Amidst the continuous reading, endless essay deadlines, various extra curricula’s, and office hours spent crying at – I mean, having intellectual conversations with – your lecturers, you should find time to apply for an internship.
Obviously don’t apply to some big city corporations that you have absolutely no interest in (yes as an English student you can do an internship at global conglomerates such as investment banks or corporate companies; it is, however, better to do an internship at places that focus on your field of interest – though if big investment banks are your thing then go for it). Now, you may be thinking, why should I spend two weeks of my summer, or the whole of the summer if your interning at the big city banks, to do a voluntary placement (paid if you’re lucky)? The answer simply is that internships make you more employable and illustrate that you did not spend three years of your degree on Netflix marathons and eating pasta out of the saucepan. It also gives you that dreaded thing that employers ask for: experience.
So, here are my tips on what you should do to apply for an internship and how Queen Mary can help you secure it.
Make Regular Pilgrimages to the QM Careers Center
The Queen Mary Careers center is a gold mine. They have advisors that help you with your CV and an extensive list of events to boost your career (I went to the annual Law Fair every year because I wanted to be a commercial city lawyer). You can also book mock interviews and browse their invaluable books on how to start off your journey to your dream career. They also work with the alumni network that brings in previous QM students who work in various fields. The opportunities that the Careers center offers are priceless and if you come to Queen Mary or are already here it is the one place that you should make use of a lot. If you know the career you want or if you’re completely clueless, this service can definitely help steer you in the right direction.
Research, Research, Research
Before you go ahead and send your applications, make sure that you are not only eligible, but you know a lot about the field of work you’re applying to. This enables you to stand out amongst hundreds of applicants who you will be competing with. This requires endless research, which is a skill that a degree in English will definitely equip you with. Most professional jobs such as law, consultancy, banking, journalism etc. have positions opened for Winter, Easter, and Summer interns. However, some just require a cover letter at anytime during the year, which will give you that much needed experience. In addition, not everyone is eligible for every scheme. For example, in law, winter schemes are usually for finalists or graduates and summer schemes are for penultimate year law students. So, make sure that you start your research into fields that may interest you very early on at university. You wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity.
Don’t Apply Everywhere
Once you’ve figured out the field that interests you – lets say, for example, Consultancy – don’t apply for every consultancy internship there is, because you will fail to make really good applications to each of the firms. It is better to make five amazing applications than fifteen really basic ones. In my second year of university I applied to around twelve internships and I only got one. Though places for these schemes are terribly fierce I do believe that if I had properly researched into each firm I would have gotten better luck. So remember one amazing application is better than five basic ones.
With every application you make, you will have to demonstrate certain competencies which recruiters are looking for. These can range from leadership, teamwork, resilience, attention to detail, communication, etc. Now, recruiters that I have met have always said that they would much rather hire someone who ‘demonstrates’ their competencies rather than those who just say they acquire them. So, in other words, ‘as secretary of the music society, I have had to book rehearsal rooms, liaise with different members of the team to ensure that tasks were done efficiently and update our members on the Facebook page’ is much better than, ‘I have demonstrated team work through being involved in the music society’. Ensure that you are an active member of events and hold positions of responsibility to be able to fully demonstrate these competencies.
Once you’ve passed the paper stage of the application (Well done!), most internships will require an interview. Do not panic. The QM Careers center are able to give you a mock interview for practice and I’ve found that recording myself on my laptop camera is really good at evaluating my posture and how I respond to questions. The biggest tip I can give you for interviews is to just be a likeable person. No one will hire you if you are not enthusiastic, and if you don’t seem like a nice person. The second tip is, don’t make the interview like a Q&A session. It is usually up to you how you set the tone. Make it more of a conversation, strike up some sort of debate and you’ll be on your way to secure that internship and hopefully your dream job.
Manage Your Time
This is the last and possibly most important thing. During all these stages you’ll most definitely have deadlines and reading to do so managing your time is vital. Some make lists, some plan weeks ahead, any method that suits you is fine as long as you don’t fall behind. Prioritising is hard work but it’s one of the skills you can illustrate in your internship interviews. Don’t be afraid to say no to things that you don’t actually have to do, but you feel guilty because a nice person has asked. Saying ‘I’m sorry I can’t’ is possibly the most liberating skill I have learned over my time at university.
I can’t say that following all these guidelines will guarantee you an internship but they’ve really worked for me. For months I researched into the career I wanted to go into (commercial law) and had mock interviews at the Queen Mary Careers center before my internship interview and my graduate job interview that I was able to land last semester. So, even if you haven’t a clue what you want to do, internships are a great way to gain experience in the work field, gain some employable skills and generally meet some amazing people.