By Briony Rose
- Back in July 2010, like many former students on their graduation day, I felt a mix of excitement and apprehension. I had just finished what many would describe the ‘best three years of my life’ and now I was moving away from the city and friends I had grown to love and on to the next chapter. But what would the next chapter be? Many graduates find this transition hard; most people will tell you that by the time you finish university you will know exactly what you want to do in life but the reality is very different
I continued the spend the summer in university mode, filling my days with the usual parties, relaxation and beach fun, not really thinking very far ahead. During this time I also planned a trip with two of my best university friends to Brazil. September arrived and I boarded a plane for my first real travelling adventure and we spent a month running around Brazil, having the time of our lives. When it came to returning home, we didn’t w ant the adventure to end; to sound like a cliché the trip had changed our way of looking at things. After much debate we all made the tough decision to take the long trip back to reality. I returned home knowing that I needed to get some ‘work experience’ underway before my next travel expedition, so I set about applying for internships.
After months of serious thought and discussion, the career path that I had considered throughout university, in the journalism and media industry, seemed to be the right one for me. Most internships are unpaid, and at times I had very long days in the office, followed by pub shifts in the evening just to pay for my travel
costs. While this may seem unfair, the world of internships is very competitive and there will always be someone willing to take the placement and be one step closer to having enough experience to get a job. Nowadays a degree is expected but it is not always enough: employers want graduate candidates to have a significant amount of experience in their chosen field in order to progress into the working world.
Some internships can be tough. You are not always respected and it can be hard being seen as just an ‘intern’ who is easily dispensable. It is rare for a placement to end in a full time job and there is always another graduate in line to fill your position. Amongst all the paper pushing and Excel spreadsheets it can seem very tiresome but it’s not all bad; the references and names you get on your CV alone are a boost, with the bonus of having a talking point in interviews and real experience behind you.
Despite all this, I have been very lucky for the most part during my time as an intern. I have been lucky enough to feel part of the team and have very quickly moved past the required mundane tasks and been given more interesting and important tasks such as being a point of contact for clients and attending meetings. This is not always the case but in my most recent position with Student and Graduate Publishing, I was appointed Guest Editor of one of their magazines, which has given me a completely new role and set of responsibilities to add to my CV, which is fantastic.
Whilst interning may seem unfair and, at times, never ending, with placement after placement and rejection after rejection, it can only be a good thing for graduates. Employers look for people who have actively immersed themselves in the working environment they wish to get into, who ha ve learnt about and adapted to the working world and who show real commitment. I realise now that although the early starts, long days, stress and lack of financial benefits were not quite part of the glamorous life I had envisaged after university, these would be the reality, at least for the moment. In the long term, I plan to intern for a few more months in the hope that the hard graft will pay off and lead me to finding a job.
My advice to all graduates would be to decide what you want to do and get the experience now. At a time where the job market is so competitive, it makes sense to get as many placements as you can and watch it pay off in the future. It is very rewarding to gain more responsibility, contacts, advice and knowledge, and each placement is one step closer to the real working world.