How to find an IT internship or placement
Many employers offer paid summer internships or placement years in IT-related roles. Summer internships typically last between six and twelve weeks and are designed to fit into the long vacation, often (but not always) between your penultimate and final year at university. Placement years are intended to fit into sandwich degrees, though your university might let you take a year out to do one even if your course is not designed in this way.
Why do an IT placement?
An internship or placement year can help you to:
- show employers that you are serious about your career
- explore a particular career option before committing to it
- increase your understanding of topics you study on your degree
- develop technical, business and interpersonal skills in a workplace setting
- get exposure to challenges and projects that will give you something to talk about in your applications and at interview
Where to find an IT placement
Large employers tend to advertise their internships and placements widely; you can seek them out using the job search function on targetjobsit.co.uk. They often have part of their company website dedicated to intern (and graduate) recruitment.
Smaller employers typically have less time and budget to spend on graduate recruitment. Try hunting round on their websites, making speculative applications or looking for vacancies via the Step website – www.step.org.uk.
When to apply for an IT placement
For the best selection of internships and placements, apply in the autumn term for roles beginning the following summer. Some organisations have closing dates before Christmas. However, you may be able to pick something up in the spring or even summer term, if an employer has failed to recruit all the interns it needs, or if a smaller organisation is recruiting on an ad-hoc basis. Experience gained at a small or medium-sized company can be a good stepping stone to a job with a bigger business after you graduate.
Getting the most out of an IT placement
If you’re lucky enough to land an internship, put the most in to get the most out. If you impress, you could be offered a graduate job or at least be fast-tracked to the latter stages of the graduate recruitment process. Alternatively, you might make contacts who can help you find your way to a role or an organisation that you would prefer.
- Put yourself forward for opportunities that aren’t a compulsory part of your role.
- Be seen as a proactive team member – for example, if you report a problem, try also to suggest a solution.
- Request feedback on the work you do (if it is not offered) and on your performance as a whole at the end of the internship.
- Keep notes of what you do and who you work with. These will help you to remember and talk about your experiences when applying for graduate jobs.
- Don’t just hang out with the other interns – take any appropriate opportunities to chat to permanent employees, for example at social events.
What about non-IT placements?
IT employers are looking for graduates who have a mix of technical and non-technical skills and competencies. During the recruitment process for your graduate job, you will be expected to show recruiters and interviewers that you possess the non-technical attributes that they’re looking for – using real-life examples.
One IT professional said: ‘I was barely quizzed about my programming skills, but I was grilled about competencies such as leadership skills and working effectively in a team.’ Work experience gained in a non-IT capacity can enable you to prove that you have these attributes.
Being selective is vital
The three or four years you spend doing your degree are precious – you have to use this time wisely to ensure you’re employable upon graduation. Should you decide to step outside the IT arena to gain some experience, it’s essential you choose an internship or placement that will definitely develop the transferable skills and competencies that are sought by IT employers.
Determining the value of non-IT placements
A variety of internship and placement opportunities can be found at companies across a range of sectors; these could be customer-facing, editorial, sales or marketing roles, as well as many others. To determine whether a non-IT placement will help you to develop useful and transferable skills, find out precisely what your responsibilities and objectives will be. For instance, being charged with resolving customer queries would be far more useful than photocopying and filing. Make sure you read the job description, ask the recruiter additional questions if need be and liaise with former interns if you know any.
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