People often say that patience is a virtue, and I embraced this mantra (unintentionally) during my quest for a summer internship. Whilst many friends of mine had already submitted a dozen applications to the top consulting firms in the world by Christmas, here I was in late May contemplating whether to bolster my CV. My initial hesitation stemmed from not wanting to work over the summer. However, reality hit when I realised that I was not going to have a summer without the funds to sustain myself. With some assistance from the Oxford Careers Website and a stroke of luck, I secured just one internship opportunity – a golden ticket to a delightfully sweet summer.
I spent two and a half months as a Digital Media intern at Cocoa Runners, an independent sustainable chocolate company in London. While my peers in their crisp-ironed suits headed to towering office blocks down the road, I found myself swimming in chocolate. The company was undergoing a rebrand for its tenth anniversary, and I was tasked with organising their image library and updating product photos for their new website. As someone new to full-time work, this was an exciting venture for me.
At first, I fretted about my ability to fulfil the job requirements. Worries about my Photoshop skills – last exercised during my Graphic Art GCSE nearly five years prior – and using WordPress for the first time plagued me. It turned out that my apprehension was misplaced. Once I got started, I was pleasantly surprised that my eagerness to learn quickly overtook my editing prowess. With only three colleagues (one of whom worked remotely), I felt well-supported, and they showed a genuine interest in my life and degree. It didn’t hurt that the CEO was an Oxford alumnus! I remember my interview even resembling an Oxford tutorial.
During my time at Cocoa Runners, I delved into the significance of ethics and sustainability in the cocoa industry. I learned about the exploitation of cacao farming plantations by major chocolate corporations, involving child slave labour to produce cheap, mass-market confectionery. Although most of my tasks consisted of typical office work – spreadsheet management, copywriting, and setting up numerous chocolate-tasting events. What was unique to this job was my exposure to the dark history of chocolate. Most importantly, I discovered how I could contribute to supporting small independent businesses genuinely concerned about the cacao cooperatives they employed worldwide.
While unrelated to my degree in Italian and Linguistics, I was fortunate to be part of a company that guided me through my first work experience. They emphasised the importance of maintaining a work-life balance, a stark contrast to the academic world where work can seep into any hour of the day. For a few months, I enjoyed a stress-free lifestyle which boosted my productivity, knowing I had only eight hours a day to accomplish tasks.
To those debating doing an internship, I urge you to apply sooner rather than later. My last-minute luck was an exception I would not recommend. Unfortunately, internships in highly competitive fields often yield more rejections than offers (which I admit is not great for your self-esteem), so starting early is key. Don’t hesitate to explore opportunities outside your degree field; any workplace experience is invaluable and distinct from your academic journey. While I plan to stay in academia for a bit longer, I wholeheartedly cherished my summer internship.
And don’t forget the free chocolate!
Artwork by Sean Hartnett.