To become a proficient in science (as in any field), you need experience in experimentation – but getting it as an undergraduate can be incredibly difficult. How do you do it? Here are my six top tips that got me summer research experience.
1. Be proactive
Don’t ask, don’t get. Don’t be afraid to ask lecturers, the University's Employability Service and even fellow students if they know of any opportunities that might be available. Often, lecturers are in contact with other institutions and know of programmes available for students. The same goes for the internet – there are numerous opportunities out there. Yes, most might be quite limited and specific but if you don’t search often, you’ll miss the perfect one.
2. Work on your CV
'You should only write your first CV when you graduate'. NO! It’s surprising the number of people who think like this. The most determined people always have their CV up-to-date so that when that perfect opportunity appears: bam! They apply straight away.
Often, deadlines might be tight and you don’t want to rush through CV writing and end up with a sloppy one that doesn’t reflect your true self. ARU has an excellent Employability Service with both online and face-to-face resources that’ll help you create that 'wow' effect on your next potential employer – I can’t recommend it enough.
3. Consider work shadowing
Businesses often do not have the money or the time to create official internships but will sometimes be flexible about work shadowing. Fire off a few speculative letters as well as a couple of messages on LinkedIn to ARU alumni who are now working somewhere you find really interesting. Who knows? Maybe they can either show you around or have you shadow them for a few days or weeks. It’s not only a great opportunity by itself but it also allows you to create connections and contacts which might be helpful in future.
4. Set some goals
Be honest about what you want to achieve. Before starting to look for any opportunity whatsoever, set yourself some goals:
- What do you want to get out of this work experience/volunteering/work shadowing?
- Are you keener on getting experience in a particular sector?
- How do you feel it is going to help you in future?
These questions will help you set specific learning objectives which will be extremely beneficial for you, both when looking for an opportunity but also while you’re carrying it out. Remember to create a record of these as they’ll be useful to build-up your CV and to talk about in future job interviews! You can do this on Canvas, using the ePortfolio tab under 'Account'.
5. Be enthusiastic
I know that after applying for 100 jobs, 300 voluntary positions and sending goodness knows how many speculative letters to different companies, you start getting tired of not getting a reply or being rejected. Make sure you mean business by chasing up your application and reiterating how much you want that position. I’m not suggesting you hassle them every day, but demonstrating a bit of extra enthusiasm can go a long way.
6. Apply, apply, apply
Don’t give up on trying. The opportunities are out there: it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and being ready. Throughout the year, different opportunities become available which might not have been there when you first looked for them. Set aside some time, perhaps during the weekend or while you’re on holiday and focus on this. These opportunities can set you apart from others and bring you success in future.
On a final note… enjoy yourself! Throughout your experience as a student, there will be hard times but please be assured that hard work does pay off. Yes, good things come to those who wait. But the best things come to those who do.
By Joana Rodrigues