The tension in the air this week is practically palpable. Intermingled in all those polite conversations about the weather and impending deadlines, will be the inevitable question of summer internships.
Like a dreaded albatross hung round our neck as soon as we say goodbye to Christmas, the pressure to find and secure that two-week spot in the City weighs on us from the first day back.
As frustrating as it may seem, there is no formula for success. For the lucky few, securing a coveted internship will lead to a job offer after graduation. However, in reality, how many interns doing a two-week stint in their summer holidays are guaranteed employment with that company in a year’s time?
It was announced in the press a few weeks ago that Nick Clegg secured a banking internship in his youth through a family connection; a slightly embarrassing blow for the Deputy PM, who’d spent the past week arguing against the unfair allocation of internships to those with the money and connections.
It’s easy for us impoverished students to jump on Clegg’s bandwagon, particularly as we are all facing that vulnerable position of being, dare I say it, unemployed in the near future. It’s hard not to become skeptical, when you are surrounded by students who think it’s perfectly normal to party on Pol Roger. Yet, as I see it, the words of that old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” have never rung more false.
We’re all jealous of that acquaintance who has managed to wangle a month’s work experience at KPMG through “a friend of a friend” (read: daddy’s tennis partner) and then have the nerve to brag about it all over Facebook. Be it with the editorial team of a top newspaper or amongst the biggest financial consultants in the country, the likelihood is that they will be photocopying and making tea, just like the rest of us. The glamour of the title rarely matches up to the reality.
When push comes to shove, and a job offer is on the table, no one is going to hire the guy who rocks up late, rolls his eyes whenever he’s asked to do a bit of photocopying and then waltzes off at 2pm to have a haircut, even if he does have daddy’s meal ticket. It may get you a couple of week’s here or there, but to secure those permanent contracts takes a combination of ability, luck and personality.
There is no denying that connections will get you a foot in the door, but in the long run, it’s those with enthusiasm and the capabilities that will succeed. If you’re plonked straight into a multi-million pound corporation at the bottom of the career ladder, how much are you going to learn compared to those who start in a smaller, more modest company and learn the real skills of the trade? Like an ant lost in a vending machine, those in the top firms with the best connections end up selling their soul to late nights and no real working experience. Life in the deep end is no picnic.
When you think of all of those who have become supremely successful in their chosen career, most of them started off in the back end of nowhere, pushing their dreams with enthusiasm and no connections.
Take Alan Sugar, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates and Anita Roddick for example, none of these figures knew the right people or secured themselves a summer internship. Without turning this column into a nauseating inspirational “live your dreams” pep talk, don’t take crap from people who tell you money and connections is everything. Just remember this: Einstein never had an internship and he didn’t do too bad in the long run.