Work Experience Placements: An intern's perspective

After years of exams, essays, more essays and even more essays, each university graduate dreams of landing their first grown up job. 18 months ago I was in this exact position. After a stop-gap year working in Education I finally realised in which direction I wanted my career to head, and began to look for a career in international business. Yet rather than being welcomed with open arms by employers, I suddenly found myself in a gruelling battle, the battle which all young graduates are sadly forced to endure as a result of the current economic climate; the long and arduous process of finding graduate employment.

For sixth whole months, applications and cover letters became my life. However, I wasn’t alone – according to the Guardian, an astonishing 18.9% of recent graduates are currently unemployed. Furthermore, with an average 83 applications per graduate job and thousands per Grad Scheme, competition is fierce. Those who luckily manage to impress on paper proceed to the even lengthier and rigorous process of assessments and interviews. Yet upon reaching the final hurdle it is here that a graduate’s worst nightmare comes true; being told that despite an impressive academic background you have not gained enough practical and relevant experience in the world of work. With more graduates than ever before, and fewer available positions due to the recession, employers are seeking individuals who can offer more than just a great education.

4 months ago our director Sophie Howe wrote a blog entitled ‘Work experience placements – how to ensure a win-win for all involved’. Coincidentally, it was around this time that I applied for a role here at Comtec, eventually earning a 12 month paid internship as a Junior Project Manager. What was the secret to my success, you ask? Work experience! 6 months prior to my appointment I volunteered at Comtec, as I wished to bolster my CV before hunting for my future career. Following my placement, the number of calls I received from recruiters, who had discovered my new and improved CV online, and the number of applications from which I successfully obtained an interview, increased dramatically. Furthermore, during interviews I was able to divulge the wide range of skills gained and developed during my short period of time spent in a business environment. Customer interaction, managing and organising projects, and ICT and database proficiency are all key practical skills sought after by employers. Most graduates are certainly fully competent in these areas, yet without providing examples of how such capabilities have been utilised in a work environment, an interviewer may not be so convinced.

So my message to all companies is simple: if you want to recruit the well rounded candidates you desire, offer work experience placements! These will of course be predominantly on a voluntary basis, but the benefits interns will receive such as new skills and application successes far outweigh any monetary concerns. Furthermore, individuals willing to work for free exhibit a hard-working, enthusiastic and dedicated attitude, and these are exactly the kind of people you should snap up! Through these placements employers can also discover what their interns are truly capable of by assigning them with tasks applicable to a full time position. This undoubtedly played a large part in my appointment at Comtec six months later, as through such assignments I proved that I possessed the skills, personality and work ethic required of a Project Manager.

So my message is true; through work placements the opportunities for employers and interns alike to find the perfect candidate or role are truly endless!

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