An opinion piece published by The Guardian Blogging Students.
When you’re older it’s much harder to change career direction. But for us students it’s easy. This is the one period in our lives where we can try different jobs, even if just to satisfy a curiosity.
That’s why the summer is your best opportunity to get work experience and try something new.
The idea of trying out a career might not seem as fun as the thought of going on holiday with friends, but once we graduate everything changes. The opportunities we have as students disappear, and time to experiment or work for different people shrinks dramatically.
Even placements that don’t turn out how you expected can be beneficial – they give you direction for the future.
Adam McGhee, a photography student at Falmouth University, secured an internship with a famous fashion photographer during the Easter holidays. He started feeling confident that this field suited him, but finished realising “the large and fast paced world of commercial and fashion photography wasn’t a path I wanted to take.”
Despite this, the internship was still a useful experience. He says: “I left with a clearer understanding of where I want to work.”
Bad internships aren’t bad; they are often blessings in disguise.
Harry Johnston, a geology student at Exeter University, won a competitive internship at an oil company last summer. This was a well-paid position that almost guaranteed a job after graduation. But the experience didn’t turn out quite as expected.
Johnston says: “I thought this would be the dream placement, but despite the money, working in a large corporate business wasn’t something I enjoyed. It was too impersonal for me.”
This experience completely changed his plans after graduation. “It forced me to reassess where I was going and reconsider some options I had previously ignored.”
Sometimes perfect internships do occur, and the working world meets our expectations or even surpasses them.
Laura Baggott, a textiles student at Falmouth University, completed an internship with a high-end fashion brand during the holidays. She says: “The work placement provided a clear insight into the industry, and helped confirm that I definitely want to work in fashion.
“Experience helps you better understand specific roles in the industry you are graduating into – which helps you decide where you want to be, and equally importantly – the roles that may not be for you.”
When students experience industry first hand it’s often not what we expected. It could be better or it could worse; but the ideas in our head usually don’t match the reality. The only way to confront those misconceptions is by entering industry, and trying it.
Choosing a career path is a decision that will affect the rest of our lives, and once that choice is made it becomes increasingly difficult to change it. We only have a few long holidays while at university, so we should use them wisely.