Doing an internship while you’re still studying can be one of the most effective ways to start your career. Most internships out there should be paid, if not, they should contribute to your course as credit points. While most are paid gigs, you want to make sure you find an internship that will benefit you and your future goals in more than just the monetary sense.
The benefits of an internship
The most significant benefits of an internship are the experience and networking opportunities. By completing an internship, not only will you have been able to acquire skills from doing practical work in the industry you want to enter, but you’ll also have something for your resume that shows you have experience in that field.
If you’re undertaking the internship in your preferred industry, you’ll have a great opportunity to make valuable contacts and begin networking. Finding a job is as often about who you know, as it is having a great resume - so use your time during your internship to meet as many people related to your business interests as possible.
An internship is also a great test of whether an industry or particular role is right for you. There's lots of people that dream of working in a particular field, only to be disappointed once they start work. So use an internship to get a “feel” for the job before you commit to your career.
Finally, an internship can lead directly to paid work. Prove that you’re capable and enthusiastic and your employer might bring you on full-time or offer you a graduate opportunity.
Getting the internship
1. Make a list of places to apply
Not all organisations take interns, but some do and don’t advertise them widely. Do some research and make a list of organisations in industries that interest you. If they offer an internship, go for it and apply!
If they’re not offering internships, you can send the organisation an email to introduce yourself and ask to be considered for an internship role. Some might come back and say that they’re not taking interns, but that’s fine – at least you asked.
To help you get started - check out Student Internships
and your university's job board. If the applications haven't opened yet, check when they hired last year, add the date to your diary and bookmark these sites.
2. Make sure your resume and cover letter are up to scratch
You’ll need to provide both when applying for an internship. Your resume should have all of your education, recent and relevant work experience, and important extracurricular activities (volunteering, sport, make sure to include any major achievements) that show who you are and your work ethic. Consider using websites like How To Resume
which offers a free resume builder - the website will help you create a resume section by section.
Your cover letter should explain why you would be a good fit as an intern for the company, what you bring in terms of skills and experience, and why you’re interested in working for that company. Research the company and show that you’ve thought about how the internship will be mutually beneficial for both parties. Each application should include a cover letter that you have tailored for that specific organisation. In saying this, you can have a base letter that you use and then personalise it for that business.
3. Add a reminder to your diary
Many internships accept students in their penultimate year - this means your second last year of study. Depending on your industry, companies may also offer summer or winter internships to fit with your uni breaks. Make sure you account for the recruitment period which is usually a few months earlier!
4. Apply to every company in your list
You’ll learn from the application process and the more companies you apply to, the larger your chances are of getting an offer.
Don’t feel disheartened – it can be difficult to find internships. You might even need to make a second or third list of companies you’d like to apply to.
So, sit back and reconsider your list. Are all the companies large organisations where there's a huge recruitment process and the competition is high? Have you considered other companies out there such as small-medium sized companies or startups where you may actually get more hands on experience than a traditional internship program?
5. Use the right language
Take a close look at how the company presents itself, and the field it’s in. Medicine, law, or finance are all formal environments, and you should address the hiring manager as “Dear XXXX”. Make sure you research who you want to get the application in front of and address the cover letter to them.
On the other hand, fields such as media/advertising or start ups tend to be more casual - so it's okay to show you’re keen by applying directly to the owner.
Research, research, research! The more you know about the place you’re applying to, the more you’ll sound like you want to be there.
Following up your application
1. Be eager, but don't be too eager!
Following up on an application once is fine, a few days after sending it. You want to check that the application arrived safely, and recruitment managers do appreciate the enthusiasm of a follow up. But following up too rapidly, or frequently, is both annoying and unprofessional.
2. Use the phone to follow up
Email is easy to ignore, text and social media can be inappropriate channels to use to follow up. It might seem a bit archaic, but a phone call is very personal and can almost act like an informal interview.
If you would like to learn more about jobs and getting work ready, check out the Student Super blog
. We also have a great video from some summer interns
who shared their experience on how they landed their internships.