By Krystin Dean, The Linc

The looming prospect of finding a job upon graduation may seem a daunting task considering the current state of the economy. But gaining work placement experience within the United Kingdom or in other countries can aid in this process.

During my undergraduate studies at Coastal Carolina University (CCU) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I completed three summer arts-based internships to supplement my degrees in English and dramatic arts after joining the Wall Fellows Programme, an organization designed to prepare students for careers in major US and international companies.

As a Wall Fellow, I learned valuable interpersonal, interviewing, and social etiquette skills while receiving guidance from the programme’s coordinator, Mr Ned Cohen, who has spent over 30 years in recruiting and training development. While the Wall Fellows Programme is unique to CCU, most US universities have coordinators who assist students with finding internships, as partaking in these placements is constantly recommended in order to gain experience and become more marketable.

“US employers who worry about how they will run their businesses in the future know they constantly have to feed the pipeline with new employees to overcome turnover and churn in their organizations,” said Mr Cohen. “Internships are seen as long-term job interviews where the student can perform in the environment of the organisation and both sides see if there is a fit in regards to work ethic, performance, and not last, psychology.”

UK graduates have the opportunity to spend a year working in New York City through the Mountbatten Programme. During this highly organized and structured yearlong work placement, graduates receive payment and accommodation while gaining experience in a variety of multinational companies.

“Something like the Mountbatten is great to do straight after your course and tends to be considered like a gap year experience. We’ve had quite a few students who have gone on to do that and it’s really given them an edge later when it comes to looking for work,” said Mrs Jones.
Many US students complete full-time six-month internships, while others participate in part-time local placement while attending university or summer internships which are particularly popular for unpaid positions.

“As many US universities require at least one internship to earn a degree, depending on discipline and major, the amount of students in the US taking part in internships may skew to up to as much as 50 percent,” said Mr Cohen.
While work placements in the UK traditionally last a full year and occur between a student’s second and final year, the trend of completing shorter internships throughout the duration of study is becoming more common.

“Because traditional placements are becoming more difficult to obtain and they need to be part of a structured learning program, we are also trying to look at shorter placement options. It would be very difficult for students to support themselves for 12 months without funding, which is why we encourage summer placements as well as the opportunity to make the most of the work students do whilst they’re studying and try to think of ways to use that as a placement opportunity,” said Mrs Mandy Jones, Head of Opportunities@Lincoln.

I benefited from summer internships at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta, Grand Strand Magazine in Myrtle Beach, and Natural History Magazine in New York City. While each experience was unique, they were similar in that I gained valuable on-the-job experience and learned to adapt to new people, places, and situations.

Working and living in New York City was particularly rewarding as it solidified for me that I want to work in a fast-paced and culturally diverse city. A weekend did not go by that I wasn’t exploring a museum, seeing a play, or watching a concert in Central Park. I gained a newfound sense of independence and also a heightened drive to accomplish my goals while completing that internship.

Opportunities@Lincoln advertises current employment opportunities on their Prospects website, where students can also look into completing international internships. Students can also find recruiter information and receive advice about to approach finding particular placements at the Opportunities@Lincoln offices located in the Main Administrative Building.

“We are now in the process at this university of appointing an employer engagement manager for each faculty, and one of their roles will be trying to source more placement opportunities. We’re hoping that the employer engagement managers will give this process more of a boost and provide more support for students,” Mrs Jones added.

While these managers are sset to be in place by the end of 2008, students are still encouraged to seek out placements on their own. Taking the initiative to gain work experience at home and abroad not only benefits your job prospects but also stimulates personal growth.

Helpful hints to get a US placement

Some helpful hints to guide you in this process provided by experienced job recruiter Mr. Ned Cohen.

Be aware of deadlines: For major Fortune 500 US-based companies, summer internships are applied for in early September prior to that summer and decisions are usually made by the end of November. Other companies start looking for interns in January and make decisions by March.

Utilise networking: Aside from searching internship websites and utilizing the services of university career offices, the traditional methods of networking with friend, family, and alumni contacts still provide the majority of leads.

“Americanize” your CV: Translate your CV information, including educational information about “O levels” and “A levels,” to American terms that demonstrate exactly what you have been studying and what you have achieved. Shorten CVs to suit the American way of reviewing CVs very quickly looking for key words and skills.

Know what pays: About 95 percent of internships in disciplines in the business schools in the US are paid. In other disciplines, such as humanities or science, many internships are unpaid even though students are expected to work the same hours.