Mustafa Boriyawala: Interning around the world
Featured Success Stories
October 29, 2019
I studied Business Analytics at the University of Southampton for 3 years for my Undergrad. I graduated in August, and am now working with Jumia, which is an e-commerce company in the Operations Excellence team.
I am an Indian national but was brought up in Dubai where I lived for 18 years.
Why did you choose UK and this University as your place of study?
To be honest, I did not have much clue about different fields at the time of applying. I preferred the UK primarily because it was 3 years over the US and Canada which was 4 years. It just made sense to commit to a shorter programme. I wasn't keen on studying in Dubai itself, so I wanted to go abroad.
What field were you looking for internships in?
Most people end up looking for an internship in their first year, for a spring internship, that is. But I was super clueless about the field I'd like to work in, or even the ones I was studying. I did not have much clarity, so I applied for a summer internship, which was for the summer right after my second year. So I started applying for these summer internships at the start of my second year.
I was mainly looking for opportunities in financial services and consulting, the reason being it felt like a rewarding area of work, and made a lot of financial sense as well. So I was applying for summer internships in this field primarily.
How did you go about looking for and applying to internships here? What platforms did you use to find internship opportunities in your field?
Was your decision to apply to intern at a particular company influenced by their status of VISA Sponsorship- for example did you apply to only companies that provided you the scope of further job prospects by sponsoring VISA?
I used TargetJobs, Bright Network initially. We also a careers fair at the university. With regards to when I started using Student Circus was when I realised that having a summer internship is one step towards securing a graduate job and that there's little to no point in an internship that doesn't have the potential to convert into a full-time gig later. So I looked specifically for such internships that had the scope of leading to a graduate job, which is when I talked to senior students. That was my first brush with the reality of how hard it is to secure a job in the UK as an international student. Basically, the employer has to be able to sponsor your VISA, which isn't a piece of very easily accessible information or even filter. I began to find out the names of companies who sponsor VISAs/work permit. And used to check with the list before applying to a particular company. Honestly, the accuracy of the list was limited again, because a lot of these companies didn't sponsor VISAs for graduate jobs particularly. It was a good starting point though. I came across Student Circus through social media, and honestly, having that filter applied beforehand to the opportunities was super helpful. It is reliable and accurate information and only has posting of companies that definitely sponsor work permits, so it saves a lot of time and energy. I used all the portals available to me, back in 2016. I managed to secure an internship with Blackrock as a result.
How easy/difficult was it to bag an internship here in the UK in comparison to your home country?
Was finding an internship as an international student particularly difficult or did you find plenty opportunities? Was it ever daunting to find internships that suited your interests and also allowed you to work subject to your Visa restrictions?
Domestic students would always have access to more opportunities, that is a catch and it is not going away. I also used to often email the HR teams inquiring about their take on VISA sponsorship but I don't think I have ever received a reply or any clarity. The application forms are lengthy- they take somewhere around four to five hours to finish and you don't want to spend that much time and then be told that they don't/can't sponsor VISAs.
So this does put us at a disadvantage as compared to the domestic/EU students who don't have to think about the same.
If we are talking about Dubai, the UAE economy isn't as vast as the UK economy, so there are fewer opportunities back home, especially in the field of financial services, so I definitely wanted to work in the UK.
Did you make use of the Careers Services at your University/Campus? How helpful was it?
I did, I was clueless about the application process initially, so the careers service had these helpful sessions about writing a CV, cover letters, information about Assessment centres, etc so I definitely availed their services. I also used their job site.
What was the application process like? Did you also have an interview (basically what all rounds of recruitment were there before finally getting selected?)
I completed the online application, then Blackrock did a video interview, followed by the Assessment centre, and then the final interview, comprised of 3 interviews on the same day. The process was fairly simple and short.
I applied in December and the final contract came in sometime during April.
Do you feel there was value addition in your skills as a result of the internship? And would these skills and this work experience be helpful if you return to your home country?
To be honest, I had gone through plenty of forms and written plenty of cover letters and had enough experience with Assessment centres that by the time I bagged the internship, I was pretty used to all of it. The interview was also regular.
I am working with Jumia at the moment, and that could possibly materialise into a full-time role. As for the skills, it is pretty great too- I have learnt a lot on the job. I've learnt more in the past 3 months working with Jumia than I did in the three years of my study.
My experience with Blackrock was amazing as well- financial services firms expose you to the corporate lifestyle, so I went from knowing nothing about financial services to know quite a lot by the end of the internship.
Any advice you have for students in the same boat as you were?
I would say one thing: definitely apply for the spring internships, because it is the easiest way to get into a graduate role in the sense that spring internships are way less competitive; from a spring internship you can move on to a summer internship and then a full-time role fairly easily. I didn't do this at my time at the university, so that's something I'd definitely recommend anyone else.
Among other things, one more advice stands out: apply for as many as possible, and those that are the easiest to get into. You never know which one is the right opportunity for you!