London calling

Sarah Jones discusses the value of summer internships, what to expect and how to secure that all important permanent job offer

If you are planning to do an internship this summer then you will have it all arranged already.

Or at least you should have, because most places, be it in Investment Banking, Management Consultancy or Law have usually filled up their Summer Internship programmes by February of the corresponding year.

If you thought you'd be doing an internship and now realise in the light of this revelation that you may not be, then it could still be worth checking your company of choice (or more likely now 2nd choice) to see if they have any further places.

The most common time to complete an internship is over the summer and they typically run for anything between two and 12 weeks.

However there are a number of firms who will offer similar placements / work experience at other times. Many law firms have Christmas and Easter vacation schemes, while some of the larger banks have rolling internships all year round.

Internships are not confined solely to those seeking city careers and can also be found at some charities, publishing houses and media related roles.

Usually preference in all schemes is for penultimate year students as firms seek to get their hands on raw talent and make offers to the best ahead of their graduation.

How Valuable is an Internship?

(Short Answer - Very, very)

Having an internship in your penultimate year can often prove to be a boon in securing the job you really want.

If you already have your internship arranged then here is reassurance that your decision to spend your summer in a suit rather than in the sun is the right one and if you haven't then here is inspiration to look.

Indeed, even an internship in an area that you realise isn't for you, can make a huge difference to your CV. It provides a talking point in interviews and gives you a professional frame of reference through which to make your informed and focussed career choice.

If your internship lives up to all your expectations, you've practically cracked it - it will allow you to demonstrate your dedication and interest in a job better than any claim that you merely read the FT regularly and will give you relevant insight into what you need to know for interviews. It will also introduce you to the people who will make the hiring decisions.

Bagging a Permanent Offer

Internships become their most valuable when they lead to an offer, guaranteed post-graduation.

A job in the bag provides a quick answer to all the relatives who will ask you at Christmas what you will do after University. In any case, you will be worrying about Finals at this time and will appreciate the lack of distraction from study revision.

If you are looking to get a job in finance, law or consultancy, internships are important as many companies make 50% or more of their job offers to the people who have proved themselves through an internship.

The other advantage of an internship is the fact that most will pay better than your average temping job and you will get to live it up 'City style' for one summer before your final year.

No Internship Yet?

Despite these advantages do not despair if you do not have an internship, as the benefits of one can often be obtained by any kind of work experience.

In a world fuelled by nepotism do not underestimate the importance of using every contact you have to gain work experience, even if it is voluntary shadowing.

If you do not have an internship, find friends who do and have them impart to you their experiences, positive and negative, to inform your future career choices.

Otherwise, use the summer to prepare for your full-time interviews. Make a list of your target employers, understand what jobs you are going to apply for, start your preparatory reading and gather the knowledge that will help you excel at interview.

Internships, after all, are only the first hurdle on the way to securing a full-time job. The high-jump comes in the Autumn.

Finally, if the worst comes to the worst, at least you are going to spend your last summer of freedom on a beach, rather than in an office. Life could be worse...