Making your Future Work: Work and University – Do I need to do both? 

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Students were hoping to be home at Christmas. Many would have been disappointed by positive Covid tests. Then they were hoping to return for the Spring term and some will have been hindered by the most recent lockdown. Summer vacation, 2021, seems a way to go and an overseas holiday seems more dream than hope. But for all students, these past months have been a critical window of opportunity to identify and apply for summer internships.

Year after year, employers complain that graduates are not ‘work ready’. In some courses, work placement is built into the programmes or final year projects involving engaging with businesses. But, for too many graduates, any work they may have done during their three or four years at university will have been limited to unskilled or semi-skilled work to supplement their student income.

I have been involved in graduate level recruitment at various times in my career and I would always prefer a candidate with significant work experience over a higher grade. When I was a student, I spent my holidays doing paid work in my chosen field of software development and it massively compensated for a disappointing final grade on graduation.

KCW Today has established the Word Academy as their structured internship programme for writers.

Large graduate employers often have formal summer internship programmes for which the competition can be high. You can also use informal networks such as professional bodies, trade associations or charities to find work experience. See if your university careers department will be mobilising alumni to offer vacation work.

I believe there are some key priorities to look for:

1)  Structured internship programmes from blue chip employers should give you the best experience and CV benefit. Research and careful preparation are crucial to a successful application.

2)  Avoid unpaid internships if you can: it is helpful to be paid. More importantly, the employer will be more committed to meaningful work if they are paying.

3)  Try to develop a relationship where you can return in the future. As you become increasingly trusted and experienced, you get more responsibility and be able to do more challenging and interesting work.

4)  Look to work at least eight weeks, so that you can agree a specific project that you will work on to completion.

To make the most of the future you will love, start working while you study.

This article was originally published in KCW London on 16th December 2020. You can see the original article here.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.