When all the big firms say “No”. Securing an ‘alternative’ internship
Hi guys, and welcome back to my blog! If I’m not mistaken, the application deadlines for summer internships with most major firms passed a few weeks ago? So, to those of you reading this who are waiting to hear back concerning your applications, good luck!
This blog post is going to talk my experience of securing an internship for the end of my second year; all five of the internship applications that I made to major firms were rejected, and although it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience at the time, I honestly wouldn’t change it if I could (and I’m not just saying that).
So, as I said already, I made five internship applications and they were all unsuccessful. Since I’m planning to go into Management Consulting after university, a summer internship after my second year wasn’t only useful experience to have, but it was also necessary in order for me to gain an understanding of what it is that consultants do on a day-to-day basis. When I realised that I wouldn’t gain this exposure/experience with a major firm, I began to consider where else I could gain this and decided to reach out to SME consulting firms. I spent a few weeks researching and contacting (via emails and calls) SME consulting firms in Kent, Coventry and Birmingham. I found the contact details of each firm’s recruitment officer and sent them a short email, with my CV attached, explaining who I was (a penultimate year PPE student at Warwick) and what I wanted (some unpaid work experience that would give me exposure to consulting work). I asked for unpaid work experience because I didn’t want to put off any firms that may have been willing to take me on but were unable to afford an intern, and also because I knew that Warwick would helpfully provide me with an unpaid work experience bursary of up to £300 in order to help cover my costs.
I contacted over 25 firms in the space of a month. and got a mixture of responses – some firms didn’t respond at all, others let me know that they couldn’t take on interns, and others had already filled up their work experience pool for the summer. Fortunately, one Birmingham professional services firm got back to me in May and called me in for an interview, so I spent a few hours researching the company and preparing for the kind of interview questions that could come my way, and went in for the interview. It was a success, and they offered me a 10-week internship in their consulting division and also offered to reimburse all of my travel costs during the internship. To make things even better, my relatives who live in Birmingham invited me to come and stay with them for the summer, which not only meant that I didn’t need to pay rent for the entire summer but also that I got to spend time with my extended family and get to know a new city.
Completing work experience with an SME firm rather than a major one had the advantage that I was given a lot of responsibility during my internship and even led a project in my last few weeks of being there. My time at the firm also allowed me to realise that I definitely don’t want to work in a small firm right after university; although I genuinely enjoyed my internship and got to know some of my colleagues really well, the experience taught me that I really value having a diversity of clients, projects and colleagues in my professional life, and this is something that’s harder to come by in a SME firm.
So, I wish you all the best with your internship applications if you made any; but if the ‘worst-case scenario’ plays out and they’re all rejected, please rest assured that there are plenty of alternative and valuable means through which you can gain professional work experience during the summer – you just need to do a bit more work in order to find them!