The Amazing Internship Race has Begun
The world we’re currently living in has given us all a hundred different reasons to be constantly filled with anxiety. Everyone has their own custom set of anxieties, but the one thing almost all university students constantly worry about is how to get a job after graduation.
This fear is especially driven by the knowledge that our degrees alone will most likely not be sufficient in securing us a decent grad role. With so many job descriptions demanding several years of experience, the humble student is left feeling helpless.
The paradoxical situation of needing experience in order to get a job in the field you studied in, but knowing that in order to get that experience you must first get a job, will drive any poor soul mad. Although there isn’t a single clear solution, internships have been one of the most popular tools students have used in order to add that desired level of experience to their CVs.
Interning seems like the perfect way to get the so-called ‘real-world’ experience. That being said, with internship applications opening up and the internship expo taking place last week, it’s time to do a deeper exploration of what the internship application is like for students.
Sure, we’re still in the middle of the year and December is months away, but the summer internship hunt is a tedious and competitive one, which means students have readied their weapons and are already applying.
After speaking to a few students across different faculties, it seems that students have mixed feelings when it comes to past and future internships. Almost all the students that I interviewed have started looking into and applying for internships with a mix of excitement and frustration. There was, of course diversity, in people’s experiences based on the field they were aiming to get into.
Students from medical or scientific disciplines seemed to be in the process of applying for the Summer Research Scholarship. These scholarships give successful students a stipend of $6,750 to conduct a supervised research project for ten weeks over the summer break. There was definitely a sense of eagerness from students about this scholarship. Two of the students I interviewed had applied to do research related to their field of optometry and expressed the high value of an opportunity to do something practical.
The shared experience between students in medical fields seemed to be a desire to step outside a pathway that is often set in stone for them. One student said they were looking into the research scholarship as a way of gaining experience “beyond” their degree as a way of contributing “better care for future patients.” A desire that is without a doubt a noble one. Achieving it, however, is easier said than done.
As exciting as the opportunity to spend the summer researching is for these students, both found that the application process was exhausting and time consuming. One student claimed it had taken her and her friends almost four hours just to find the application. After finding the application came the process of answering all kinds of questions, some in essay form. Can you really blame them for then saying that procrastination was an issue? Who wouldn’t procrastinate?
The experience of becoming gradually more irritated whilst looking and applying for internships was a unanimous one amongst students. One student studying finance pointed out that the competition for internships makes it difficult to stand out and get ahead. This race for fear of being lost and overwhelmed became even more clear when talking to students that were studying degrees with less rigid pathways, like Arts or Communications.
These students had a unique view on what internships could offer and how they can go about obtaining them.One student in particular, in their final year of a media and communications degree, had spent almost a year doing unpaid internships or volunteer work in order to build their CV before getting a job with Arts+ management, as well as Sephora. Their first internship was with the Chinese NZ Herald, doing social media work. Then they went on to do research for the International office under the Micro Internship program,whilst also working as an Arts+ mentor and being involved in different clubs.
They said the biggest obstacle they had faced in trying to get work was both the competition they faced, and the high level of experience that was demanded of them from applications.
“I spent one semester honing my skills, and eventually, I got myself into this leadership position”.
They said this was not only true for them but for most arts students that they mentor through Arts+.
Although the arts is filled with diverse and multi-disciplinary majors, there was a shared familiarity with the need to build connections and create a network. There is an understanding amongst students in these fields that the degree is not enough to get them
started in a career. They are pushed to build their skillset beyond the confines of their degree at every given opportunity.
However, many students, across all faculties, find it near impossible to devote that much time doing unpaid work. For many students, especially during the cost of living crisis, making money is non-negotiable. This means that students would need to study full time, work paid jobs part time and look for volunteer or internship work part time. There really isn’t a Red Bull strong enough to get us through all that.
So what’s the answer here? Internships are undoubtedly important. They give us the push That we need to get into a competitive workforce. But at the same time, our mental stability is something worth protecting.
There really isn’t a straightforward answer. Every student that was spoken to has their own way of coping with this stressful time. Some find ways to constantly remind themselves of why they are pursuing certain opportunities. Others say that the quest to getting work experience starts not during the internship season, but as early as you can find ways to be involved. It is an ongoing process of getting contacts,while also building your own skill set.
Despite all of the difficulties, there is still a feeling of hope within each of these students. They are, after all, still applying themselves despite the odds and difficulties. It just goes to show that there is no direct path to any ambition but we are all trying, failing and trying again.