By Jonny Maunder, studying Modern Languages at Durham University
Smarts work experience
“I remember my first work experience” a certain PR account director tells me, regaling me with stories of how even less than 10 years ago, it was far easier to find employment.
“No-one took it seriously, most of us tried to wriggle out of it, because we never had to worry about jobs in the way school and university leavers do now.”
Tell me about it. At the fresh-faced and youthful age of 20, it seems as though I am already falling behind in the cut-throat world of internships and work experience.
Today, everyone from the age of as early as 16 to 25 is searching for a way to stand out above the crowd, and enhance their CV. Clearly, the obvious way to do so is to gain a couple of weeks of work experience, as I am doing now. And all the evidence points towards this being of enormous benefit.
One need only consider that in 2009 in the US, only 14 per cent of soon-to-be-graduates without any internship on their CV had jobs waiting for them upon graduation, and this percentage has only dropped in the last three years. All companies now seem to require a broad range of experience in their particular field, be it PR or Golf Course Management, however it is becoming harder and harder to find such opportunities without a foot in the door from family, friends or relatives. All internships now are fiercely contested by university students of the highest calibre, and with the youth unemployment mark around one million now, it is clear to see why the need to bulk your CV from an early age is ever increasing.
So why join the scrap for experience, and how is it best to go about doing so?
1) Whilst it may seem like you are more of a hindrance than a help, you are constantly learning new skills that will help you in later life. In interviews when asked about your personal skills, it is crucial that you back up your answers with examples of where you have applied them, and internships provide an ideal response given you are employing such skills in a real work-pressured environment, as opposed to your school classroom.
2) Ask your family and your friend’s parents about their professions. Whilst you may be young, these people are your first and probably only port-of-call, the first contacts that you have and they are more than often happy to help you find some sort of experience, be it at their own workplace or elsewhere.
3) Think about uploading your CV to internship agencies, such as ‘Inspire Interns’, or ‘Instant Impact Interns’. Companies will regularly approach these sorts of websites when they require new interns. Such websites allow you to upload information on your interests, what you are looking to gain experience in, and when. Effectively they do the search for you!
4) Start networking! Stay in touch with any companies that let you join them for a period of time. Regular contact with companies that you worked hard for means that when you start looking for full-time employment, you already have a foot in the door and a good word to be put in for you.
5) Internships help you decide what you want to do! Unlikely though it may be, a month’s work for an insurance firm might set off alarm bells that you really DON’T want to be doing this for the rest of your life! More likely is that it will confirm what you want to do later in life (a pretty big decision to make!), and inspire you to pursue such a career.
So if you haven’t already, start thinking about uploading your CV to these sites, and get hunting! Be it paid or unpaid, and a large chunk out of your holiday, you truly will reap the rewards. Unfortunately, like a certain account director here, we can no longer get away with “a couple of weeks shelf stacking in Boots”!