I often get asked how to get an Internship. My answer is always: keep applying and keep trying! I did a year in industry placement with Scottish and Southern Energy, the second largest power generation business in the UK. Now, what worked for me when I got my placement? I applied to a total of 76 companies, and being a guy obsessed with data, I was crazy enough to keep a count of it. I got through to the next stage of 13, reached the final stage of interviews for five of them and finally, one placement. The whole process started in January 2009 and I got a placement offer in July 2009.
I started applying for companies through the online application forms, and with time, I started to get in the groove. I realised I could answer a particular question differently – the more I applied, the more the words started falling into place. With practice and rejections, I realised that mistakes are always made, but also how they could be avoided in further applications. During the final interview, the employer is interested in you and wants to know if you can carry yourself well in their environment and do the job well. Every time I was rejected, I asked for personal feedback and improved from it. With experience and feedback, in later interviews, I was calm and composed, smiling whilst answering, and talking and expressing positive energy.
A good few months into the job, I asked why I got selected, and this was the response: I was flexible on moving for work, my answers showed that I had done my research well, I was a social person, I had other activities on my CV and used them to my advantage whilst showing soft skills. Extracurricular activities are very important; they make you a balanced person. My company searched my name online to check I hadn’t got anything ‘stupid’ online, so it is of paramount importance that a person’s online image is clean. With Facebook and Twitter, people should be careful with what they post. My internship experience helped me improve my business communication, made me more aware and appreciative of the selection process and made me understand the vacancy requirements clearly.
Now, what about unpaid internships? Personally, I am against them. I realise the effort I put into my work, and as much as I respect the experience, we have to be realistic about the need to earn money. I have been lucky to be in a field where a paid internship is the norm. But I have to admit that in some industries, an unpaid internship is the way in. So, as a student, you must review the pros and cons, on a case by case basis. For instance, if the BBC offers an unpaid internship, then it’s worth looking into, as it is a good employer to have on your CV.
Let me share an important hint for those looking for longer internships and placements. If there is an offer of 12 weeks and you are looking for six months or more, then my advice is, get the 12-week thing going, do your best, so much so that the company realises that you are an asset, and if you want to carry on, they might extend it somehow. I did it – I got in for 12 weeks and came out with 15 months of high quality experience.
If you have a similar story to share, please do leave a comment and good luck to those of you looking for an internship.
(The following posts was written by the author during the time he was contracted for writing for UOL Careers Blog, where the post appears in original)
(This article was also published in Careers 360, a popular careers related magazine for students in Mumbai, India)