How you choose to spend a placement year can give rise to weeks of deliberation. Do you work or study? Do you stay in the UK or go abroad? If you work then what company do you work in? What aspect of business do you focus on?
As a professional in indecisiveness, I remember this struggle well, and as I enter the last quarter of my internship I thought it may be useful to share the three main reasons why I believe if you are considering a year in industry then you should go for it.
Basic work experience is crucial
For many of us, we start University with no previous work experience within a business. I had always wondered what people do when they spend 8 hours a day looking at computer screens. What are they doing for that long? What actually happens within a business?
The basic understanding of office functions is extremely valuable, and it has been really interesting and insightful to have a taste of the 9-5 office life.
This experience is just as crucial to employers as it is to the interns. Workplace experience can help graduates stand out from the crowd, as not all students can graduate with a years’ experience of working under their belt. In fact, last year, 59% of graduate hires for the Top Undergraduate Employers comprised of previous placement students and interns.
Clearer idea of your potential career
Work placements are a good way of ensuring you will not end up on a graduate scheme doing something you don’t like.
You will either enjoy your role or realise it is not the role for you. Either way, you learn what you do and don’t enjoy, which is important as you never really know what area you want to specialise in if you haven’t tried it out.
I went into my placement at IBM with the idea of gaining a marketing role as I thought that was what I wanted to specialise in after University. However, I have learned over these months that design and innovation is what really motivates and interests me, so I can now tailor my graduate job searching with this in mind. Without taking a year in industry I may never have known how much I really am inspired by innovation.
Embarking on a year in industry provides you with an opportunity to explore other aspects of the business, aside from your role, to see what areas are your strengths and weaknesses. I have taken part in a variety of intern competitions and shadowing at IBM to try out as many aspects of corporation as possible, and the experience and insights I have gained will massively impact my career choice.
I was worried when selecting a work placement over a study abroad placement that it wouldn’t be as much fun because I would be missing the ‘Uni lifestyle’. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
For most internships, you move to a new city and often flat share with fellow interns so there is still the opportunity to live with people of your age or make new friends in the area.
Aside from this, you are learning every day in a corporate environment that is new to you. It is hard to not have fun in an environment where you are learning new things each day and still have the opportunity to spend your evenings how you choose – exploring a city, spending time with your friends, meeting new people. I currently live with three IBM interns and the balance of a professional environment on weekdays and exploring London together on weekends is really fulfilling. It is also reassuring to know that in this life scenario, you are surrounded by people, particularly the interns, who are in the same boat as you, with the same academic and career interests, so no matter how different you think you may be, you will always find things in common.
I would never have gained the friends, knowledge and experience this year had I not have taken a work placement. All in all, it’s been a great experience and one which I know will benefit me throughout my career. My advice? Go for it!