University doesn’t prepare you for real life, get an internship instead
Sort yourself out
You know how the tutors at university open days tried to convince you to study there because they’d “give you skills that employers are gagging for”? They were wrong: 54 per cent of employers say that university simply does not prepare young people for the world of work.
As someone who just started an internship, it’s easy to see how much student life is the worst possible preparation for working life. Working as an intern I can see why you need to saturate your summers with work experience to stand any chance in the graduate job market.
University budgets are shrinking, contact hours can be woefully sub-par, and it seems like if we miss lectures, our professors simply don’t care enough to follow it up. The only time management we’re expected to have at uni is deciding when to go to the library to get the best seat – It doesn’t make any sense, when this is a key skill you have to showcase to employers once you graduate.
Living in halls, within walking distance of uni and with all your facilities on one campus means it’s all too easy to slum around and become lazy. Connor, a second-year UCL student interning in PR and sales, says: “The skills I’ve gained from my internship have been very practical. Organisational skills are about being able to multi-task, stick to deadlines and use every moment wisely.
“A full-time job, especially one with a long commute, forces you to pack for a whole day and think more about healthy food and travel and money. You also have to separate work and life duties meticulously, and plan your evenings tightly – none of that matters at uni.”
Starting my 9-6 internship was a savage shock to the system. When you add on the one hour commute, my working week becomes 55 hours. And when honouring my commitments of attending the gym, learning languages in my free time and celebrating pre-organised nights out with friends, my weekly dose of sleep has been slashed to just five hours a night.
An internship hits you with the reality that you must take an axe to your social life. Ever wondered why your parents tend to have fewer friends than you? It’s because they have real jobs and real lives, they aren’t fucking around at uni.
Adam Ball works in a recruitment company and was the manager at my internship. He said: “You can try and work hard and then play hard but eventually your body and mind won’t be able to keep up.
“Your work colleagues become your new family due to how many hours you spend together.”
University is shit at providing network opportunities, so you’ll probably be shocked by the old age of most of your colleagues, but realistically you’ll have to find a way to connect to them, even though you might look over the mature students at your uni.
Adam explains: “At 26 you may categorise me as old, which is quite depressing, but you’re indeed likely to work alongside people who have fought to the top of the corporate ladder. This presents a challenge because different generations have different senses of humour. We’ll make references to Tommy Cooper jokes while young people will for some reason laugh 10 times harder at a Snapchat story of someone sitting on a toilet.”
Office etiquette aside, another skill many graduates lack is the kind of versatility and adaptability necessary at work. University gets you into a habit of cramming which you just can’t continue on at work with so many deadlines. The general university experience doesn’t teach you to be able to switch your mind-set and work goals on a regular basis. Nor does it prepare you for the reality that every task you undertake in work directly affects your success.
At university, you can relax in first year and even get a few bad marks in second year, coasting along until you reach the sufficient 2:1 at the end of your degree. There’s no way to differentiate between you and those who worked much harder for a high 2:1. Meanwhile in work, as Adam says: “You’ll be subjected to regular reviews or measured against some metric to gauge your performance.” Essentially, there’s far less room for error, but uni doesn’t prepare you for the big bad world of regularly working towards goals where you can’t scrape by on 40 per cent.
Adam, the manager at my internship, told me 87 per cent of Britain’s leading employers have graduate positions they can’t fill simply due to a lack of skills. My internship was a rude awakening to say the least, but I’m lucky I got the reality check early on. Many students think work experience is necessary just to fill up the CV, but in reality, it’s essential life experience and you won’t be able to function in the real world without it.