Internships can be super valuable. They help you get workplace experience, make connections in your industry, and are often flexible enough to fit around your studies. This guide breaks down what you need to know about what they really are, and how to get one.
What is an internship?
Essentially, an internship is a fixed-term work experience aimed specifically at students or graduates. Businesses often provide these short-term positions to give students a chance to learn about the industry. In some fields, like law and finance, they’re a pretty direct route to eventually being hired by that company, but in other fields that’s almost never the case.
Internships can run from just a few weeks right up to a full year depending on the sector, company, and role. As a student, you may find that most internship opportunities will be quite short, perhaps running during your summer holidays. Graduate internships are usually a bit longer. However, both can give you the chance to work towards professional accreditation.
In some instances, you’ll be entitled to at least minimum wage while you’re working, provided you’re performing the role of a worker. However, if you’re just shadowing someone, working for a charity, or doing it as part of your university programme, you probably won’t get paid a wage or salary, though you may be reimbursed for travel expenses.
Why are internships important?
These days, employers place a lot of emphasis on experience when hiring for jobs. As a student or recent graduate, this can be frustrating. You might struggle to get a job without experience, but how do you get experience without a job? Internships are a way to bridge that gap.
Internships can also be a bit like a taster for a particular role or industry. They’re a chance to figure out what day-to-day life in the field you’re interested in is like, and whether you think it will really be a good fit for you. Sometimes, an internship might make you realise that a job you thought you wanted isn’t a great fit - and that’s still a really valuable experience!
In an internship, you’ll have the chance to be trained and mentored by industry professionals. It’s a great opportunity to learn as much as you can, and to get to know people who might someday be your colleagues in the field. Mentoring relationships that begin during internships can sometimes last for years.
How to get an internship
Sometimes internships are built into your university or college programme. In these instances, it’s just a case of confirming the exact details of your placement. However, many students will have to actively seek out these opportunities. But don’t worry, here’s how you can get started:
- Talk to your teachers. Your school, university, or college careers service is there to help you find out information about a range of prospects, including internships. Make sure to drop in and have a chat with them early on in your search. Teachers, friends, and family members can also be useful people to ask – you’ll be surprised by the connections people have!
- Visit job fairs. Universities and large businesses will often host job fairs aimed at attracting new talent. These can be excellent places to make connections and find out about upcoming internships that you can apply for.
- Search online. Search for professional organisations and associations related to the field you want to go into. They often offer information on internships and positions that might be of interest to you. You can also look directly at the websites for companies you think you might like to work for, to see what kinds of internship opportunities they provide.
- Get your CV or resume up to speed. Like most jobs, you’ll need to go through an application process to get an internship. It’s a good idea to have your CV or resume prepared and ready to send before you start applying. Our CV and resume builder can help with this process.
- Apply speculatively. Not all employers advertise internship positions, but they might be open to having an intern anyway, especially if it’s part of your course and can be unpaid. Our guide on How to write a speculative application will give you further details on how these work.