Is intern such an ugly word?

Unemployment is over 2.53m with 18-24 year-olds accounting for 18.3% of that alarming figure. Kamikaze pilots have easier missions compared to graduates scoring an interview with over-subscribed job ads. Unfortunately they often don’t help themselves, so here’s my two pennies worth.

Firstly, there’s loads written about CVs but here are a few tips to show you’re smarter than the average bear:

–       it’s got to be either one or two pages long. I know you’ve got loads to say and omitting things would be a smear on your hard work but it’s two maximum. Sorry, no exceptions;
–       show results, not a list of bullet points telling everyone what you’ve done;
–       tune it to the potential employer and the position. If they’re a pureplay retailer downplay any high street stuff and big-up your online skills. If it’s a B2B role rather than B2C then be aware to play that card fully;
–       don’t use the words Curriculum Vitae. That’s like writing, “This Is A Letter” at the top of your cover letter. Put your name in lights instead.

Experience
You can’t re-sit your second year in order to improve that 2:1 degree, so this comes down to extras you’ve performed, other than actively shrinking your liver. Captain of the rugby team does show some leadership skills but how about volunteer work?

If you can write, why not do some work for a restaurant or other local business. If you can handle a bit of digital design, put out a WordPress site for your aunt’s hair salon with a logo, letterhead and business card in the real world. If you’re saying you’re a qualified marketer then you could try doing some marketing outside of the safe uni environment.

The work experience your CV craves can be found, but you have to go and get it. That means banging on doors, lots of rejection and lots of persistence. Sell yourself, your personality, capability and your willingness to work damn hard.

If you’ve got some great ideas for a small local business but they aren’t giving you the time of day then start the project behind their back: redesign their homepage in Photoshop, write some dummy blog posts, write a research document on their competitors, draw some off-line ads, sketch some fresh POS material… whatever. If you do enough of this, something will hit home and an entrepreneur (or two) will gladly let you loose on their beloved business and write you a glowing reference.

Unlike the US, internship is an ugly word in the UK, but it’s a great way for students wanting to prove themselves serious and capable of actual work (as opposed to theory).

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2 Responses to “Is intern such an ugly word?”

  1. Philippa October 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    You are absolutely right! I graduated 2 years without much experience that could make me stand out in person (my cv got me lots of interviews though – agree with all your cv points). I was doing these “extracurricular” kinds of things much more in high school, I don’t know how I lost the zing just when I needed it the most. We need to be telling students this! Really driving it home – they MUST be more creative OUTSIDE coursework – unis have not caught up with the employment situation and how they can’t just treat everyone like you are going to be an academic forever. We can’t all be great historians/English literature profs, can we? I hope it is not too late for me to rekindle my desire to do something without a paycheck.

  2. nick October 20, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Thanks for contributing, Zara. You certainly seem to have the right attitude and I’m sure things will pick up for you. A Thomas Edison quote I really like, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

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