Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Importance of a Summer Work Experience

Hi UTSC-ers! My name is Carlson and this is my first time posting an article on this blog. I hope it will prove helpful to all of you!

The Scenario:
An employer asks a recent graduate: “What makes you think you are suitable for the position?” 

The graduate responds by telling the employer about his academic grades and how this translates to his ability handle the position in terms of work hours, competency, and commitment.

The employer then smiles and asks the graduate: “Well how do I know that..?”

In today’ workforce, work experience has become one of the most important criteria employers look for when it comes to selecting a candidate. For a graduate, it is solid proof to the employer about what he says he can offer. As a 4th year student in Management, I cannot stress enough on the importance of work experience and its benefits down the road. I have seen many students take their summers off throughout their academic years only to find themselves without work experience when they graduate. Ironically, employers (the ones who are looking for work experience in students) rarely offer any opportunities for students to gain work experience. So how does one get work experience in such a tough situation? This blog will cover several topics relating to summer work experience including its short and long term importance, why it is good to start early, how to find such opportunities, and when to apply. The blog will conclude with several FAQ that may have deterred students from getting work experience in the past.

Why is important?

Now before I go on explaining why an internship is important, I am going to clear a common misconception: students often get an inflated expectation during their first internship only to find out it wasn’t what they expected (they expect they will be assigned many responsibilities and will be giving input on major decisions). In reality, you will be receiving minor tasks and sometimes you may even find yourself waiting for hours or days before one is assigned anything (this is coming from my own internship experiences). At this point, you are probably thinking what a waste of time this is but on the upside you get paid to sit there right? Getting paid to sit there for a “9-5” job may seem like a very entertaining idea but trust me though, you will get bored very quickly (remember you aren’t allowed to Facebook, or do anything work nonrelated). So why is an internship so important you ask? 

Getting a summer internship position will not only help you gain the experience you need for your career, it opens up new opportunities. Throughout your summer, you are building up your network, your resume, and learning general office etiquette. Such minor yet essential factors can make a huge difference in the employer’s eyes when it comes to selecting the right candidate for a graduate job. Why? Simply put, you have proven yourself that you understand what job you are getting into (you know yourself) and that you are passionate about this role. You also demonstrated that you already understand the basics office manners (less training cost and time on the employer’s end). Furthermore, if you have worked for the employer before, he will have a good idea of your work abilities, interests and work habits (which lead a strong likelihood of being rehired if you are in good terms with the employer). Another factor that improves the chances of being rehired is that you already understand how the company functions. Finally, internships allow you to make yourself more credible because it’s coming from a professional institution. 

Starting Early and the Long Term Benefits

It is never too early to have work experiences. In fact at the place I interned, they were offering internship to senior students in High School (Gr. 11-12)! By gaining work experiences early on in your academic years, you can quickly expand your skill set. By the time of graduation, you will have tons of experience and a very impressive resume. Not only will you be able to impress the recruiter with you experience, you also have a vast network of people whom may be potential references and employers. 

For student who are continuing their studies (whether you are working on an undergraduate or  graduate degree), getting into an internship is equally important as it improves the chances of being rehired in the subsequent summers. Working for the same company every summer greatly increases your chances of getting a full time position at that company after you complete your degree.

Building Your Network

Building your network is one of the most important things you can do at an internship. Here is an idea, if you are going to sit there anyways, why not do some networking to make better use of your time? You can ask your co-workers out for coffee during quieter times. Your senior co-workers are more than happy to answer some of your questions whether it is career related or personal experiences or even sports (In the finance/banking industry, it never hurts to talk about golf!). You are there to learn, and they are there to support your professional development throughout the entire summer. Most importantly, they are also learning about you in terms of your goals, interest, personality and how well you get along with other people in the department (very important for rehires). As an intern, it is extremely important that you get yourself noticed positively. Your employer hired you partially out of his own pocket. He expects to have a good time working with you throughout the summer. Sitting in your cubical all summer without interact with the staff is not going to make a good impression. In fact, you may soon be forgotten in your corner and no one will come find you for a task at hand (probably give it to another intern). You should take every opportunity to interact with your fellow colleagues (even a "good morning" makes a huge difference). However, there is a fine line between being social and being bothersome. The key is to feel the mood of the office. If people are very focused on their work and there is yelling and anger, it is probably not the best time to ask your colleagues out for coffee.

Finding the Opportunities and When to Apply

As a general guideline, companies begin accepting summer internship applications at the start of January up until April (the number of available internships dwindle as the months progress). Most internship programs have their information out year round which means applicants should have plenty of time to write up their applications in December (It is competitive!).
When it comes to looking for work experiences, there are various resources students can use. Companies often have their internships posted on their websites (e.g. in which students can get all the information for that specific internship including recruitment cycles, areas to work in, and requirements. Another site that students will find helpful is the UTSC AA&CC which also post internship opportunities. LinkedIn is also an important tool as it can help you build your network and get in touch with the intern recruiters (or people who know the recruiter) on a personal level. Finally, always ask family and friends as these connections may open new doors in your search. You can always meet with a career counselor if you have difficulties applying for internships. Employment coaches provide excellent assistance should one find a specific job but needs help on "approaching" it (cover letter/resume). The UTSC AA&CC also provide a variety of events which can aid you on your search (e.g. the upcoming "LinkedIn Job Search and Networking Strategy" on July 16).


1. I am not a co-op student, Can I still get an internship? 

                Yes. Although companies do provide some opportunities exclusively for co-op students, they also provide opportunities for non-co-op students. They will usually specify whether the position is for co-op or not. You can also contact the company if they don't specify. 

2. I have poor academic records, Will they hire me?

                Employers look for more than just marks when it comes to selecting interns. They also look into factors such as your extracurricular achievements, involvement on campus, and past work experiences. These factors not only show the skills you possess, but also your activeness in the school community (tells the employer quite a bit about the candidate's personality). Employers are seeking well-rounded individuals whom they can get along with in the next 4 months. Things such as common interest play a huge crucial factor in their decision. One question employers ask themselves during the interview is "how well does this candidate fit with our company?" This is something that marks cannot show, so don't be afraid to apply!

Until next time!



1 comment:

Kellie Cheung said...

wow! thank you Carlson for posting this! this is really helpful! =)