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How to make the most of your summer

Joe SSprecher28 February 2019

Summer Internships Scheme

Internships are key to building experience as a student or recent graduate. Employers are much more likely to hire someone with internships and work experience, rather than someone with a generic resume, lacking experience. Many internship opportunities help set the foundation for your career. The summer is a perfect opportunity to focus on what needs doing and to gain that all important experience.

Here we explain the benefits of undertaking an internship and what you need to consider when building on your own brand, networking and online presence, along with the softer skill benefits it offers.

Undertaking an internship

You can gain a lot from doing an internship. From being able to develop common workplace skills such as team work and commercial awareness, to demonstrating work experience on your CV and making new connections with employers. You will be able to explore a field of work and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses to build your confidence, and understand how theory and research relate to practice in a work context.

Last, and not least, you will have an opportunity to earn money. Find a summer internship in our UCL Careers Summer Internship Scheme where you will be paid London Living Wage. Opportunities are live now until 24th March.  You can also browse other opportunities on myUCLCareers.

Creating a portfolio 

For some roles, especially in media, fashion and design, it’s important to have a portfolio of work to show employers at interviews. This could include photos, drawings, examples of writing or anything that demonstrates your creativity. You could use the summer to build an online portfolio in the form of a website then use the link on your CV or in future applications.

Have you connected?

If you have made some connections over the year, you can re-visit them. Leverage your network to identify people who are in your desired field or industry and set up an informational interview to learn more about your potential career path. Begin speaking with potential mentors, such as UCL Alumni and build relationships with existing mentors. This will put you in a strong position after you graduate and it will remind important people that you are both interested and interesting!

Building your online brand

Linked to networking your personal network is how the outside world sees you, including prospective employers. Sites like LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook can be powerful tools to let employers know who you are and what you can do.

Learning about you

The first step in making an informed decision about anything relating to your career is understanding yourself. If you don’t really know what you want or what you are good at then this can be really hard.

Use the summer to get to know yourself a bit better. Travelling, making new friends or learning new skills through online courses can be a really good way to bring out your strengths and help you find your passion. Don’t forget, you can always come into UCL Careers for a short guidance appointment with one of our Careers Consultants.

Find yourself an opportunity through the UCL Careers Summer Internships Scheme, or through the myUCLCareers vacancies tab. Deadline for applications for roles in the UCL Careers Summer Internships Scheme is Sunday 24th March.

After your internship: the importance of being reflective

Weronika ZBenning23 May 2016

 With so much emphasis placed on the ‘before’ and ‘during’ phases of an internship, it can be easy to forget just how important it is to put time aside at the end of the experience to ensure you are truly making the most of it. The benefits don’t, and certainly shouldn’t, come to a grinding halt the minute you leave the office on your last day and, whilst things are still fresh in your mind, this is absolutely the best time to indulge in a bit of reflection.

Evaluate what you have learned

Take time to think about the skills you learned and developed, both technical and transferable. If you didn’t receive a formal appraisal during your time within the organisation, think about any informal feedback or comments that you received. Make concise notes of the roles you played in projects, the responsibilities you were given, and the skills you used in order to make this happen. Can you identify what you feel was your biggest achievement? Or the area where you made the most impact? Make a record of names of colleagues, departments you worked within, projects you were involved with – all this detail will be much clearer to you now and may be needed in the future.

What would you do differently?

Hindsight is a great way of learning and improving, so put time aside to think of any ways you could have made the experience better, or that you would change if there was a ‘next time’.  Perhaps you felt unprepared on your first day and would have benefited from a bit of time spent researching? Maybe time management wasn’t your strong point and you need to do some learning around ways of planning your working day in order to meet deadlines more comfortably? Alternatively, this may be a question of proactivity and doing everything you can to make the most of the opportunities afforded to you. Do you regret not asking more questions? Perhaps there is a particular area of business you would like to have learned more about but never had the confidence to put yourself forward. Mistakes are there to be learned from.

Review your own goals and expectations

Evaluate what the experience has taught you about your own career aspirations. Work to identify areas of the internship that you particularly enjoyed as well as departments within the company that interest you the most. Can you see yourself working in that role, that organisation, that industry…? If not, what would work better for you and why? Don’t forget to review your own developmental goals too – can you think of ways of plugging any skills gaps that became apparent? Or perhaps the experience made you appreciate your own capabilities to an extent that you now feel ready to target career opportunities that before felt unreachable?  If you want help with reflecting on the experience and how it can help you with your career planning book an appointment with a Careers Consultant

So, aside from the practical tasks that the end of an internship should initiate (eg. updating your CV and ensuring you are connecting with contacts via LinkedIn) don’t underestimate the benefits that can be gained from some good old fashioned thinking time. As much as we want to rush on to the next thing on our ‘to do’ list, give yourself time and space to properly consider and reflect on the experience. Internships are a wonderful opportunity that you should seek to make the very best of, both before, during AND after.