Doing a summer internship or a work placement is the optimum way of checking whether a company, role or sector is for you.
It’s no secret that many employers use their internship programme as a recruitment pipeline. A summer given over to work experience – paid or unpaid - could reap significant rewards in establishing your career. Some internships are very prestigious and competition for places at banks and big accounting practices is steep but companies of all sizes are now offering summer placements.
Blue chip internship
Investment bank JP Morgan recruits between 50 and 100 technology interns each year to work in one of three offices: London, Glasgow or Bournemouth.
HR manager Rachel Thompson makes no makes no bones about the advantages to the bank of the programme: "The internship gives us the chance to get to know them well and gives them a unique insight into the investment banking world. They then become advocates for the organisation and spread the word when they go back to university."
Technology graduates are usually assigned a project, along with objectives, a line manager and feedback on their performance. Projects may consist of reengineering a process, rewriting a piece of code or perhaps trying to make a piece of workflow more efficient. But whatever the task, JP Morgan stresses that it’s a ‘proper job’ and not just work experience.
To hammer home the professional nature of the placement, JP Morgan interns receive a formal offer, an internship contract for the 11-week placement plus a very competitive salary. Nor is the return is just financial. Top level training, networking opportunities and the chance to sit in on senior meetings and really see how technology can make the business tick are among the benefits cited by Thompson.
While competition for the blue chip internships may be fierce, placements are becoming available at companies of all shapes and sizes up and down the country. Trustmarque, a Yorkshire-based software licensing specialist is not atypical of the kind of the smaller company offering paid work experience placements. The company has offered placements to developers and IT operations staff in previous summers, who worked on stand-alone applications and solving front-line user issues.
What the interns say
Joanna Aleksandrowicz took a technology internship at JP Morgan in the summer of 2008, before returning to Warsaw to do a masters degree in artificial intelligence. She is now employed as an engineer by the investment bank.
What was your assignment? I had to develop a planning tool for the trading technology
Best moment? Presenting my tool to senior management around the world at the end of the assignment
Worst moment? There wasn’t a single moment but maybe the realisation that this is real work and the responsibility that goes with it – but it only lasted a week and the ‘reality check’ turned out to be one of the best things about the internship.
- The networking opportunities are fantastic and help you discover what you’re good at and where you need to work harder. Go for it!
- Do some ‘work shadowing’ where you see how a person in a different role or business work
- Apply early – competition is strong
Peter Birkinshaw is currently an intern at Trustmarque as a social media project assistant
What is your assignment? I researched and implemented a social media project
Best moment? Winning an internship award for Yorkshire
Worst moment: Fighting with html code on the mailing list
- Get stuck in
- Talk to as many people as possible - it helps you understand the wider business
- Put your hand up for any job that comes your way
DO’s and DON'Ts for interns
• Do: Be professional — Think of your internship as one long interview and act accordingly.
• Don’t: Complain about the small stuff — Every job has a few unenviable tasks. If your role includes photocopying, tea-making and filing, do it properly and with a smile.
• Do: Ask questions — When tasked with a project, find out how it fits into the big picture.
• Do: Be proactive — Taking initiative is one of the most important things you can do to promote yourself as an intern. Don’t sit back and wait for projects to be dropped on your desk.
• Don’t: Mix business and personal — Taking personal calls on your mobile or listening to your iPod communicate that you don’t take your job seriously, that you don’t have enough to do or that you’re bored—not messages you want to convey!
• Do: Get involved in the extracurricular - show you fit in with the company culture by taking part in the after work pub quiz, going for birthday lunches and attending office celebrations.
Thanks to Sachin Shah of simplyhired.com
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