Get a job, not an internship

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So you’re desperate to get an internship for the summer. All your friends seem to have got one, some at big accounting companies in the City, some at an advertising agency in Seattle, and that one lucky guy who’s scored the travel writing internship in New York. Your parents have been bugging you about it too, believing to to be the only way for you to secure your dream job of the future.

You, however, have even been knocked back by your local Member of Parliament and are staring down the barrel of spending the summer sitting at home Snapchatting pictures of your dinner to your hard-working friends. You instantly turn your nose up at the idea of getting a job at the local shop, which your mother keeps suggesting as a last resort.

But don’t be so quick to write off the idea of taking a summer job. It might be the best decision you ever made. Why?

Money: While the rise of the unpaid internship is deplorable, they do still exist, and there are many of you willing to accept that it may cost you travel and food expenses for the privilege of sitting at a desk in an office you wish to inhabit on a more long-term basis in the future. A reasonably-paid internship truly is manna from heaven in this economy. But working four days a week at H&M while living at home rent-free gives you the opportunity to save up for that dream holiday to Thailand you’ve always wanted, or just have a terrific Freshers’ Week come September.

Job applications: There are a lot of buzzwords when it comes to applying for jobs, and competency-based interviews are particularly rife with these. Working in a functioning, high street shop will throw up all sorts of situations that you are unlikely to encounter in your role as secretary of the Mars Bar Appreciation Society that you can later reference when you have to describe in 200 words or fewer “a time when you displayed leadership in a difficult situation”.

“Real life” skills: As a classics student, very little (if any) of my degree is relevant to, well, anything. But learning how to manage the expectations of upper middle-class customers at John Lewis was invaluable, and when it comes to being dropped into your first job after graduation you will be drawing on these skills more than you ever will “amo, amas, amat”.

Work in St Andrews: The bigger chains in St Andrews probably have a branch near you. If you’ve been working full-time at Superdrug over the summer, why not see if you can transfer to the odd shift a week in St Andrews? It’ll boost your beer pocket and continue to build your working history.

Friends: I’ve done work experience in several newsrooms, and in journalism at least the intern is pretty much a human photocopier willing to do those jobs no-one else will. It makes it a difficult environment in which to befriend people. Go and work in Boots, and you will at least be treated like an equal, meet a lot of really great people, and potentially some brand new Twitter followers.

So don’t panic if you haven’t been accepted by Accenture or Goldman Sachs for their summer programme: there are plenty of opportunities right on your doorstep. They’ll give you more enjoyment and life experience than four weeks at one of the big four, and look just as good on your CV.

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