All Public/ Private University students have a compulsory industrial attachment period which one has to complete before being awarded their undergraduate degree. Some universities offer internal attachment to their students while some institutions have created partnerships with companies and organisations that offer placements to students. Unfortunately, most public universities are overwhelmed with large student numbers and it is difficult to link each and every student to companies for attachment.
The universities usually issue students about to go on attachment with introductory letters and risk insurance cover after which the student is left to look for an attachment opportunity on their own. This can be a very difficult ordeal for a student who is not well informed. You have no idea where to start or end your search. Some even end up getting attachment at firms that are not very relevant to their fields of study. It doesn’t help that you have to finish the attachment and evaluated before you graduate.
So how do you go about looking for attachment opportunities? Here are a few pointers to assist any student preparing for their industrial attachment:
1. Start Early
The problem that afflicts many students is the “last minute syndrome”. Most campus students wait until the very last week of the semester before beginning their attachment applications. This means that they lack ample time to think through the companies that they are applying to and why exactly they are applying there in the first place.
Start your attachment applications way early in the semester, scout for firms and companies that will add value to your area of study. Consult your lectures and seek advice on the best companies. Sometimes conducting a reconnaissance about the various companies can help you get a feel of whether you’d like to work in such an environment or not. Shortlist the companies you are sure of and send in your applications 3 or 2 months prior. This way, you will get feedback in advance and apply to other places if the application is denied. Besides, most companies offer attachment opportunities to students on a first-come first-serve basis and you want to avoid the last minute rush.
2. Big is not always better
The biggest mistake that students make is rushing to apply to big-shot firms, the blue-chip companies.
This includes large private companies and government ministries. The assumption that the big institution will offer you the best learning experience is a misconception. Students often overlook smaller firms where they can get a one-on-one interaction with their supervisors and a greater learning experience compared to their counterparts in larger firms. If you’re focused on gaining much from your attachment, do not let a firm’s size fool you. Go for the experience, not the name.
3. Never look at the allowances
Students often apply in droves to firms that are known to offer allowances for their attachés. This means that their basis for attachment application is the monetary reward instead of the learning experience. Some companies may not offer any allowances to interns but the learning resources and experience you will get out of it will be worth much more. That aside, your main focus should be to create connections and rapport with the professionals you will be working with in future. These connections will come in handy when job hunting after you graduate, not forgetting the work experience gained.
4. Deliver your applications in person
Due to last minute rush and laziness, most students are often tempted to just email their application documents. They then just sit back and wait for feedback. Much as we’re in a digital era, purpose to deliver your applications in person. Insist on talking to the person in charge of the department you’re applying to instead of just leaving the application with the secretary. Call in and book an appointment to see him/her and talk to them regarding your desire to be attached at the particular firm. You might be surprised at just how a little convincing can go a long way in getting you attachment at your dream firm/company.
This bit is very important. Learn to network and create your own connections. Most people shun away from attending corporate events and professional dinners coz they are “boring”. Such events are the best places to meet career men and women pursuing the same field that you’re studying. Always ensure you clearly make it known that you’re a student pursuing a certain course and that you are even about to go on attachment. Someone will most probably give you a business card and ask you to call them to discuss more. Do not attend such galas and keep to yourself or hang around with your peers. Network!
Also, join clubs and organisations such as AISEC, Africa Talent Bank, Rotaract Clubs, Model UN etc. Such clubs are often structured to assist students develop themselves professionally and also offer great networking opportunities.