I’m fairly new to the recruiting game: fresh out of university and three weeks into my first full-time job. On Friday I sifted through 200 applications for just one Graduate role, with additional applications arriving every ten minutes thereafter. I’ve read some of them, I’ll read all of them, but after 200 different applications here’s what I’ve learned.
Please, please, please get yourself an internship.
The thought of (usually) unpaid employment doesn’t often strike a chord with most students. It doesn’t pay for bills nor beers. My best piece of advice? Latch onto each experience as if it does – in the future it will.
500,000+ students attend university each year. That’s 500,000 potential competitors flying off the university conveyor belt and unloading onto the jobs market every year. The graduate pool is correspondingly massive. Having a degree in your chosen field of employment simply isn’t enough anymore, all of which you likely know – and believe me, I used to think it was standard knowledge too. But the amount of applications without relevant industry experience was shocking. Yes, skill sets are transferable, and yes there is no doubt in my mind that if given time every graduate applicant could learn how to do the role. Not every starting job is rocket science, albeit some actually are. But for the employer, a recent hire who can hit the ground running and generate revenue immediately is vastly more preferable. Candidates with relevant experience are catnip to HR and you can guarantee graduates are already out there on the market.
I took four different internships at university. Three of them I hated. The fourth got me this gig. Regardless of what I learned on the job, for all three of those internships I learned one thing: ‘no way do I want to work here.’ That knowledge alone helped whittle down entire fields of work, helping me figure out which I wanted and which I didn’t. The one role that I did like I latched onto. I started out writing blogs, then compiling lists of applicants, and by the time I finished my final year in uni I had already placed my first candidate. Few other students who applied for jobs in recruitment could say the same. Granted I was lucky. I liked my employers and they liked me. Find the role through trial and error where you can say the same.
Which brings me to my next point.
Anyone can fake being likeable, honest, and hardworking for an hour-long interview. And as already mentioned, most recruiters know that you could learn the job in time and they’re not alone in that, employers do too. What matters is whether companies can trust you to be the kind of hard-working employee who can do the hard work to get there in the first place. Internships are an extremely useful way of vetting prospects all the while ensuring that if they are well liked that they have the necessary expertise to one day do the job. And if an employer really does like you, on a personal level, people are still human at the end of the day. They want to be around the people they like. That’s not always a given in working life.
Internships are the bane of most students’ lives. They’re terrifying to enter, impossible to get, and financially unrewarding. But if you’re stuck on how to find one, here’s how. Jot down three areas you’re curious about, be it advertising, marketing, hell… recruitment, whatever. Find three companies that operate in those spaces and get on LinkedIn. Go through the company profile, and find employees who work there – as a rough guide go for someone with two to three years’ worth of experience at the company. Connect with them, ask if you can take them out for a coffee. If you’re terrified don’t be. People love this, if for no other reason that it means they get to brag for half an hour. Take advantage of their time, pose them questions, relax, crack some jokes, and at the very end if all goes well simply ask: ‘by any chance would you have room for an intern?’