If you’ve recently graduated and haven’t yet been offered a graduate job, you can boost your skills and gain a foothold in the world of work by undertaking a graduate placement or internship. These can help you to make industry contacts, prove yourself to an employer, build your confidence and put you in a stronger position to get a permanent graduate job.
Where can you find graduate placements and work experience?
Graduates can take part in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). A KTP is a three-way project between a graduate, a university and an organisation. As a graduate on a KTP you could be recruited to manage a strategic project, lasting from one to three years. Information is also available from your university’s KTP office.
Along the lines of roles related to your university, your Student Union may well offer graduate internships or fixed-term graduate roles, too.
Occasionally, large companies offer internships and placements specifically for recent graduates and publicise details of these on their websites – PwC is one such – so if you are interested in a particular employer, check online to see if there is anything on offer that could be appropriate for you. Organisations that offer structured work experience schemes tend to make it clear whether undergraduates or graduates are eligible to apply. However, some may make exceptions and accept applications from graduates for internships usually offered to undergraduates; it's worth contacting the early careers recruitment team and asking. Search for internships on TARGETjobs.
You could also ask local employers if they could offer you work experience or work-shadowing (observation) on your own initiative. This could give you the experience in a sector that interests you, which will enhance your CV. This is known as applying speculatively and here's how to do it. You don't need to already know anyone working at the employer in order to do this.
How does doing an internship affect your Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claim?
Some graduate internships are unpaid and you’ll want to think carefully about your options and your rights before taking one on. You need to balance the value of the experience against the lack of financial reward. If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), taking up an unpaid internship may affect your entitlement, as you need to be available to keep to your commitment to seek work.
You should be able to claim the new-style JSA if your internship involves fewer than 16 hours’ work a week and you have paid National Insurance for the past two years as an employee (students pay National Insurance if they earn over £166 a week). If your internship involves more than 16 hours a week, you may no longer be eligible to claim JSA. If you are on a placement and claiming JSA, you must continue to look for work and be prepared to leave the internship if you’re offered a job. However, don’t take our word for it; check with your local JobcentrePlus.
If you don’t get an internship, don’t undervalue your part-time or temp jobs
If you feel like you are waiting for your ‘graduate career’ to start and that you are filling in the time by continuing with your ‘typical student-type jobs’ just to earn money, know that this is not an unusual situation for new graduates. However, don’t underestimate the value that this type of work can add to your CV. For one thing, it will avoid gaps. For another, it will give you evidence of attributes and skills that graduate recruiters look for: punctuality, a work ethic, communication, resilience and so on.
Along similar lines, keep up or start new extracurricular activities that can be added to your CV. This is a particularly good tactic if you are lacking evidence of a particular skill required for graduate programmes. For example, helping to run a youth group, such as Scouts, could develop further leadership abilities (subject to undergoing any DBS checks).
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