Summer internships and development opportunities have been of value to students for years, providing experience and insight into fields that we may wish to progress into after graduation. Unfortunately, the pandemic means that many larger firms have postponed or even cancelled their normal summer programmes. It’s understandable that these companies wish to keep interns safe, and in person possibilities are simply not possible in many circumstances, but many of us students are still looking for placements or programmes to add to our CVs and gain crucial experience in the workplace. Learning from coaching and mentoring, working in teams and gaining networking opportunities is something that internships can provide for students, and that seems difficult to find elsewhere. With many graduate schemes or entry-level jobs looking for previous relevant experience, how do we gain access to these opportunities during lockdown?
Firstly, many of the larger firms in the UK are attempting some kind of virtual internship programme and actively advertising work experience opportunities. These include open and insight days, spring and summer internships and even placement years. These are certainly worth looking into and applying for. However, there’s a caveat, these opportunities are going extremely quickly. Due to the limited number of student placements running, employers are receiving unprecedented numbers of applications for their vacancies. The difficult circumstance of far more applicants than available positions is resulting in deadlines being brought forward or even closing early. For this reason, being prepared is more important than ever.
Knowing exactly what you’re looking for can help you to search for and narrow down opportunities that are relevant to the area you would like to go into. Similarly, having a CV and cover letter template ready to go may help with quick applications if deadlines are fast approaching. However always make sure that you tailor your cover letter to each vacancy, and remember that taking the time to research the employer that you are applying to can really help your application stand out.
Some of the best places to search for work experience are on graduate job sites such as Target Jobs, Creative Access or Bright Network. These sites not only advertise available internship positions, but also provide advice from industry experts and opportunities with employers such as panels and workshops. Alternatively, most large firms will have a dedicated careers page on their website, or increasingly on their social media pages. These are definitely worth keeping an eye on for vacancies.
For St Andrews students, the Careers Centre advertises vacancies in both part time jobs and graduate roles, as well as updating a dedicated internships and work experience page. These pages are particularly useful for investigating international experiences as well as researching the various types of work experience, internship and placement positions that may be available. Furthermore, the Careers Centre often runs events such as ‘How to Write an Effective CV’, ‘Interview Skills’ or even specialist events hosted by industry experts. These are a great opportunity to gain insight into a field, and get the opportunity to ask questions. These can help you develop skills that may be required in internships and potentially even lead you to find open experiences to apply for.
It’s clear that the pandemic has generated difficulties for students attempting to find relevant experience before graduating, but the opportunities are still there if you are willing to put in the time and effort to look for them!