Guest Blog contributed by Seb Atkinson

 It’s no longer enough to spend three wallet-emptying years at university and emerge clutching your hard-earned degree thinking you’re going to walk into your highly-paid dream job. There just aren’t enough jobs to go round any more. However, there are ways to get ahead of the game while you’re still studying and make yourself more attractive to employers in the area you want work in.

An internship is one of these ways. Read on to discover five reasons why you should secure an internship before you graduate.

Gain industry contacts

 There is some truth in old saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. An internship will give you the ideal platform to meet and impress the people that matter in the industry, interact with them on a professional and personal level, and build an invaluable network of contacts that could give you an advantage when it comes to applying for jobs. You may be lucky enough to acquire a mentor or ‘personal ambassador’ who will be willing to give you a reference that could get you a foot in the door when the time comes.

 The opportunity to become full-time when you graduate

 Some larger employers run internships that lead onto graduate schemes, so an impressive performance during your internship may stand you in good stead. Charlotte Beardmore gained her graduate role at Learning Resources in this way, having applied for a summer project at the company previously. Her advice is to “do much as you possibly can to gain experience and make contacts within the field you are hoping to enter, even if this involves taking time away from study or are voluntary positions”. Having made a good impression on her summer placement, she gained an edge when applying for her full time graduate role, and was hired before she graduated because of the company’s confidence in her abilities.

Tip: Be proactive, be interested, and be inquisitive. Make yourself indispensable and you may just find yourself top of their list for a full-time job upon graduation.

Gain real world experience that can’t be taught

There’s no substitute for practical hands-on experience. All the theory in the world can only get you so far, and there are some things that just can’t be learned in a lecture theatre. Like how to deal with colleagues and clients on a professional level for instance. Or an insight into business culture – how employees are expected to dress and how they address each other. The rules regarding email etiquette and social media use. You’ll learn about teamwork, and how managers manage, plus the daily discipline required to hold down a job in the real world. You’ll get to see what makes the company tick and find out how your studies will hold up in a work environment. And of course, everything you learn will give you a head-start when applying for a permanent position.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Career Development Centre or the University of Westminster as a whole.

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