My experience of a summer internship

By Emily Houghton

During my second year at the University of York I decided to apply for summer internship opportunities. It was something I was greatly encouraged to do by those around me, but I was apprehensive about the process, balancing applications with my studies and entering the corporate world. However, the generalist internship I obtained with Marks and Spencer eased all my concerns. I gained an immense amount of experience and understanding of the retail sector, everyone I interacted with was so friendly and I left feeling relaxed about starting a career after graduating from university. 

The Process

Applications for summer internships tend to open around September and many have deadlines closing in late December or January. Therefore it is worth beginning to apply in late September to maximise the number of companies you can apply for. The application process typically involves: 

  1. An initial submission of your CV and cover letter
  2. An aptitude test
  3. A virtual interview
  4. A final round of interviews and group tasks 

As you can see the process is lengthy but the more you do the more efficient you become at answering questions, completing the tests and interacting in group tasks. 

The final round for Marks and Spencer took place in February from 8:30am until 2:30pm and was longer than other final round interviews I had participated in. It involved an interview, a group task, an individual task and the opportunity to interact with a current graduate working for the company. Each employee I interacted with made me feel relaxed and the conversation with the graduate was very useful to gain a greater insight into the role. 

Final rounds are daunting but with each I have taken part in I enter with the mindset that even if I don’t get the job, the experience I gain will improve my job application skills for the next final round. 

The Internship

My internship at Marks and Spencer spanned 10 weeks between June and August, and was within the head office in Paddington. I was on the generalist internship scheme so was placed within a department but had the opportunity to interact and learn from any department within the company. This element of the internship I found very useful as I had many opportunities to have one on one conversations with staff in job areas I was interested in such as marketing, food, sustainability and PR. 

My primary department was clothing and home, and I worked with the fabric technicians and sustainability teams. Within my internship I was granted the opportunity to take on two projects and present my findings to the wider department. This was an amazing chance to build skills in presenting, project management, excel and allowed me to feel like I was contributing to the company during my short time there. 

As well as daily tasks I was able to take part in many other activities and events that opened my eyes to the retail industry. I took part in creating a Percy Pig Tiktok, interacting with fabric manufacturers from across the globe, enjoying Percy Pig’s 30th birthday party and had talks from inspiring members of the Marks and Spencer team. 

The support I received throughout the internship was immense and I was granted independence to conduct my own tasks but help with any elements I was confused about. I gained so much more confidence within myself and left after the 10 weeks feeling relaxed about my future career. 

I highly recommend a summer internship as a stepping stone to third year as it will increase your skills in presenting, time management and communication, which help greatly in third year. Not only that but it has left me feeling less overwhelmed about my future and the pressures of the corporate world, as I have now experienced the inner workings of a business. My internship also resulted in a graduate job offer, allowing me to focus on my third year studies without the intensity of job applications.