How to get an internship

Jemma Smith, Editor
February, 2016

If you're wondering where to start when it comes to finding and applying for an internship, you're not alone. Discover where to begin your search and how to stand out from the crowd…

While you're making plans for the year ahead, don't forget to think about doing an internship; not only will it look impressive on your CV and provide a talking point in interviews, but it may also give you a crucial leg-up onto the career ladder.

If you don't already have an internship in the pipeline it's never too early to start looking. 'In order to be more employable as a graduate, you will need work experience as well as a degree,' says Su Maynard, internships coordinator at the University of Huddersfield.

Know where to look

Once you know where to start, the task of searching for an internship becomes a lot easier. Su believes that your first port of call should be your university careers service. 'They will have spent many years building up contacts in the local community as well as with large multinational companies,' she adds. 'Use the resources they have created for you.'

Countless opportunities can be found on the internet. If used professionally, social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn can be particularly useful for communicating with potential employers.

Andrew Whitmore, head of careers information, advice and guidance at The University of Manchester, advises looking close to home. 'Try your own network of friends and family,' he suggests. 'You'll be surprised by how many contacts you have.'

Lastly, you could try the speculative approach. 'Many companies don't formally advertise vacancies and a well thought out speculative application can work wonders,' explains Su. 'Research the company and know the skills you can offer them.' Get advice on how to write a speculative job application.

Take a look at what's available and search for internships.

Plan your approach

Sometimes securing an internship requires hard work. However, if you're lucky, you could simply be in the right place at the right time. Either way, it helps to be prepared.

Covering all bases by applying for everything in a blind panic won't yield the best results. 'Have an entrepreneurial mind-set, think broadly and creatively,' advises Andrew. 'Applying for an internship is the same as looking for a permanent job. You need to do your research and make sure that you spend time getting the application and your CV as perfect as you can.' Take a look at our tips on perfecting your CV and cover letter.

You can narrow your focus by completing the Prospects Career Planner. 'It's not like the career planners you were forced to do at school,' says Su. 'It has been designed to help you with career options depending on your interests and degree subject.'

Stand out from the crowd

It's a well-known fact that competition for work experience can be fierce, but there are certain things you can do to stand out from the crowd.

'Tailor your application,' recommends Su. 'Employers will shortlist on how well you fit the criteria.

'Secondly, show your potential - make sure you say why you want to work for the company and don't leave them in any doubt as to how dedicated you will be. Above all else, remember that this is an exciting next step and a great way to find out what you are good at.'