Internships can be a chance to test the water

Internships can build confidence as well as experience, says Russ Thorne

“I was working three jobs and living in a bedsit. I was really poor and lonely and knew I needed to get out.” University of York graduate Charlie Elliot, 23, experienced the difficulties many students face after their degrees – the city they’ve called home for several years feels suddenly remote, while they remain unsure about how to begin a career or what to do with their new qualifications.

Her solution was to find an internship. She moved home and spent nine months working in the marketing department of a London law firm and now works as a social media executive.

“I knew I wanted to do marketing but I didn’t work out that I wanted to do social media until I’d been working for a little while,” she says. “The internship helped me focus.”

In a crowded job market, internships and graduate training schemes are becoming increasingly important.

Although there have been recent concerns over pay, they remain useful ways for graduates and career changers to gain experience and skills without investing in further academic qualifications, and are also attractive to employers. “Graduate training schemes and internships are extremely valuable to both the job seekers and businesses we work with,” says Michael Gentle, head of B2C marketing, Monster UK and Ireland. “They give employers the chance to test drive potential future employees and train new graduates from scratch.”

Schemes can last from a matter of weeks to several years. Naturally candidates might look for a programme related to their ideal career, or run by a dream employer, but it’s equally valid to look for schemes that will get them into work and picking up skills.

In the case of Network Rail’s new Track and Train scheme candidates work in various customer service related roles throughout the company over 18 months. “We wanted to help graduates,” explains professional development manager Linsey Perry, “to give them a chance to get some solid experience on their CVs.”

This approach can benefit recent graduates and career changers alike. Karl Grewar left a six year career in media to join the Network Rail Operations Management Graduate Scheme. “The aim is to expose you to as many aspects of the operational railway as possible,” he explains. “You end up seeing the world in a totally different light.”

Likewise, Elliot found that her broad internship was very helpful. In addition to learning the basics of marketing she helped her lawyer colleagues discover Twitter and LinkedIn. “That was the tipping point for my CV,” she says, as she was able to mention her experience on job applications and at interview.

To begin searching for a placement graduates can head to both mainstream recruiters and dedicated websites specialising in internships and graduate training schemes. There are other avenues to explore too: the Track and Train scheme was advertised through Job Centre Plus, while Elliot saw her internship posted on noticeboard site Gumtree.com.

Having identified a prospective scheme, there’s the matter of securing a place. “Competition is fierce so it’s crucial that students focus on building up their employability skills throughout university,” says Les Rees, director of careers and employer services at Cardiff University. He recommends current students get involved in extracurricular activities, find work experience if possible, and prepare themselves for testing times ahead. “The recruitment process will be tough so make sure you know what to expect and take part in practice interviews and tests.”

A further challenge is getting paid, which remains a controversial issue as there’s no guarantee that an internship will cover more than lunch expenses.

While manageable for some, it’s impossible for others. Gentle argues that businesses shouldn’t take advantage of graduates’ desperation, since internships “have proven benefits for both the employer and job seeker,” and stresses that paid schemes are out there. “Candidates must be proactive and knock on doors to uncover these sorts of opportunities.”

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Cambridgeshire - £23,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Front-End Develo...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower