Callum Ingram, Intern Trainee Account Executive at Highfield Communication reflects on his recent work experience.
You’ve left university, maybe you know what you want to do with your hard-earned degree. Maybe you don’t. You’ve finished your last exam or handed in your last assignment, but when all the celebrations have finished, the same question remains, what do you do now?
It seems that all your course friends, housemates and the regulars you saw at the local pub/bar/Students Union all have their entire futures planned with employers seeming to snatch them up from placements they did during their studies, through family connections or just through sheer luck. Even that person who you never saw apart from exams or running to meet a hand-in deadline seems to have something lined up.
But what about you?
Maybe you do know what you want to do, but you apply, apply and apply and either don’t hear anything back or you get the same response(s) every time: “we’ve had a large number of high quality candidates so unfortunately…” or “we feel that a candidate with more experience would be more suitable so…”
More experience? Brilliant. Experience to successfully get the job only gained through successfully getting the job. It’s this catch-22 that can make you question whether you should maybe have attended all those career seminars and fairs the university was forever advertising or maybe…I’ll stop you there. I’ve been there, and I know that thought process only too well.
The crucial factor in every application appears to be experience. So what can you do to get experience of the work place, outside of the university bubble? You could go back and work in your local pub, supermarket or fish and chip shop but wait, have you ever considered an internship? What about a career in medical communications?
I must confess now, that I’m writing this an Intern Trainee Account Executive at Highfield Communication, a medical communications company, but I hope to provide you with the inside knowledge of what an internship actually is and how it works within the medical communications field.
Firstly though, what is medical communications? Simply put, it’s a field that provides consultancy services to pharmaceutical companies to help raise awareness of their products, many of which are novel. Highfield itself works with a variety of pharmaceutical companies on a number of exciting projects, providing you, as a possible intern, exposure to rapidly developing fields of medicine.
Now, on to internships. When the position ‘internship’ is first mentioned, you either think of that film with a couple of comedians working at a certain internet giant; or you think of stacks of paperwork, shredding and printing or making tea and coffee. I’m going to be honest, it does sometimes involve the latter but although occasionally you’ll be at the photocopier for what seems like hours, there are many other day-to-day tasks that you can get involved in that look amazing on your CV.
In my time here at Highfield, I’ve played a role in organising meetings across the globe and been involved in conference calls with people from the USA, China, France and Mexico to name a few. I’ve also been involved in the updating of a crucial database that is at the core of what the company provide. In addition, I have learnt that I can do things on Excel I could never have done before, enabling me to work more quickly and efficiently. You could even say that the routine task of shredding demonstrates an awareness of data protection and client privacy.
Medical communications was an area I was interested in upon finishing my MSc, and my internship at Highfield Communication has enabled me to discover my passion for the field. Even if the internship is in a field you never thought you would be interested to work in, or something you’ve just discovered, think of the CV material it can provide. I can now confidently include in my CV: proficient at using IT packages such as Microsoft Office; confident and able to communicate effectively across language barriers to ensure a meeting is arranged smoothly and efficiently; and the all-important team-work, working in a dynamic and diverse team to ensure all objectives are met successfully. I’ll also have a really good reference to provide to any future employers. As with anything, it’s a balance you have to judge for yourself: some shredding/printing against useful, transferrable skills that will stand you in good stead in the future.
A paid internship at Highfield lasts for 6 months providing you with a fantastic opportunity to learn a wide variety of skills which will appeal to any employer. Highfield, as I think is probably true for other companies, will often look to keep interns on as permanent members of staff, depending on circumstances of course. The internship period therefore is the best ‘interview’ ever, as you can demonstrate your strengths and improve your weaknesses without being in the room/time confines of a regular interview.
My views on internship are only one side of the story, having been successful in my application and during my six months within the company. Opinions and views may differ from company to company and intern to intern, but I think that Highfield has a good balance in terms of workload and the types of tasks you are given. You play a role in helping the company run smoothly whilst the company in turn teaches you the ropes. Just don’t be afraid to ask what the expected workload is or what type of jobs or tasks you would be asked to do. Ask about what you can get involved in, what can the company or organisation can give you during the internship. I’ve been well supported throughout my six months by the fantastic team here, increasingly gaining more independence as I became more comfortable and confident with the processes used.
Internships then, can provide you with many new skills and opportunities to develop existing ones as well as giving you useful insight into your chosen field of employment.
Oh, and what else can an internship provide you with? Experience.
[Find out more about Highfield Communication here]