Have you decided what you're going to do this summer yet? Travelling? Returning home to relax for three months? Getting a part-time job at your local? Absolutely nothing?
Or perhaps you'll be joining the 150,000 students that will be starting a placement or internship this summer? For many a full 12-month placement year is a compulsory part of their degree, for others a summer internship might be the way forward. Either way, completing a placement year or internship could well be one of the best decisions you make at university; the impact is likely to not just benefit your degree studies but you could land yourself a graduate job off the back of it.
Given the current competition for graduate vacancies, leaving university with relevant work experience on your CV has arguably never been more important. The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) consistently cites that the lack of relevant work experience and required employability skills is the biggest challenge they face when recruiting graduates. Completing an industrial placement or internship is the best way of acquiring both the experience and skills that graduate recruiters are looking for. Plus you can earn some decent money and have a great time along the way. Impress your bosses and you might even find a graduate job offer waiting for you at the end of your employment.
The benefits of completing a placement or internship are well publicised and despite the economic situation, the vast majority of recruiters are continuing to employ students (in the greater scheme of things, you're pretty cheap labour) so the question is - is it too late to find something to start this summer?
The answer is partly yes, but mainly no. Many of the large, well-known graduate employers have now stopped taking applications, however there are still plenty of employers actively seeking students. It's just up to you to find them. On RateMyPlacement.co.uk we still have over 70 companies, from huge multinationals to SMEs, looking for students to start this summer on both short-term internships and year-long placements. You should also speak to your Careers/Placement Office at your university and they should be able to point you in the right direction. The application processes are very much like those of graduate schemes, so are great practice. You will normally either be expected to complete an online application or apply via CV & cover letter, followed by an interview or assessment centre.
If you are considering a placement or internship then my advice would be to move fast for two reasons. Firstly, the longer you leave it, the fewer vacancies are available. Secondly, you don't want to be worrying about applications and interviews as the summer term progresses and you have important coursework and exams to focus on. Most companies, particularly SMEs, should get back to you fairly promptly with an answer or request for an interview, so don't hang about. Time to update the CV, start doing some research and it genuinely could be the best decision you ever make at university, particularly if you can go into your final year knowing you've already secured a graduate job.