Finding a work placement or internship – where do you start?! University life can be exhausting: an endless number of parties to attend, people to meet, friends to keep, naps to take and, on top of it all, finals, papers and parents’ expectations to not disappoint.
A good escape of the university routine (yes, let’s pretend you want the best years of your life to end) is getting yourself a work placement. First of all, it will make you feel like a grown up to actually show up to places at 9am. Plus, this temporary work experience adds value to your CV and will allow you to really experience the career you want to pursue.
So what is a work placement exactly? It’s fairly common in some countries, and in some degrees and Universities, work placements are mandatory and constitute a more practical side of the education you’re receiving. It’s like an internship, only it happens while you’re still studying or have just recently graduated. In a work placement, you’ll actually get to do stuff any other employee of the company would do.
It can be tricky to find a placement. And by tricky I actually mean it is tiresome and sometimes exasperating. Most of the times, you’ll have to do all the work by yourself. This means you’ll have to search for companies that offer opportunities like this, contact them, fill an application, be interviewed, wait to know if you were selected… You see what I mean.
There are a few things you might do to keep things organised and, hopefully, ensure you’ll get a placement.
The first thing you should do is write your CV. If you have one already, make sure it is updated. Remember to keep things clear, tidy, and simple and to include only experiences that matter for the position you’re applying for. No one at Lawyers Ltd needs to know that you were dog-sitting for your neighbours, but it might be worth mentioning you were once a lawyer’s assistant, even if the lawyer was your father…
Also, you’ll probably need a motivation letter. Don’t just write one and send it to everyone. Of course for the most part of it, I imagine your motivations will be the same. But try to tailor it to the company and job your applying to.
The second thing you should do is contact your university. Most times, Universities have previously established agreements with companies that offer work placements or can easily point you in the right direction. Programmes like Erasmus + can also be helpful if you’re looking for a placement abroad. Take advantage of them while you can!
If Uni didn’t have anything that caught your eye, you’ll have to do some research by yourself. Contact local businesses and talk to former teachers, friends and family. They might know someone who works at a company you might be interested in.
If none of the above is working for you, don’t despair for the Internet and the almighty Google will provide! There are several websites dedicated to gather job offers/internships for students. Just make sure the website and the companies are legit and trustworthy. You can check by making a quick search for the company name. If you get to a website with tons of pop-up ads for less appropriate stuff, you might want to skip it. Or not, I’m not one to judge!
You’ll probably send out dozens of emails and receive about five answers. If you’re lucky (well, and qualified), not all will start with “Thank you for your application. Unfortunately…” The important thing is to not give up.
By the end of your placement, you’ll not only have actual work experience to complement your studies, you’ll also have built up a network of (hopefully) influential people who might help you out in the future. Who knows, you might even end up with a job offer from the company! I know I did (thanks Clare and Jim!)!