Iain Waterman graduated with a degree in History from the University of Leeds in 2012. Here he outlines how taking a number of internships after graduating helped him decide on a career path, gain important experience and his tips for negotiating internship terms with employers.
With little idea of what I wanted to do after graduating from Leeds, and with little professional experience to speak of on my CV, I found internships a necessary step towards finding something full time. Whilst many internships do pay, I have a bit of advice for anyone looking at unpaid offers but worried about covering costs – negotiate with the employer.
How internships help
Internships are an incredibly useful way of trying different sectors and job roles in order to build a better of picture of what you want your first career step to look like. Having some experience on your CV will also show prospective employers that you are proactive, enthusiastic and prepared to work. They will give you a great understanding of what the sector is about (which you can bring to future interviews), what the day to day of the role is, and skills from keeping to deadlines and interrogating briefs, to using a phone and Outlook.
What I did
I graduated in history in 2012 and thought that I might want to work in politics or journalism. I took two internships, at a political news website called Politics Home, and a political-charity-come-video-production-firm called Catch 21 Productions, as well as a work experience week at The Times. Working at these places gave me a great feel for the respective industries and helped me formulate the first career step. I moved from looking at journalism (Masters required, highly competitive, newspapers cutting resources all over the place) to PR and public affairs (expanding sector, dynamic companies and workforce, work across any sectors), and have now reached two years at a company called Blue Rubicon.
My advice for others
My big tip for internships? Negotiate your hours with your employer. Interns aren’t (legally) supposed to take the place, or work, of a full time employee, but sometimes this isn’t the reality. However, when I spoke to all of the companies and said ‘I can’t work a 5 day week as I need to a second job to cover my costs’, none of them turned me down. For all three, I negotiated to a four day week (and slept on a friend’s sofa in London), and then worked part time on Friday and Saturday back home to pay for it. This won’t work for every company – and is likely to be most effective with small and medium sized companies, who can’t afford to pay interns full-stop – but I suspect that most employers feel quite guilty about employing interns for free and would be happy to consider it.
Resultantly, you should be able to walk in to future job interviews and extol all the knowledge and skills you have gained from your internships, along with the work ethic, determination and proactivity you have showed in how you completed them.
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