With monthly employment figures continuing to show a drop in public sector employment and a rise in private sector jobs, it’s clear that many former public sector employees will need to look for work in the private sector…not always the easiest move.
We asked experienced career consultant Simon North to look at the best way to make this transition…
“If you’ve never worked in the private sector before, it can be difficult to find a way in, but it’s not impossible. If you can gain a profound understanding of the corporate world by seeking to understand the key issues affecting it, you’ll give yourself more of an edge when coming into contact with employers from that world. It also helps to take a good look at yourself, who you are, what you want and how you’re going about finding a job. Below, I cover a few of the issues you need to be aware of and some of the things you can do to give yourself a better chance of a successful transition.
We recently brought you the story of two different internships – one that had gone well whilst the other had, unfortunately, provided a poor first experience of the workplace.
In that blog we summarised the key lessons to be learned, and you can now watch a video of our 5 tips for getting the best from internships…
You can read more about the ups and downs of internships on Intern Heaven or Intern Hell?
As anyone who’s recently entered the job market will tell you, internships are becoming an increasingly common part of the modern employment landscape. While for many internships offer invaluable opportunities to experience work, learn skills and get on the path to a full time position, others see them as an exploitative waste of time. Spend time with recent graduates, and you’re likely to hear some internship horror stories.
To gather some first person insight, we caught up with two interns, whose opposing experiences show just how different internships can be. We’ll begin by introducing their stories, and finish with a few general lessons we can draw from their experiences.
Rachel Fuller is a 24 year old History graduate. She currently works part time in a bookshop and for the last two months has been interning at a travel website.
“I have always had a passion both for travel and for writing, so when I heard about this opportunity I was immediately interested and sent off my CV. I was asked to send a sample piece describing a recent holiday and, when this was well received, to come in for an informal interview at their office. The people at the office were very personable and open. My boss and I just spent a half hour talking about places we’d been, and destinations we’d like to visit.
When I started the position I was happy to find I was allowed to start writing on my first day. The office atmosphere was fantastic, and I immediately felt like I was part of the team. Feeling that I was valued and expected to contribute just like everyone else made me work harder, while enjoying the work even more.
Although I was initially taken on as a writer, I increasingly took a role in the admin side of the business too, for example organising freelance writers’ payments. Though I’d always thought I hated admin (and being organised in general!), I actually found I was good at it. I really feel I’ll take these new found skills in other areas of my life.
While this internship is unlikely to turn into a job, I still feel I’ve learnt some invaluable skills. I’ve also had the chance to make various contacts who will be really useful when I pursue this sort of writing/editorial work full time, which I plan to start in a few months time.”
‘Lucy’, 23, spent three months as an intern at a major fashion and lifestyle magazine. She was keen to tell her story in order that others could learn from her experience, but she still works in the industry, and would prefer not to be identified.
“I was so excited when I landed the internship as I knew there would have been many applicants for a position at a national magazine. But from my first day I knew that something was wrong. I was not involved in anything actually related to the magazine, as the initial advertisement had suggested. I was expecting to make a good few cups of tea, but the people there seemed to view me as a private waiting service. My boss would send me to do her laundry, and to fetch her coffee, lunch and snacks throughout the day.
The office atmosphere was poisonous. People either ignored me outright or talked about me only as ‘the intern’. After awhile I got quite sick of hearing others ask my boss: ‘Can you get the intern to do this?’ What I found most frustrating was that I was keen to work hard and contribute, but the tasks I was set just seemed designed to keep me occupied, or even just to amuse the other people there.
When I eventually asked if I was going to be allowed to do any writing or editorial work, my boss said there was a line of girls desperate to do her laundry and that if I didn’t like it I could **** off. After this encounter it became even more difficult to work there, and my boss and colleagues became increasingly hostile. In the end, I left a few weeks before the scheduled end of the internship. Many days I would leave work in tears, and I didn’t feel anything productive would come from my staying.
I’d done internships at fashion houses before so I knew that interns are expected to work very hard and may take flak when others get stressed, but this was ridiculous. By the end of it I felt that in terms of exploiting interns, fashion is not a patch on journalism! But I’ve since found a job at another magazine, and the atmosphere could not be more different.
I suppose my bad internship experience probably toughened me up, but I still feel angry about the way I was treated.”
The key outtake here seems to be centred around information. Knowing what you can contribute, what is expected of you, and the sort of environment you’ll be working in is vital for ensuring that an internship is a positive experience.
1. Be flexible and try to take what you can from the experience
Although many of these lessons will focus on the importance of planning things carefully, it’s important to say that internships will often turn out differently to how you may have initially thought. One of the great things about an internship, like a job, is it is often impossible to predict what you will learn from it. In responding to the needs of the office, Rachel found herself using skills she never thought she had. She’ll now be able to use these skills in future.
2. Meet your boss and scope out the office atmosphere
Rachel had met her boss and a couple of her potential co-workers. By contrast, Lucy was entering into a completely unfamiliar situation. If possible, schedule a preliminary meeting with your potential boss. If this is impossible, a phonecall is generally better than an email for determining your compatibility for the role. Prepare for this initial meeting as you would do for an interview, including what skills you can offer and anything you need to know about the role.
For tips on interview technique, whether for an internship or a full time position, it’s worth checking out our recent video How to Prepare for an Interview.
3. Find out the sort of tasks you’ll be doing
Don’t assume that because you’re at a newspaper you will be involved in editorial, or at a fashion house that you will be involved in design. With many internships you can expect that various forms of admin will be the focus of your time. Of course, in Lucy’s case the description did suggest she would be given the opportunity to write for the magazine. Still, making a serious effort to map out what the expectations are on both sides can help prevent trouble down the line. Continue reading “Intern Heaven or Intern Hell?” »
We have posted almost 100 career blogs to this site during 2012 and we’ve been looking back over the ones that you have read the most.
When we did last year’s summary we found that whilst advice on CVs and Interviews came out on top there was also interest in finding out more about other areas of online job-hunting. For this year, though, it’s guidance on Interview technique and CV writing that proved most popular.
Here are the 5 Worklife blogs that you read the most…why not read them again if you plan to be job searching in 2013…and let us know if they have helped you prepare this year…
The most read blog on our site this year; this offers advice on how to give a good impression when you hear ‘Do you have any questions for us?’
Amongst the advice on what you should be including, this look at some of the things that you shouldn’t be including proved very popular.
In this post our guest blogger looked at the preparation that you need to do before a telephone interview. They are becoming more popular with recruiters as a first stage screening phase so need to be treated with the same importance as a face to face interview.
Your CV should be a sales document, opening a door and setting the tone for a potential interview. In this blogged we talked about some of ways to get in the right mind-set when you write it.
This showcased some of the easiest traps to fall in to during an interview. If you’ve ever sat there wondering why you’re not clicking with the interviewer, the chances are you’re doing one of the things we wrote about.
There is a lot of advice available to help job seekers use social media platforms to enhance their job hunt, but many are unsure of how to get started..
Career coach Steve Nicholls, one of our regular gust contributors, often helps job seekers to get started on LinkedIn and Twitter and build confidence before they move on to more serious social job hunting. Here he offers some simple advice for those who aren’t sure where to begin…
“I like to focus on is how you can practically leverage the various platforms to your own benefit. With many job decisions being close run affairs these days, it’s often that extra 2 or 3% which can tip the balance in your favour. It’s these subtleties that I focus in on. I’d be interested to hear if any resonate with you.
LinkedIn still dominates as a source for both recruiters and candidates, although there are other options appearing on the web. From a candidate’s perspective then, I seem to come across the same issues or shortcomings on a LinkedIn profile: Photograph…. Dear oh dear! Some are either taken with a mobile phone (fine , but think of what it actually looks like to a stranger), or with an expression that can literally be scary! I suggest a neutral “smile” dressed in appropriate clothing. It’s great that you love your spouse by the way, but a photo with half their head in it? Well, you get my point I’m sure!
Staying with Linked In’ does your Title text state exactly what you’re seeking or offering? Mnay do manage to get this right, but I’m thinking about those who have got perhaps a past role, or a hobby job, or a voluntary role as their headline. The headline is your big chance to “get in there” and state your case. I know that this isn’t always easy, as some of you won’t want to broadcast your intentions to the world (due to current employer possibly looking at your profile) but for the rest it is aunique opportunity to frame in 120 characters what you are and what you can do.
Moving onto Twitter, my experience with this has been that it’s an underestimated tool for business networking, and can be seen as a bit “lite” for the job hunt. Not so, I’ve known of many folks who have built a modest following and have reaped the rewards from this. There are employers and recruiters on Twitter…that much is definite. Its how you engage with a person that dictates the outcomes; I suggest following those people and organizations that interest you, try to keep your following/followers ratio fairly balanced. Retweeting people’s tweets is the best method of creating relationships – but my philosophy is that it must be based from a win-win perspective (Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People covers this better than I can!), which should be at the core of the way you “think” around Twitter. Give first; it’s as simple as that! No simply wading in asking for things from people please… simple human engagement will show that you’re a good person to follow, and make your tweets interesting – not just all about you. I’m still learning, but these are fundamentals that can take months to “get”, so I hope this will help you.
Continuing with Twitter, Hashtags (#hr for example) are a means of appearing in the timelines of people who use the same hashtags and therefore have similar interests. Don’t just invent them randomly; you can search for them in Twitter and see which ones give you the best potential audience for your tweets. Use a Twitter monitoring application such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to manage, schedule and monitor your interactions.
There are other social media tools out there, but if you begin with the above two, you’ll be on your way!”
Steve Nicholls has many years of varied career coaching and guidance experience and offers career evaluations as well telephone and skype Career Coaching across the UK. You can also follow him on twitter.