Internships in London with Mountbatten Institute
|The Tower Bridge at night in London.
I moved to London to participate in the Mountbatten London Internship Programme, a 12-month work-study scheme for recent American college graduates. The program is just one of the many options that you have likely considered while researching opportunities to work, live, and study in London or abroad. If, like me, you are interested in gaining a year of full-time substantive international business experience in a dynamic European city, then the Mountbatten program may be right for you.
The program offers interns the following benefits:
- Professional work placement (practical training)
- Training allowance
- Furnished accommodation
- Health coverage
- Visa assistance
- On-going personal guidance and support
- Special events, excursions and volunteer opportunities
The typical intern is a recent college graduate. However, there are a few, like myself, that have 1−5 years of professional work experience. Candidates with previous professional experience are more competitive in finding work placements and securing a work permit.
Working in London
While on the program your visa is sponsored by the Mountbatten Institute and will be valid for 12 months. Furthermore, the program will place you in a company before you arrive in London.
Depending upon your expectations, your job could be hit or miss. Some interns enjoy lots of responsibility and build exciting new skills; others get stuck with data entry and administrative tasks. However, both types of jobs have their pros and cons. I, for instance, was fortunate enough to land a dynamic position that offered great exposure to credit lending and banking. However, my position frequently required long hours and high levels of stress. Interns with more pedestrian positions may miss out on building professional skills, but they generally worked from nine to five, endure less stress, and have more flexible work schedules around which to schedule trips abroad. Regardless of the rigor of your position, you will be working for a respected company. Most interns work for large financial service providers, such as Barclays, RBS, Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan, Citi Bank, and more. Other employers include large law firms and tech support companies. Jobs may include finance, operations, human resources, accounting, and analytical marketing. To be certain, working for any of the large companies with whom Mountbatten associates will add gravitas to your résumé.
Finally, one of the perks of working in the U.K. is that you will likely receive 25 paid vacation days in addition to federal holidays. This is twice as much time off than you can expect as an entry-level employee in the U.S. It also provides ample opportunity to explore London, the U.K., and Europe.
Living in London
Mountbatten provides living arrangements in London, work placement, a monthly stipend, accommodations, insurance, visa assistance. The stipend for your work should be enough to ensure that you are well fed (assuming you shop for groceries and do not always eat out) and that you can pay for public transportation. You will also have enough surplus cash to visit city attractions (although most museums are free), and explore London’s famous pubs. If you want to travel every weekend to continental Europe, as many interns do, then you will need to bring along some savings or a credit card.
The program accommodations are in great locations. You will likely be living in up-market areas that are traditionally out of reach for Londoners your age. You will, however, be sharing a room with a fellow intern. At most, your housing will be a 45-minute commute to work. It may seem far to you, but your English coworkers are likely commuting an hour to get in to work, so consider yourself lucky.
Studying in London
The program has a compulsory academic component which culminates in either a Certificate or a MBA in International Business Practice. Seminars for the academic programs are held in London on weekends and evenings. There are additional weekend trips outside the city in locations such as Dorset, Cambridge, Bath, and Stonehenge.
The academic component of the program is what you make it: the more you put in the more you will get out. The curriculum is designed to encourage interns to examine the departments and companies they work in. You will write development proposals for improving internal structures and systems at your work place. You will also participate in a group project in which you write and present a business plan. Students complete these activities with a varying degree of diligence and success. My recommendation is to complete the assignments early, if even hastily, so that you stress less and can enjoy your time in the pubs, museums, and traveling abroad.
The London program application is similar to a college application: personal essays, résumé, transcripts, recommendation letters, etc. If your application is successful, you will be invited to interview in-person. Most interviews are held in New York City, although mid-west and west coast applicants may interview elsewhere. If you make it through the interview stage, your profile will be circulated to London-based companies. If an employer is interested in your profile, they will request a telephone interview. Once offered a position, you will have to apply for a work visa (an online process). A word of caution: do not buy your plane ticket until you have been offered a position and your work visa has been approved.
My advice for the application process is that you should focus your efforts on promoting your professional experience and technical skills. Do not waste time describing your summer job waiting tables at Applebee’s. The menial and mundane office work you did as a work-study student will look better on your résumé than your YMCA lifeguarding. When I was applying the program I contacted an intern who gave me the following advice. “The one thing you absolutely need to do is rationalize why you want this. Make sure your personal statement really reflects how this internship fits into your career goals so they know you’re not just applying because you want to live in London. If there's a disconnect, it'll be hard for them to justify selecting you for an interview.”
Finally, be prepared to take the first position that is offered to you; you may not get another offer. This can be a tough pill to swallow. You will be committing blindly to 12-month contract, to an unknown job in a country that you likely have never visited. This decision should not be made lightly. If you make the wrong decision and leave halfway through your contract, you will be leaving your U.K. coworkers short-handed and overburdened. Ultimately, your reasons for declining or accepting a position are very personal. Make sure you make the right decision for the right reason.