The period after graduating and before landing your first job is a scary one. Whilst most of us imagine that finding a job after graduating will present some challenges, I don’t think a lot of us are prepared for just how difficult it might turn out to be. I was unemployed for two months before I found my first job, which doesn’t sound like long but it felt like years. Job searching day in, day out is stressful. The rejection is demoralising. And quite frankly, it’s boring.
The first job I was offered was a minimum wage internship at a start up company in London. It was also one of the first jobs I felt genuinely excited by when I read the description. Did I mind that it was a minimum wage internship? Of course. I was living in London at the time and needed money. Did I completely downplay the fact that it was ‘just an internship’ when other people were excited for me? Of course. I felt like I’d failed by taking a minimum wage internship straight out of uni. I knew of people who were walzing straight into jobs paying £25k a year, and to be honest I’d always expected I’d do the same. What’s the point in going to uni if you’re still going to earn minimum wage, right?
Well, it’s not that easy is it? Unless your degree is necessary for your profession and you’ve done some training while studying (teaching, medicine etc.) you’re probably not going to walk into somewhere without any experience. With that in mind, here are a few things that internships are useful for.
I touched on this above, but internships are a great way of gaining experience quickly. You’ll also get a feel for the field of work you’re in and be able to decide if it’s right for you. Internships often last just a few months so if you decide it isn’t what you want to do, you haven’t wasted too much time. You’ll also have experience (and likely gained some transferrable skills) to apply for another job – or, another internship.
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy your field of work, you’ll be meeting potential contacts all the time. Some jobs can be more about who you know than what you know, so getting to know more people is only going to broaden your potential horizons. In an internship you’re bound to be moving on pretty quickly, but these people could help you find freelance work or even put in a good word for you at their old company.
Okay, so this isn’t a benefit over having a ‘real’ job, but when I first graduated from uni my routine was all over the shop. I didn’t really have to get up for anything so some days I’d lay in bed until gone midday, just because I could. When I started my internship that changed completely as I was held accountable by someone. You might turn your nose up at an internship, but it’s better than being unemployed, and will give you something to strive towards.
Some internships will be unpaid. Some won’t. As I said above, mine was minimum wage, but it was something. Nobody graduates with a whole lot of money (most of us graduate with £40k+ debt but lol let’s not dwell on that) so every little bit helps. I made enough money interning to stay in London, which was the most important thing to me at the time because my boyfriend still had one more year of uni left in the city.
Ultimately it’s about where you’re at and what you’re doing, and there’s probably loads more reasons why interning can be great, but these are definitely my top four. I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with interning after graduating. For me, it’s the best thing I could have done. It might not be the same for you. But, if you’re really struggling to land that perfect grad job, maybe take a step back and look at your other options. Interning isn’t all about making coffee – it might just help you get your career off the ground.