Between the second and final year of her degree Fateha completed a year long internship within the product management team at Prospects. Upon graduation she was offered a job and is now a service delivery executive
During the early stages of your career why did you decide to complete an internship?
I knew that the job market was very competitive and wanted to make sure that I had something extra to offer to employers when I graduated. During and after college I completed short work placements to gain skills and experience for my own self-development and to put myself ahead of the competition.
I applied for and was successfully chosen to be a part of the BBC Mentor Project, which was a nine-month programme where students were matched with a member of BBC staff (directors, producers, etc). I was able to shadow my mentor, a BBC Radio 5 Live producer, while working on the overall goal of the programme, which was to produce and deliver a TV/radio short with a given budget, by the end of the nine months.
The mentor project reinforced my views on why placements, work experience and internships are so important, and later, I applied for a sandwich degree that included a one-year internship in the third year of the course.
Where did you find this opportunity and how did you apply?
As soon as my second year of university started, I tried to secure an internship for my third year. I picked up a Prospects publication from my university careers service and saw an advert for an internship at Prospects itself. It sounded perfect. I applied and was invited for interview.
I prepared a portfolio of work, including articles I had written, and screenshots of a website I had created for a university project - all relevant to what Prospects was looking for.
What did your internship involve?
The internship started in the summer and I had a two-week handover period with the placement students at that time. I was trained on how to process invoices, raise purchase orders, create and send out newsletters, while also completing tasks for product managers. This involved competitor analysis, sales analysis, proof-reading and attending recruitment and postgraduate study fairs.
It was a valuable experience for me. I got to see what was involved in publishing a magazine, from sales, marketing, design, editorial, distribution and product management. I got experience in each area of the business and had the opportunity to publish three issues of a magazine under the guidance of my peers. It was such a lovely feeling to see my name printed in thousands of publications that were distributed across the country.
What did your internship teach you about the working world that you didn't know before?
That the working world doesn't have to be scary or serious - there's lots of fun involved too. As long as you work hard and do what is expected of you, you'll get something out of it so don't just think of it as ticking a box or as something to add to your CV. It's all about learning and asking the right questions.
Where did this experience lead?
I completed my year-long internship and at the time Prospects' first digital magazine was due to be launched. I was asked to stay on for an extra couple of months before I started my final year at university to help the marketing department with the product launch.
Upon completion, I went back to university for my final year.
A few days after graduation I was offered a full-time position in the product management department at Prospects.
What are your top tips on searching for and securing an internship?
- Start early and search wide. Loads of employers use social media and platforms like LinkedIn to advertise internships, but also visit employer websites directly if there's a particular job or sector you are interested in working in.
- Use opportunities to network and talk to people face-to-face and do your best to leave a lasting impression. This not only gives you confidence, but will also increase your chances of being offered a job if employers can see what you're like in person.
- Write speculative cover letters and tailor your CV if you can't find any advertised vacancies. Do your research on the company beforehand, but also make it clear what you can offer them - an internship is a two-way relationship between you and the employer.
How can students and graduates impress employers during their internship?
- Be pro-active and ask the right questions. Employers love people with suggestions, so don't be shy.
- Get to know people, smile, converse with them, ask them how they got their jobs - people like to help interns and will happily share their stories.
- Make a good first impression, from the moment you walk through the door until the moment you clock out. This means turn up on time, dress suitably, be friendly and reliable.
- Keep trying and don’t give up. Accept that it's not always plain sailing.
To succeed as an intern what top three qualities are needed?
- Adaptability is key. One morning you might be writing marketing material and in the afternoon you could be manning the company switchboard. Working in different areas of the business is beneficial for both you and the employer.
- Personability is important. Being able to connect with people is a skill that is needed for most roles. You could be working with colleagues, customers, stakeholders or suppliers and being able to establish professional relationships and build rapport all stems from being able to understand people.
- Enthusiasm. Show that you are willing to learn, be positive and show that you are committed to whatever is thrown at you. If you see a project that interests you, ask if you can help out or learn more about it. Being positive will always add value to the organisation and to the internship.
Can you dispel a myth about internships?
Some people think interns end up doing menial jobs, nothing worthwhile or just beginner-level tasks. Many interns actually end up working on important company projects, attend external company meetings, and are often given the same responsibility as permanent colleagues.