Career Talk 06.06.17

6 things I learnt while doing an internship in London

Everybody wants one, not hard to see why. We break down all the fun and not-so-fun realisations you may come to while doing an internship in London.
Alex Ekong
Alex Ekong

Everybody wants an internship in London, don’t they? And why not? London is the concrete jungle where dreams are made of and if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere (do not tell New York I said that).

It’s only natural then that you should want to test your mettle in the big city. It’s the dream of most people to work and thrive here. So if you manage to get an internship in London, take heed of these lessons I learnt just a few months ago when it was me in that position.

The commute is pure hell

internship in london

An internship in London will build your resilience in ways you can’t imagine, simply by having to travel back and forth between it and home. No matter how far away you live from your office, the rush-hour tube is likely to be the key to it. And it’s not as idyllic as this GIF makes it look.

Fun fact: pretty much everyone will get closer than they intended to an armpit in their face at some point when travelling on the tube. Also, at that point in the morning, everyone smells of stale toothpaste and hot milk. They will breathe that into your face.

Nothing’s promised

internship in london

This is an important one to remember for any internship, let alone one in the fast-paced, ever-changing city of London. Internships are great and necessary to build up that valuable experience, but they don’t always lead to a permanent position.

It’s a difficult conversation to have but make sure you’re clear on what the chance for progression is. Get answers early, even at interview if possible. I ended up going permanent here at Debut, but it wasn’t always certain that I would. If I has known to ask early, I would have.

They won’t always know what to do with you

internship in london

Unless you go somewhere where they run a program for interns, you might find an internship in London lacks the structure of a regular job. This is particularly true for some start-ups and small companies, where you might find your role changing according whatever the business needs are your department. It’s also common to be stuck with a little bit of admin, to be extraordinarily busy at times and then not busy at all at other times. Comes with the territory, pal.

Everyone’s keen to show you the ropes

internship in london

Don’t believe what they tell you about people in London being rude, office folk are very patient and collaborative with a new starter. In fact, you might get so much good advice that you don’t know what to do with it. Listen to your manager of course, but take as much advice as you can from other members of the team, senior people, heck, even the reception staff and janitors usually have a useful tip or two.

Yes, every office has ‘a local’

internship in london

The thing you’ve seen in all those work-based sitcoms is 100% a thing in real life. Some places you’ll work will bring the food and drink to you (we got beers on tap at Debut HQ – the dream) but for the most part, ‘the local’ really exists.

That café that’s the lunch spot (shout out Nepa on Corsham Street), that pub on the corner, they’re the centre point for all office relationships to grow and all banter to blossom. Ask anyone who works in media about Media Thursdays, when everyone flocks to their favourite Soho haunts for a big night out, you’ll get what I mean.

But there’s so much more to see

internship in london

Just because your office has a favourite place to go doesn’t mean you should use it as an excuse not to push the boat out. Doing an internship in London is a wonderful opportunity to explore one of the greatest cities in the world. Forget all the touristy stuff, explore the sights and sounds that make you tick. Everyone’s London is different and this is your chance to carve out your own. Good luck, intern.

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