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Student Blogs: Managing an internship after your first year at university

Getting your summer exam results is a career and life achievement: you have made it through the first year of university and can pride yourself on going into the penultimate year of your degree.

Your second-year counts towards your final grade and does determine your degree classification to some extent. For some it's 25% and for a few others it's 12.5% owing to a placement or an exchange year (but more on that in my next segment).

It's an open secret that a 2:1 can be the key to breaking through the eligibility criteria of most work placements, internship schemes and bursaries, placements and dream internships. A (predicted) 2:1 may be half the battle won, but you should also think about how you can make the most of the summer months by securing a work placement or internship.

Here are some of the typical questions that an academic career consultant is asked on a daily basis:​

  1. How do I manage to get an internship when I have little to no work experience?​

  2. If I’m lucky enough to get a work placement, I don’t seem to understand how I could manage the financial aspects to it in terms of the cost of living, daily expenses and any unforeseen expenditure?

  3. ​I can’t afford to work for free – what am I advised to do?

  4. ​How do I map my journey after having completed a work placement?​

  5. What are the prospects of an international internship given the benefits of an international experience on a CV? Is it right for me?​

  6. Why is having a LinkedIn profile so important when I have to apply to internships with my CV and in some cases a covering letter.

Very few students find the process of researching the right internship programme for them easy, let alone actually securing one. Just like you, they will spend countless hours applying for internships. But remember that your university will have its own careers team and web-pages dedicated to advertising bespoke opportunities for students like us. Local employers and organisations within your university’s reach are also likely to advertise opportunities exclusively for students at your university. It just takes initiative to reach out and research these options.

Once you have secured a placement...

Congratulations! Your efforts have finally paid off, and you don’t have to worry about finding a placement anymore, but how much of a financial burden will you now have to bear? You are no doubt aware that some internships offer expense-only compensation which means that your travel, and on some occasions lunch expenses of up to a certain amount, are taken care of. If you aren't sure whether you will be compensated for your travel or lunch, clarify the reimbursement of these costs with HR, and investigate your options for discounted travel (a 16-25 railcard will be a blessing to your bank account balance) and cheap, healthy packed lunch ideas.

After hopefully sorting out travel expenses and lunch (a big shout out to meal deals) many are left with accommodation costs to consider – a major chunk of the impending expenditure.

Sorting your accommodation over the summer can be quite daunting owing to high rental prices and the need to be near to your workplace. Where possible, many people live with friends or family to keep costs down, if this is mutually convenient. If the company you are working for has a large internship programme, ask if they can put you in touch with other student interns looking for rooms, or recommend a reputable landlord or accommodation provider. If your placement is within commuting distance of your university, it may be easier (and cheaper) to remain in your halls of residence as usual.

Living costs may mean that you need to source an internship local to your home city as experience is what matters at the end of the day. Your experience and skills will get you closer to, and more qualified for, your dream job.

Returning to university in September...

Congratulations on completing a very competitive and real-world internship! Now that you have finished and are heading back to university, don’t forget to update your CV; send thank you notes to your mentors/supervisors; and keep in touch with them at periodic intervals to let them know how you are getting on.

If you feel that an international internship is an experience that would benefit you – check out your university’s career portal and websites that ignite your global career-oriented aspirations.

Remember: your LinkedIn profile is your brand and reputation. It not only helps employers understand the real you but also communicates your intentions towards your chosen industry and your commercial awareness. Above all, don’t hesitate to take a leap of faith, balance work and leisure in addition to prioritising every task at hand.

Pooja is a penultimate year Communications major at the University of Birmingham, who enjoys reading and networking. She writers on various subjects ranging from lifestyle, student life and new age. You can view her LinkedIn profile here, or check out her blog.

Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.

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