Internships are a great way to gain work experience, but how do you get a good summer internship and what are employees looking for? We speak to Felix Lanceley, Director of Student Services and academic registrar at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, to get a few tips on how to go about obtaining a position that will stand the student in good stead once he or she has left full-time education.
“Ideally students will be well organised, and so will get the task of finding a suitable internship underway as early as possible,” Felix begins. “A good university will have staff who are in charge of finding employment and internship opportunities for its students, so that is a good first port of call. If there is a specific company where a student would like to undertake an internship, they should be willing to reach out to the HR department or other relevant staff to see if there are opportunities available. Students looking for internship opportunities should be persistent.”
When reaching out, of course, it is a good idea to be aware of the skills and attributes a company is looking for, with Felix continuing: “Attitude goes a long way. When an employer engages with an intern, they are not expecting the intern to know everything, but they are expecting the intern to have a positive disposition towards work, to pay attention, and be willing to learn. Employers look for interns who are proactive and can add value in the role given. A good candidate’s profile will be diverse in both academic and co-curricular activities – companies look for interns who are all-rounders.”
When applying, a good up-to-date CV is also important, as is pointing out availability and the strengths of the applicant, including what value they will be able to add to the organisation. “This would be in the form of a cover letter, stating why the individual wants to apply for the role, highlighting their strengths and areas of interest, Felix explains. “Applicants should focus more on the role or industry and how it would benefit and complement their degree. A good written reference and details of a dependable referee would also be beneficial.”
Finding the time to properly prepare for the interview is vital, too. “Like anything new at which you would like to excel, you need to practice, practice, and practice some more. Interviewing is an unnatural situation, so it is something that you need training with to hone your skills. Ideally the student’s university will have staff who can assist with interview skills, otherwise friends and family will have to do. Do your homework about the company, arrive early, and be confident and ready to clearly articulate how you will be of benefit to the company.”
And what if the student is not qualified, should an application still be made? “It depends on the kind of role that is on offer. If an internship requires the ability to communicate fluently in Arabic, and the student does not have that skill, then clearly it is not the right opportunity for them. On the other hand, if an internship requires a certain amount of experience, which the student does not have, but he or she can demonstrate the applicable skills and knowledge through other experiences – such as volunteering at university – then they can definitely apply,” Felix concludes.
Felix Lanceley is the Director of Student Services and academic registrar at the University of Wollongong in Dubai.