One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from first years concerns summer internships. While internships are a fantastic way to gain work experience, they’re certainly not the only way. Many employers target students in their penultimate or final year so that they can keep them on after graduation. This doesn’t mean there are no first-year internships, but it’s worth being mindful of the alternatives that are available to you. After all, there is nothing stopping you from completing an internship later in your degree.
So – what else can you do?
Start a CV
You shouldn’t wait until you’ve completed your degree before writing a CV. If you’re writing a chronological CV, your previous qualifications aren’t going anywhere, so write them down!
You might also consider writing a skills-based CV. Don’t overlook the skills you’re building up in your first year of university. If you want advice on writing a great application, we have a Get Started guide on MyFuture.
Get to know your strengths
You may find your understanding of your strengths changes over the years, but that doesn’t mean they’re not relevant now. Consider taking a personality test (yes, employers really use these!) to better understand what you’re good at and what you enjoy. Finding the right job is a two-way process: not only should you be a good fit for the job, but the job should be a good fit for you.
Just because internships for first years are not advertised doesn’t mean they don’t exist! Check out Rebecca’s blogs on how to find and apply for roles in the hidden job market. See MyFuture for advice on how to write a speculative cover letter. It’s important to do your research here, so familiarise yourself with using a library database.
A spring week, insight week or insight scheme is short-term work experience primarily for first- and second-year students. They are common in investment banking, consultancy and law, but can represent other sectors too. You may work on a project, shadow a staff member or be given a tour.
Although they are very short in nature, these schemes are competitive and could potentially fast-track you into an internship or graduate role. As above, you can apply for these speculatively.
If you haven’t already set up a LinkedIn profile, consider doing this before you graduate. You could also attend our employer events and fairs to learn more about companies of interest and potentially make connections. Finally, make a profile on Bath Connection. This is the University of Bath’s alumni networking service, and it allows you to reach out to experienced graduates. It’s a great opportunity to ask any burning industry questions, find out more about the application process, or even find a mentor.
Never underestimate the value of paid employment. Even if that’s ‘only’ in a temporary role. Note the quotation marks – customer service is one of the most coveted transferable skills out there. You might not see yourself working on the frontline forever, but getting that experience on your CV shines a light on a bunch of other skills: communication, time management, cash handling, and so much more.
Boost your skills
Working over the summer isn’t the only way to get ahead. There are thousands upon thousands of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, available for free. Whatever you’d like to do for a career, there’s sure to be a course that can help you build your skillset. Bright Network offer a free e-learning platform. The Skills Centre can also help you.
Look for unique opportunities
Did you know that Gradcracker allows you to search for STEM internships that are open to first years? You’ll find these in the placement tab, and you can then filter by duration, e.g. ‘Summer – open to 1st years’.
If you are from a diverse background – for example, if you have a disability, or are from an ethnic minority background – there may also be exclusive opportunities available to you in your first year. The Civil Service run an Early Diversity Internship Programme for those interested in working for them.
One final thing to consider
These are just ideas to get you started. They are by no means compulsory, and trust us when we say your career isn’t doomed if you can’t check everything off the list. Everyone works at a different pace, and your studies come first. It’s better to think of your career sooner rather than later, but don’t panic! You have plenty of time, and there is scope for discovery and change.