Careers blog written by Nicola Haydon, Graduate Intern: Marketing and Information Support, Careers
Just over a year ago I graduated with very little idea of what I wanted to do next. I had work experience in a range of different areas, but this meant that there wasn’t anything in particular that I had specialised in. Fast forward to the end of the summer, and I had secured a role as a graduate marketing intern in the University of York Careers team. Now I have come to the end of my contract I have a few tips to share if you are heading into a graduate internship…
1) Always ask questions
It can be easy to think that you might be asking something that could make you appear stupid, but the quickest way to learn is to ask the questions you want answers to. Everyone has been new to their role at some point so won’t mind – especially if it prevents you from making mistakes later on.
2) Take training opportunities
Find out what training opportunities are available, and make the most of them. You might be given formal training when you start your role, or there might be some budget available for training that is relevant to your role. By taking further training you will gain new skills, show yourself to be enthusiastic about your role, and should end up being better at your job.
3) Prepare to learn and upskill
Take additional training, but expect to have to do some of it yourself. I started taking some MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) this year in my spare time, which really helped to develop my marketing knowledge. Some of them weren’t entirely relevant to my current role, but I have no doubt that they’ll be useful in the future. I also read articles based around social media and try to keep an eye on what is going on in the marketing and higher education sectors so that I am informed for my role.
4) If you have new ideas, share them
Don’t keep your ideas to yourself! If you are concerned about how they will be received then test the water with a trusted colleague or line manager. It might be that one of your suggestions is just what your employer is looking for to make the difference.
5) Get a LinkedIn profile and start connecting
This is your way of showing the world what you have done, getting recognition for it through endorsements and recommendations, and making the connections that you need. More and more recruiters are using LinkedIn, but it is also a valuable source of information and allows you to stay up to date with industry news. You never know how one of your current colleagues or former classmates could help you in the future so get connecting!
6) Make yourself useful and look for new opportunities
Whether there is a possibility of a permanent position at the end of your placement, or you just want a really good reference, make yourself useful and show how you add value to the company. Is there a new project that you could get involved in? Are you happy to man the phones for the week that everyone is on holiday? Make a name for yourself (in a good way!), but don’t burn yourself out – as an intern you’re probably not being paid enough for that!
7) Be friendly
It can be easy to get caught into thinking “I won’t be here very long so it doesn’t matter if I get to know people”, but that’s a really bad mind-set to get into. Your work experience will be more enjoyable if you get on with your colleagues, and you will be more likely to forge lasting and meaningful connections with them. If there is a staff social event, don’t worry about not knowing anyone – just go.
8) Don’t forget about longer term
It can be easy to get wrapped up in a role, and focus completely on that, but unless you are offered a permanent role pretty early on, you still need to be thinking about what comes next. Keep an eye on opportunities available elsewhere, and apply for those you are interested in. Learn from my mistake – it’s not great reaching the end of your contract and not having plans for what comes next!
9) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
Mistakes happen to everyone, and everyone is bound to make some when starting a new role. Don’t fear them, just learn from them. I accidently sent out an email to over 17000 students and recent graduates (which was only meant to go to about 3000) because I didn’t set up some bulk email settings correctly. I was terrified about having made such a big mistake but everyone laughed it off and I’ve never done it again.
10) Make the most of your weekends
For most students, weekends fade into the rest of the week as you still have work to do or deadlines to hit. Once you are working, you can leave work at your desk on Friday and know you are free to do what you like until Monday. Make the most of your weekends, and get into the habit of having a good work-life balance- this will benefit you in future roles.