6 Pieces of Advice to find an Internship

This time last year I was frantically putting together my CV and dreaming about the various companies I would actually want to work for. I concluded that my ideal situation would be working for Google, Microsoft or IBM – I managed to get an internship at Microsoft. Here are some of my tips to help you find a placement.

Network with Friends and Family

Start here first. Find out if any of your friends or family have contacts in the industry you would you like to have a placement in. My uncle works for a large advertising agency in London and through him I was able to find some contacts (although I didn’t need them in the end).

Use University Databases

Most Universities keep placement databases to help their students find placements. Well-designed databases will allow you to search specifically for jobs by certain type. Fortunately the University of Gloucestershire’s database held many Public Relations and Marketing jobs. If you can’t find a job you wish to apply for on your University’s database, check out other University websites. I discovered that some Universities do not password protect their placement databases – search around.

Visit Company Websites

Some companies deliberately avoid University databases because they either get a high number of applications or prefer students search find them. Find businesses you love. Even better, find businesses in your local area. You might be surprises with what you find.

Network Online

Keep an eye on Twitter, conduct searches for placements. Some users regularly tweet about placement opportunities. You can use LinkedIn to network with professionals. Get in contact with people. There is no harm in asking – offer yourself by promoting your skillset.

Send Letters / Pick up the Phone

Emails aren’t always the best method of communication. You will find employees and managers are likely to receive hundreds of emails each day. Stand out from the crowd by sending a letter or by phoning up. Both of these communication methods are far more direct – even personal.

CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) Placement Database

The CIPR maintains a work placement database. You can visit it here.

Good luck!

How is your placement search going?

Do you have advice to offer?

Losing Reputation: Amazon UK’s Black Friday deals come under criticism

When I heard the news that Amazon’s Black Friday deals were coming to the UK I became very excited. Mostly at the prospect of the 60% reduction off Microsoft’s Xbox console. Despite working for Microsoft this is one discount we can’t get due to the Xbox being largely subsidised by Microsoft before they hit the shelf. Amazon UK announced product reductions on thousands of products and customers were left counting down the days for Black Friday week to start.

On Monday morning, at precisely 9am, it became apparent that Black Friday Deals were not discounts across the whole online store but instead product discounts on the hour.

The clock will count down for each item and once available tens of thousands of people will attempt to purchase. Most products are sold out in under a second. I chuckled when I saw one customer had gone through the steps of using a high speed internet connection with an Alien Ware notebook thinking it would boost his chances.

Ever heard of the phrase, ‘stock it high and sell it cheap’? Well, Amazon seems to have a different plan. It seems the stock for Black Friday is in limited supply and dirt cheap. With only a limited number of products and thousands of people waiting for a purchase – not many are successful with their purchases.

The Amazon social media team are hot on their toes promoting Black Friday seemingly unaware that the majority of their customers aren’t too happy with the service so far. Their forum system is regularly littered with angry posts from customers and Facebook page comments have revealed just how frustrated everyone is.

It is rare that I decide to join in with online media storms but even I have been registering my distaste for Amazon UK’s Black Friday week attempt. I feel like Amazon UK fooled their customers, making them believe these were great offers in the store, rather than offers made on a chance basis.

I can’t complain about Amazon’s service as a whole. I’ve been a customer for a few years and their efficiency has always been great. However it seems their UK Black Friday week has left a scar on their reputation, at least in my view.

What I Have Found Difficult So Far

Michael White in FranceAt first glance stepping into the working world filled me with a sense of purpose which extended beyond anything the closed system of education has offered me so far. Perks come in all variants of opportunities and rewards. Notably the new addition to my smartphone collection, the newly released HTC 7 Mozart – better classed as a reward for Microsoft employees (with the bonus of product evangelism amongst friends and family). You will also have the opportunity for further training.

Part of taking a new job seriously is to accept that you do not know everything. A new job will offer fresh experiences and social connections. Inevitably you will learn a lot. I have been working for Microsoft for just over 5 months now and must confess that I have found some tasks quite difficult.

Remembering Everything

Each day the brain works on over-drive. Not only has this given me the “spiritual means” to understand exactly how fucking worn out my parents are when they walk through the door but also how comparably easy University is. I don’t care how much fellow students moan about presentations, essays or fieldwork. The working world is tougher, your neck is always on the line and University is not as difficult.

(Sorry about that rant but I felt it was necessary. Most students procrastinate and don’t get any work done. I used to do it! If you did that here you would be fired. University is about your future whilst a company demands you work for wider means. There is no hiding in the office.)

Working within a multinational online advertising department means I need to keep track of my campaigns, the type of advertising method they are running, the costs, the markets, etc. There is a lot to remember; incidentally it is easy to forget things.

Getting Up in the Morning

This is a universal issue thousands of people across the country have. Getting up early each day to catch that train to London is a pain. Don’t make any mistake about it, being a commuter is not fun. Some mornings I find it easier to get out of bed but I am proud to have always powered through those dreary dawns.

Understanding Accents

I hope my multinational contacts think I’m just deaf rather than stupid. Although English is spoken across EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), the thickness of one’s accent can make words incomprehensible to my ears. As time has gone on I have started to become used to the variation of accents heard each day and have settled into this multi-market job. Never has a pen or paper (I personally use Microsoft OneNote) been so handy.

Online Advertising

Let’s not be shy about this. I’m an Account Manager dealing with online advertising, NOT Public Relations. I study Public Relations, I have had jobs dealing with Public Relations but never have I stepped into an advertising job before. In just over 5 months I have stepped into an online advertising job with next to no knowledge of CPC, CPA, CPM or Hybrid and now manage those campaigns across multiple countries. By far this has been the most challenging and rewarding task of all – actually doing my job.

Building a Blogging Proposal for Microsoft’s Young Britain Works

There was a time when the internet played host to content from organisation, corporations and individuals who understood the world of servers and scripting. No doubt this seemed the case during the early 90’s when the majority of websites would simply provide content to users. Sharing opinion would be the case for a relatively small amount of forum systems but would most commonly appear on a host of chatrooms – Internet Relay Chat (IRC) being the largest. To this day IRC still plays host for over a million users worldwide.

Blogging sounds the trumpet for when matters of the online world started to become a personal matter. The movement pushed forward by Matt Mullenweg, a highly successful internet entrepreneur and the founder of WordPress, a blogging platform which has changed the face of personal weblogs and Content Management Systems (CMS).

The reason for this blogtastical muse is due to a project I have come involved with called Young Britain Works. The initiative began by Microsoft has the aim to reach out to young people to equip them with the skills and resources needed for them to find their first job. Assisting with the Public Relations (PR) aspect of the program is Edelman. The largest independent PR agency with over 50 offices around the world. Microsoft and Edelman make for a formidable mix which has already driven thousands of young people towards their first job.

The Young Britain Works project is being run by the interns at Microsoft and has given us all a chance to get stuck into a project outside of our job description. Initially this has started with the founding of the Young Britain Works Facebook page (which I urge you all to join) but never should an online campaign consist of only one communication platform, always spread out to different networks.

Last week I was given the duty to build an engagement plan to utilise blogging to raise awareness, build numbers and initiate conversation for Young Britain Works. I must confess this isn’t the most daunting project I have been involved with. The asks of a publishing company (raise real world sales through online promotion) has been the scariest. Yet, the corporate weight behind Young Britain Works means I must scrutinise every little detail of my social media proposal. It cannot be second best, it must be flawless and inevitably quite long.

As explained at the beginning of this article blogging marks a time of when the internet began to become personal. The raised profile of personal weblogs also caused other companies and individuals to start websites of their own in order to promote blogs. In my eyes a blog should always be the cornerstone of any social media activity. It is where the hyperlink should point to give online promotions the weight they deserve.

Hyperlinks are really the internet. Without links the online world would not be possible. Therefore a social media campaign must have that foundation link. Not only does it allow a spot for information to be placed but statistically can be a good measure for Click Through Rates (CTR). I can guarantee you my Twitter account would not have built up so many followers if it wasn’t for this blog.

As with all social media campaigns it is important to place people first. Advertising may focus on the brand but social media needs to focus on the person. It is the key behind engagement, especially for a project like Young Britain Works. The program is about helping young people and so should be introduced and performed in a manner recognisable to young people. Which is probably why Microsoft interns where chosen to nurse the project into a fine health.

My social media proposal has much to be desired at this stage but yet again building a blogging proposal for this program is a big ask whilst I have got online advertising campaigns running across a dozen countries at work. It will get done, although mostly in-between large breaks necessary for my mind to keep functioning until my next piece of time off – Christmas.

One of Those Days

Tea Mug

I’m simply not in the mood… I know this isn’t the most attractive post to bless this blog but it is true. For some reason or another my body seems to have collapsed once again. Due to this I have found myself stuck at home answering to the calls of office life but inhabiting a body which functions seem partisan.

Last night I literally got no sleep. Whilst I can operate on 4 hours sleep with a struggle, there is no worse feeling than lying in bed and noticing that dawn has finally broken. The culprit of my abysmal demeanour is caused by my stomach being overly acidic (on medication yet again). Likely due to my suspected medical condition IBS. It is well known that the condition is interlinked with matters of the mind as well, mainly stress.

Despite how valid the reasons may be it annoys me. I enjoy driving forward and thrilled at my current place of work. No matter how keen the mind might be, the body just isn’t as enthusiastic. It is strange how the business world requires one to work with the calibre only exampled by the inners of a clock but what makes the world spin is humans. It is impossible to keep marching as it is sometimes necessary to simply stop.

Anyway – I didn’t write this for a public moan but more to example that everyone has their ‘off’ days. Mine just happens to be today.

Should I sign up for The Apprentice?

Go on, admit it. Who has been watching the latest series of The Apprentice? I have and I do have a couple of favourites who I believe could win; Chris Bates and Stella English. What a productive and intelligent couple.

Yet, whenever I watch The Apprentice I am struck at how bizarre some business approaches are. Often poor logic and insight cause the worst decisions. Not helped by the fact each contestant is concerned with their own survival which egotistically puts a strain on team work until the last few rounds.

I believe I could do better. Yes, I would probably make mistakes which the national would laugh at but I’m convinced I would have enough sense to survive the longevity of Lord Alan’s business challenges.

It is quite moving that on Twitter @Holpols, @Hockey1989, @Hana_Louise, @TomMcGovern5, @Unrepentant_ and @bastet_grewpaws all think I should sign up for it. @MBlair22 has agreed he will sign up as well if I do.

The question is: Are the producers of The Apprentice looking for intelligent candidates or just individuals who will provide entertaining television?

Should I sign up for The Apprentice?

Have you ever signed up for it?

Are you Satisfied?

Goal orientated lives are dangerous. This statement aggravates those who abide by the popular belief that aiming for something should bring a somewhat overflow of pleasure in the form of money, relationships or comfort. Usually all three come as a package eventually. To not have a goal speaks against thousands of self-help books which make millions each year. Ultimately we all strive for some sort of satisfaction. To call striving towards satisfaction a goal would be like labelling love as something which can be packaged and delivered at will. Life is complicated. Too complicated to accommodate goals which will either never be realised or cause an immense amount of disappointment to worthy a goal worthless in the end.

(If you can read past this cynical first paragraph then I offer you my congratulations. Read on.)

So when I have delivered the above speech to those who are brave enough to ask ‘What are your goals Michael?’ the response is usually a shocked face and on occasions my wrist has been slapped. The hairdresser who cut my hair yesterday told me of how her life is constructed of a series of goals. She knows where she is heading.

How can you know where you are heading? In her view she couldn’t understand how someone could live their life devoid of goals. There would be nothing left to live for. We are placed on this planet and must choose a path to walk down. Goals are too limiting. Keep a goal and strive for it at your own peril because if you ever change your mind it is difficult stepping onto another path.

Goals are very material. By nature they ask somebody to view their life and then point to a destination. Instead move your thoughts away from the head and focus on the heart. What do you feel you need? These aren’t goals but instead emotional measurements which can be rated against what you are currently doing. If I can live life enjoying present tasks then your goal will be discovered naturally. I have maintained this hedonistic view since I was 16 years old.

Focusing on present pleasures is dangerous though. It is a game which is bound to sway the balance of the mind or scar the heart. A hedonistic life is a game of Russian roulette. For each empty cartridge the click of the gun sparks an orgasm. As soon as the bullet is found life seems to look far duller. The clouds truly cover the sky and you are left questioning the whole idea of a hedonistic life.

Making mistakes are part of life. No matter what approach to life we choose to take, something will always go wrong. If anything the times of darkness compare against pleasures beautifully. How would we appreciate pleasures without the pain? Connotations of sadism – I know.

Review of Windows Phone 7

[UPDATED 05/11/2010: Seems signal strength can be displayed by clicking on the top of the phone at any time. Also Facebook sync can be made to only add information to existing contacts. Clever stuff. Have made a note to own a phone for longer before reviewing next time!]

Within this article I have written about Windows Phone 7’s features, compared it against the iPhone and have listed points of needed improvement.

Pros
–          Lucid and Quick OS
–          Well Designed Email Facilities
–          Microsoft Office Applications
–          Very good web browser
–          Xbox Live

Cons
–          Some bugs (fixes are quickly arriving)
–          Facebook synchronisation has a flaw
–          Signal strength bar only on lock screen

As of tomorrow I will have owned Windows Phone 7 (WP7) for a week. During this time I have pushed the phone to the limits asking it to carry out all the tasks which would have otherwise been the duty of my iPhone 3GS (running iOS4). Although I am an intern for Microsoft this review will be open and honest about how I feel about Microsoft’s latest mobile OS. For your information I am using the HTC 7 Mozart. However I have also used the Samsung Omnia 7 and HTC 7 HD. This isn’t really a review of the HTC 7 Mozart but instead the actual OS.

Windows Phone 7 is an intuitive and creative OS. The menu comprises of a series of tiles, known as hubs, which lead to each section of the mobile “Orange”, “People”, “Mail”, Messaging”, “Zune”, “Xbox”, etc. Each hub provides you a glance of what is happening within each section. Within a couple of minutes of picking up the mobile it was clear to see what each section includes.

Once you are handed WP7 it is very quick to get started and you will find yourself ready within a few minutes. Synchronising with Facebook is a feature shared by other mobile OS but I believe it has a flaw. At first glance syncing your Facebook contacts with WP7 is great but hardly any of my 400+ contacts actually provide their mobile numbers. This leaves my mobile with a hefty address book but barely any numbers to call or txt with. Apart from this synchronising is very useful for starting your social media activities and for viewing photo albums within WP7’s “Pictures” folder. Other account link-ups include hooking up to Windows Live, Google Mail… and so on.

I have never used such a good email client; even better than Blackberry. Setting up accounts takes a couple of minutes in the “settings” menu and once done a mail hub will appear on the main menu. Opening this will reveal all my emails, along with a section where I can view my Outlook folder. For those who deal with hundreds of emails each day you will know folders and rules are vital for organisation.

Using Microsoft Office is simple. If somebody emails me an Office document then I can open it with Word, Powerpoint or Excel. These aren’t just readers but instead the real deal. I can edit documents and send them back easily. This makes WP7 ideal for those of you who need to quickly turn around documents.

For Xbox enthusiasts you will know that Xbox Live is integrated into WP7. You can sign in with your Live account (or set one up from the mobile) and enjoy single or multiplayer games which earn you points and achievements. You can even edit your avatar using Xbox Live Extras. Games are slightly on the pricy side at just over £5 but there are plenty of free applications to try out as well.

Just like the iPhone has iTunes, WP7 boasts Zune. From the Zune store I can purchase music or using the Zune pass download an unlimited amount of music and stream music wherever I may be. Using Zune on WP7 is a breath of fresh air and features an interface I prefer against Apple’s iPod Touch.

Compared Against the iPhone 3GS (iOS4)

Apple has pushed forward applications on their devices. This has sparked conversations of the “applification of the web”. The huge amount of applications on my iPhone actually requires more key pressed and finger brushes compared to WP7. Opening Facebook on my iPhone involves opening my social media folder and then selecting the application. For WP7 it is only one click on “People”. For those who are about to say ‘Well, don’t use folders then’… I need to. Without folders I would need to brush sideways to access more applications.

The iPhone is an application mess. Using less applications means I can’t complete all the tasks I need to or requires me to ditch my mobile games. WP7 automatically places games into Xbox Live and allows me to place my applications onto the main menu or sub menu (found by pressing left from the main).  The previews from the tiles on the main menup means I don’t even need to select an app. I can just view the latest status of @Panda_Eyed’s Facebook status by unlocking WP7 and viewing her tile. No key press needed.

I know I said this is a review of Windows Phone 7 and not the HTC 7 Mozart but I just had to compare camera quality.

This picture was taken with the iPhone 3GS.

This picture was taken with the HTC 7 Mozart.

Issues with Windows Phone 7

This is perhaps the easiest section to write because cons are much easier to see than gratifications.

  • In the evening of the first day of owning the mobile I plugged it into charge at night whilst still switched on. In the morning the green light on my HTC 7 Mozart was showing a green light which indicated a full charge. I unplugged and unlocked the mobile… to find it completely unresponsive. I held the top button in as if to switch on and still nothing. Eventually I had to remove the battery which resolved the problems. After a quick Bing Search it appeared other users have had the same issues. I have not encountered this problem since.
  • There have also been a small number of crashes. The Twitter application occasionally crashes on start-up, the market place has crashed and Zune used to stutter some music tracks. I must stress that I expected these issues to happen due to WP7 being a shiny new OS. Over this week updates have been sent to my mobile which are gradually resolving problems (especially glad that Zune is healthy again).
  • Microsoft, please place the signal strength bar on the main menu. It might not look as pretty but when travelling (which I often do) it is currently impossible to know how strength has changed. The only way I can view signal strength at the moment is by unlocking the mobile. This is a hassle and a pointless key press. Change it.

Conclusion

On the whole my experience of Windows Phone 7 has been impressive. Bugs are to be expected in a new OS release but considering the quick release of updates this isn’t something consumers should be worried about. Using Windows Phone 7 is a fresh new mobile experience which everyone should try.

So yes, I do plan to purchase one after my iPhone contract has expired.

  • What is your experience of Windows Phone 7?
  • Are you thinking of purchasing Windows Phone 7?
  • Would you like to know anything about Windows Phone 7?