How To Make The Most of An Internship

After having summer internships in a number of marketing-related companies (McCann-Erickson, Bristol 2010 and Warc, London 2011) I thought I’d share some advice on how to make the most of an internship. After all, internships are not only highly competitive to get, they don’t last forever.

Write Down Every Task You’re Given, As Soon As You’re Given It.

This is my strongest piece of advice. As an intern, you’ll probably be asked to do a variety of tasks. Even by the end of the day, you may not remember every task you were given, especially if they were a number of short tasks. So I write down every task in my notebook before I begin it. That evening, I write a more detailed account of what was involved. It will take less than a minute of your time in the office and a couple more later on the evening. But what you gain is a bank of examples that can be used for your CV and examples of using specific skills for interviews. If you leave it all to the end, you’ll probably struggle to remember some of the smaller tasks, but these could be brilliant examples of your skills.

Ask For Career Guidance

In industries where internships are common, its very likely that your senior colleagues  have experience interning. If there’s someone in the company who is in a role you are interested in when you graduate, ask them how they got there and what they’d recommend you doing (e.g. is a postgraduate degree particularly beneficial?). Or if you happen to know the people who interview candidates for such a position ask what will make you stand out on paper or typical interview questions. This will probably benefit you far more than a careers adviser at university ever would.

Let Them Know Your Interests

Some internships are more flexible than others. If you’re in an internship which hasn’t been meticulously planned from start to finished, you may be asked what you’d like to get involved or what your career goals are, and given tasks to match. You’ll probably only get asked this once (if it all), so if you do, make sure you give an honest answer. Equally, if you feel you are repeatedly being given tasks which don’t match the job description, you should always speak up. It’s obviously unprofessional to refuse a task because you think it’s boring or would rather be doing something else, but if you do find yourself stuffing envelopes day-in-day-out when that wasn’t what you signed up for, it’s unlikely anything will change unless you speak up.

Use LinkedIn

I’ve put this as the last piece of advice because I’m currently sceptical of whether LinkedIn actually benefits getting a job. However, it can be useful in staying in touch with people that you’ve met in your working life as an intern, although I’d argue that LinkedIn is probably more useful in B2B than if you’re looking for a graduate/permanent position. Still, getting a positive recommendation for all to see can’t hurt.

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My View on LSE’s Tuition Fee Announcement

The London School of Economics’s board narrowly rejected the school charge £9,000 tuition fees for  UK/EU students in 2012/13. Instead the view is that they should be set at £8,000.

This is important to me as a Sheffield University student for a number of reasons:

Firstly, this comes a huge surprise. The majority of universities who have announced tuition fees for 2012/13 have chosen to set them at £9,000. This includes all of the so-called “elite” Russell Group universities (including Sheffield) as well as a significant number of institutions who, let’s face it, in terms of academic excellence and reputation couldn’t hold a candle to the LSE.

LSE are not shy about charging their students high tuition fees. For an international undergraduate, LSE will charge £14,592 a year, subject to inflationary rises. Their most expensive Masters programs costs a whopping a £25,488 in tuition alone.

Nobody would’ve batted an eyelid if LSE had opted to charge £9,000. It’s known to be one of the competitive universities in the UK in terms of entry. Some of its courses there are around 20 applicants per place. Some are proud of LSE for not charging the full fees. However I am confused. This coming from a university that considered going private less than a year ago.

Some comments on the Guardian thought it may be a PR stunt after the university’s links with the Gaddafi family. But how would this tuition fee announcement benefit it at all? Nobody’s going to write-off LSE as one of the most academically renowned universities in the world because of the Libya scandal. I thoroughly doubt that would’ve suffered a drop in applications from undergraduates if they chose them to set them £9,000. It’s still got a stellar academic reputation.

In fact, worryingly, if you look at the proposals charging £8,000 in fees is actually far worse than charging £9,000. If you look at the actual proposals which were published by LSE:

1) An £8,000 fee would mean that those with a household income of less than £25,000 would get a £2,000 bursary, and those with less than £42,600 would get £600. £800 would also be spent on access courses/widening participation.

2) An £9,000 fee would mean that those with a household income of less than £25,000 would get a £4,000 bursary, and those with less than £42,600 would get £1,500. £1,500 would also be spent on access courses/widening participation.

So let me get this straight, so the proposal that LSE rejected which would’ve increased fees by £1,000 a year would’ve enabled less well off students to gain in an increase in bursaries between £2000 and £900.

Even for those at the higher end of the bursary scheme, who essentially lose out on £100 under £9,000, would benefit overall. Tuition fees themselves are a very odd concept. You never have to budget for them when you’re at university as they’re a separate loan which never enters or leaves your bank account. Bursaries are much more important. In my experience, maintenance loans generally only cover the cost of your accommodation. Actual living costs generally have to come from maintenance grants, university bursaries, student’s own savings or Mummy and Daddy.

I remember looking into bursaries for LSE before I applied for university. I would’ve got twice as much going to Sheffield than the LSE. Would’ve got even more if I chose to go to Birmingham. It didn’t really make sense for me, being from a working-class family, that I would’ve got less financial assistance if I chose to live in the more expensive city.

So to cut a long story short, I think LSE are being really unfair on the lowest earners by choosing to charge £8,000 fees. Anyone applying to LSE with a reasonable chance of getting in is inevitably going to be applying to universities charging £9,000. Their reputation speaks for itself, they don’t need an extra economic incentive for applicants to apply. And you can hardly call them a generous institution when charging up to £25,488 for a Masters degree. Bursaries are far more beneficial to those from a lower income background: tuition fee loans don’t affect whether you can take up a place at university or not – your ability to finance your own living costs do.

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