As you know, or some of you are about to find out, its quite difficult to find a job with a new degree under your belt.
You’ve spent 4 years in university, written 100’s of exams, midterms and essays, spent more hours in the library than in your student apartment, and the day has finally arrived. All the stress and hard work has earned you a spot on the stage in front of your fellow students and proud parents. You’re standing there in your graduation gown accepting your diploma from the dean of the university, and just like that- you are no longer a “student.”
You graduated, now what?
With my diploma in hand, as I walked back down to my spot within the crowd of graduates, I couldn’t help but think “Now what.” So, I graduated… Now I was expected to land myself a “real job.” Not one as a lifeguard, a job that I had during summer breaks. Now it was time to enter the “real world” as one would call it.
Entering the “real world” as a new grad
Here is where I found myself in an extremely frustrating situation.
I had graduated with a Business Management degree. As a full time student I was not able to work during the year in a position that would correlate to my degree since, generally speaking, “real jobs” require full-time employees. Upon graduating, I discovered that I needed more than the nicely framed piece of paper hanging in my mother’s living room. The jobs my degree prepared me for also required 3-5 years of experience in addition to a degree.
The experience catch-22
If I can’t get a jobs related to my degree without experience, and I can’t get experience without a job – what gives? Was there anyway I could put my education to use without experience?
I spent 4 months during the summer searching for a job and I had no luck. I’m not sure if it was because I was a new grad with no “real” work experience (I had lifeguarded throughout high school and during the summers during university), or if it was because after applying to so many places I was just getting discouraged and my drive to find a job had lessened.
Finding a way to increase my qualifications
I decided to enroll in a post-graduate program to extend my level of education (maybe place me above my fellow graduates at university) and gain experience.
How would I gain experience going back to school and becoming a full time student again?
Part of the post-grad course requirements was to find an internship and complete 160 hours as an intern. The internship was meant to facilitate my entry into the profession by giving me first hand experience during a work placement. Internships may be paid or unpaid, and are generally understood as being a temporary placement.
Getting an internship
You’re probably thinking that my school found me an internship and placed me in a large company, and its all one big fairy tale ending from there. Wrong. My program actually required us to find our own placements and actually go out and interview with whatever company we had found.
I came across a job board posting for an internship at a multinational company with offices in Toronto. I sat there debating my application. Do I apply? They probably want someone with experience. Even if I applied, maybe someone in the company knows one of the other applicants and will recommend them to the hiring manager. I felt that being such a large company, I would have to compete with 1000’s of other new grads who like me were searching for an opportunity to gain job experience.
I applied and went through numerous interviews and screening processes. Finally I was informed that I had been chosen among all other applicants to be the “HR Intern.” I was thrilled. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was actually going to get a chance to participate in projects and assignments that would give me experience. I really wondered if as an “intern” I would have to stand by the photocopy machine for hours printing things for the team or go on daily coffee runs- we’ve all seen the movies (The Devil Wears Prada)!
From internship to paid employment
It worked. Now I have a “real job” where I can use the skills I learned at university.
I could not have asked for a better internship experience. As an intern I was actually given a number of responsibilities to handle on my own and was considered a part of the team. So much so that I was offered to extend my internship to a second term. and if someone were to ask me if I would recommend interning, I would say DEFINITELY- especially if you’re finding it difficult to land that first job.
How to get the most out of your internship
Here’s a list of things that I hope will help you (as an intern) make the most of your placement.
- Take initiative. Don’t be the intern that waits around for direction. Ask for more work and go above and beyond your requirements- You will be recognized and the recognition is an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
- Make connections. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the other employees and tell them what you’re doing at the office. This is a perfect way to network.
- Ask questions. You ARE still a student- and probably always will be. Asking questions is the best way to learn things you don’t understand. By asking questions you will be able to perform better.
- Stay motivated. Your internship may not be a paid one (as mine was not). However, you must look at the big picture in this situation. You’re gaining the experience you need to land that “real job.” You must perform as best as you can because at the end of the internship- if your performance is what counts- and if your manager thinks you were wonderful- you bet he/she will be one awesome reference.
- Enjoy it. It may be hard for your to read this and not think, “How can I enjoy it if I’m not being paid?!” You must make the most out of the experience. Stay positive. As an intern- you have the ability to make mistakes and learn from them through the guidance of established professionals. These are the people you aspire to be one day- what better teachers could you ask for?As you know, or some of you are about to find out, its quite difficult to find a job with a new degree under your belt.
Have you had experience working as an intern, or hiring interns? Did it lead to full time work? Please tell me about your experiences in the comments section.
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