you and your budget.

WHAT DO EMPLOYER’S WANT?

Casual work schemes abroad require only that you are over 18, can prove that you are a student, have a valid passport, and have the necessary funds. Some of the charities operating these schemes have an application process that you will have to go through.

GET AHEAD

The likes of Council Exchanges, Bunac and Camp America are familiar to many. But some big employers also offer international work placements. However, competition can be tough. KPMG, for example, requires you to be "academically outstanding" and fluent in German/French.

ON THE DOWN SIDE

The costs can be huge, so you will have to raise money before you leave. While fundraising can be another great thing to put on your CV, it can also be very time consuming. As well as company fees and flights, there can also be hidden costs, such as your visa or a TEFL course. Make sure you do your maths before you get going.

LINKS

www.bunac.org/uk
www.councilexchanges.org.uk
www.campamerica.co.uk
www.teaching-abroad.co.uk

Also make sure you check your uni careers service.

CASUAL WORK

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

It might not be the most glam way to spend your spare time, but stacking shelves at Christmas could be more valuable than you think. That’s because any experience is good experience as long as you make the most of it to practise skills like teamwork and customer service.

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT?

Most companies hire students to work in their busy periods, such as weekends, end-of-season sales and public holidays. This means that, ultimately, what they really want is a high degree of availability. It might not be fun to give up your spare time, but if you aren’t prepared to, other people will be.

GET AHEAD

Many universities have JobShops that can help you to find casual work. Recruitment is very different to that for a graduate job however, often working on a first-come, first-served basis, so you need to be alert constantly for job adverts and get your application in quickly.

ON THE DOWN SIDE

The work can be boring, and the pay won’t necessarily be high. Anti-social hours can also be a pain and you’ll often have to be available at short notice.

LINKS

www.nases.org.uk
(National Association of Student Employers)

VOLUNTARY WORK

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Pretty much all employers like to see volunteering experience on CVs. One reason is that many voluntary organisations provide training. For example: "We’ve a comprehensive training course for many of our volunteers," says Dan Levene at the Citizens Advice Bureau, which relies on more than 20,000 trained volunteers to run its services.

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT?

According to the National Centre for Volunteering, "Some organisations are quite demanding and look for volunteers with certain skills, but most give full training and are just looking for someone with enthusiasm."

GET AHEAD

The National Centre for Volunteering is a useful starting point for ideas on how to volunteer in your local community.

Other useful organisations include Timebank, which has a searchable database of projects at home and abroad, and CSV, which places volunteers and provides training.

ON THE DOWN SIDE

The key word here is ‘voluntary’, which means you won’t be paid for the work you do. This can particularly be a problem if you want to volunteer abroad, as you will first need to raise all the necessary funds.

LINKS

www.volunteeringengland.org.uk
www.yearofthevolunteer.org
www.timebank.org.uk
www.volunteering.org.uk
www.studentvol.org.uk
www.citizensadvice.org.uk

ONE-YEAR SANDWHICH PLACEMENTS

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Sandwich placements form part of your degree course, typically between the second and final years. They mostly paid and are intended to be relevant to your degree and are offered in industry, commerce and the public sector.

Even if a placement is not part of your course, you may be allowed to take a year out if you are keen.

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT?

As you will effectively be an employee for a year, firms have strict recruitment criteria. "Most important is enthusiasm and a willingness to get stuck in, as we expect the same amount of work from our placement students as we do from our graduate recruits," says Gary Argent, UK graduate recruitment manager at IT services company Logica.

GET AHEAD

Your university will provide some help and usually has a designated placement officer, but it will mainly be down to you to organise your placement. Ask at your careers service and at your academic department.

Many large recruiters now run sandwich schemes, so if you are interested in a particular company, visit their website to see what they offer.

ON THE DOWN SIDE

Competition for sandwich placements can be intense, and you won’t always get your first choice of employer. A year is a long time if you discover in your first week that you are not suited to the company or the job. It will also add extra length to your degree, but remember that employers increasingly use sandwich placements to find future employees.

LINKS

Visit your university careers service website and check individual company sites.

PLACEMENT AGENCIES

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Agencies such as Step, Talentladder and Fledglings find paid placements with employers for penultimate-year students. They aim to match students to placements that will interest them. Some, such as Step, focus on SMEs. Graduate Opportunities Wales places students for 10-week, small-business placements in Wales. Freshminds looks for top grads who have finished their course.

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT?

Don’t expect them to do all the work for you. You need to treat your application to a placement agency as if it was a formal job application.

All placement agencies are looking for students who will be bright and capable enough to take on a job in industry, and these are the qualities they will look for on your CV.

GET AHEAD

Once you are on their books, the agency will do all the hard work. They create a profile, mainly using your CV but also through interviews, then search through their databases of potential employers to find one that matches your skills and interests. You will be usually required to attend an interview with the employer. At that stage your success is up to you.

ON THE DOWN SIDE

What the agency thinks suits you might not necessarily be what you think suits you.
Worst-case scenario: they may offer you placements in jobs you wouldn’t enjoy or at firms that don’t appeal to you.

LINKS

www.step.org.uk
www.talentladder.com
www.freshminds.co.uk
www.gowales.co.uk
www.fledglings.net

Comments are closed.

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