The choice for young people in terms of career and employment might sometimes seem slim or may sometimes seem like too much to comprehend, with the British government backing and pushing apprenticeships, start-up loans and other employment schemes. Internships are often the breakthrough into dream careers for many and provide valuable experience.
Today I am talking with Rui Zamith, co-founder of www.internwise.co.uk a search portal for Internships in the UK and abroad.
Oliver – How relevant are internships today? Are they a viable route into careers? Where do you see them moving forwards?
Rui – We still see evidence of internships being in a growing trend. More and more universities (not only British but also in the rest of Europe) are making internships mandatory for completion of degrees; more companies design internship programs; and most importantly, the competition in the graduate labour market is intense, and young individuals must battle to build a rich and exciting CV. Without internships, it will be impossible to create a CV that generates some interest.
Oliver – Your site mentions “students” and “young professionals” quite a lot, just who are companies really looking for? Let’s say I’m not academic or have never worked in a particular field, would I be a worthy candidate?
Rui – Internwise is ideal for graduates or undergraduates looking for work experience. Non academics may also use the website, provided that they have some skills to offer. We work with many companies that are very flexible when they are hiring, and that are open to all sorts of candidates. There are opportunities for every one, and the key for success is to have a good strategy and create a profile that stands out.
Oliver – Recently the comedian behind sketch “Gap Yah” made popular in 2010 – Matt Lacy put his two pennies in on internships giving harsh criticism to companies who appear to “use” interns for free work.*
“Organisations will call them ‘internships’ to give them the veneer of being something that gives valuable experience and training, but fundamentally, they’re taking advantage of the fact that there are people who can afford to work for nothing.” What is your take on this?
Rui – Even though we try our best to educate our employers, there is people with malicious intent in any industry and activity. Our experience showed us that even the most simple and basic task can be a great learning experience for someone with no experience at all. Internships are all about gaining new skills, interacting with other people, expanding horizons. Provided that the employer is compliant with the national minimum wage law, there really is no formula or recipe for a successful internship.
Oliver – Your blog talks about “Hidden internships” or “work experience”, are companies really prepared to take on volunteers outside of the traditional channels?
Rui – Many certainly are. Internwise is mostly used by startups and SMEs, and these sort of employers have a different passion and calibre. They will work more hours than an intern! They use all the available tools to make sure they capture the best talent for their company. When you have a small business, you become less bureaucratic and more efficient.
But this doesn’t only happen with smaller businesses. We also work with large companies that are using tools such as facebook or linkedin to hire new candidates.
Oliver – You mentioned that online tests are becoming increasingly popular with companies prior to the interview process; can you give me examples of the types of tests you have seen?
Rui – Some companies hire with one phone call; others are a lot more precise, and they create their own specific screening process. The trick to make this work is to build tests that are based on practical and technical skills, instead of a generic test that you find on google. It’s all about saving time and becoming more efficient. There is no point in interviewing a candidate to realise that he doesn’t have the technical or language skills required, and in this scenario, and online test will save the company’s and the candidate’s precious time.
Oliver – Internships are often about “who you know”, if you were applying for an internship what would you do to stand out from the crowd?
Rui – The fact is: many candidates, if not the majority, make silly mistakes. If you are applying for a position, you cannot afford to have spelling mistakes in your CV or cover letter. You need to keep things simple, a one-pager, easy to read, focusing on your achievements and on how you can add value to the business. If you have to create multiple CVs and cover letters for the different positions you are applying to, do it!
Be yourself, don’t use a very formal cover letter that you found on google. User your own words, and you will immediately have much higher chances to impress.
I take this opportunity to also invite those interested in internships to download our Book (http://www.internwise.co.uk/ebook). In this ebook, they will learn how to avoid these typical mistakes, and they will learn simple techniques on how to approach companies with success.
Sometimes the desire from employers for interest and for work experience can seem confusing, some want one, some want another, a lot want both. But you can’t get one without the other.. This is often where internships bridge the gap between education/unemployment and your dream career. Where the opportunity doesn’t seem obvious you can then try making that opportunity yourself. Creating your very own internship offering your skills for free in return for valuable work experience.
Internships can give you incredible opportunities and create very valuable connections, and it’s these connections that can often see you in employment for life.