Sarah Johns is currently a first year student studying a BA in Geography. She has just sourced her own internship and gives her tips on how this can be achieved.
I have just been accepted onto a one month work experience placement for a design and communications agency based in Leeds and London.
Applying for advertised internships can be a stressful and competitive process. There are other methods though. Prior to being accepted as an intern, no formal application had taken place, let alone handing in a CV.
Google searches of the word ‘internships’ did not get me very far. Instead, I sought opportunities through University to develop skills, volunteer and gain insight into future careers. I enjoyed actively meeting people and gaining information by talking to them.
What I did
I would say three key factors helped to secure my internship. These are experiences in volunteering roles, networking experience and use of initiative.
1. Volunteering experience
I have been involved in a year-long project with the Careers Centre organising a networking event called ‘Excuse to Breakfast’. It involved teamwork with other students, regular meetings with my student team and Careers Centre staff and training with local employers. This has vastly improved my confidence contacting employers over the phone and email. I had become so used to speaking to employers that I no longer felt embarrassed asking to speak to someone at a company. Also the training as part of the project included dealing with rejection as well as techniques to get you past the telephone gatekeeper. This insider knowledge gained in the project was invaluable to understand how to build and maintain business relationships. Building relationships means employers get to know you and they’ll realise they would like your skills to be put to use in their company with an internship.
Similarly being a member of the global student organisation AIESEC has been hugely rewarding. It’s a society at Leeds that helps you improve your employability. You gain practical leadership experience and transferable skills.
2. Networking experience
I made the contact with the company through someone I had met at the AIESEC networking event. I explained the experiences I’d had and how they had improved my skills. Several weeks later we met again by chance at a volunteer opportunity called CSR in Action. Local employers spoke and answered questions and the contact I’d made was there speaking about her company. This contact recognised me and seemed warm to the idea of networking with students.
3. Use of initiative
I wanted to get in touch after the event so I rang up the company a week later and asked to speak to her. I said I was hoping to gain more information about her work. She set up an appointment for me to have a tour of the office! When I visited I didn’t know what to expect but after the tour and chat she asked me if I would like to give her dates for a work experience placement!
Without my aforementioned experiences I would not have had the confidence to build a relationship with the employer in the first place. So grab opportunities while you can and gain that internship!