University is often said to be the best time of your life. During at least the first two years of university many students have a level of flexibility which is just not possible at any other time during working life – who else gets a three month long holiday?
University is structured to maximise freedom of choice; no individual is forced to attend that lecture at 09:00am. If it sounds just too early to manage, twelve hours of daytime TV to recharge for another night out might be a preferable option! With a schedule dictated by what you choose to do, many students choose to utilise this flexibility to spend their free time doing very little.
However, many graduates are emerging from the cocoon of an excellent university, only to find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. They can’t get a job because they don’t have experience, and they don’t have experience because they can’t get a job.
The difficulty is that despite the amount of work involved in a degree, the only thing recorded on your CV is a qualification – a key foundation for your career but perhaps not enough to differentiate yourself from a crowd. In reality, while a degree tells employers a student is bright, and a hard worker, it doesn’t tell them if they will be any good at a practical job.
It’s a daunting time to be entering the job market; this year’s graduates will find themselves not only competing with their peers, but also with graduates from the previous years. You can’t rely on your academic results or the university you attended to get you a job anymore. So it’s vital that you can differentiate yourself, and a great way of doing this is by gaining real-life business experience.
This is why I believe internships are a useful experience; to acquire the skills you need to impress potential employers. And not only that, but many students who worked as summer interns also go on to become permanent employees after graduation.
I’ve been offering students internships since 2007, so have had quite a while to perfect our internship programmes. And in that time I’ve seen how many students benefit from the on-the-job training, development and exposure to real projects we offer. In fact, some of my director colleagues started their careers as Michael Page interns.
For some students the challenging reality of work can be a bit of a shock. But it’s important to get a taste of the standard of what will be expected of you, and to be able to prove that you are up to the challenge. An internship is your chance to have a look under the bonnet and see how it all works. We run three internship programmes at Michael Page. Each one offers students the opportunity to get a foot on the career ladder by giving them the commercial experience they need.
Not all internships offer a salary. An article that appeared in the New York Times in May fuelled controversial debate about the rising number of companies who ask interns to work for months unpaid. Some even ask interns to pay the company for their placement! We’ve always believed that in order to give students a real working experience it’s only fair that we pay them a competitive salary.
Internships might not be for everyone. However, if you’ve got enthusiasm, tenacity and ambition, then an internship can give you a step up on the ladder of a rewarding career.