If you’re a student or graduate with little experience under your belt – or a seasoned professional who wants to change careers, you may be looking for a way to top up your industry knowledge.
Internships are the perfect tool for doing this as they offer hands-on industry experience that’s highly sought-after by employers. Read on to find out how an internship could help you, where to find a placement and tips on creating an outstanding application.
What is an internship?
An internship is a contracted stint at a business or organisation and is essentially a work experience placement. Students and graduates typically take internships to help them gain relevant skills in a sector or experience with a particular employer.
If you’re a student, your internship is likely to last a few weeks or months, over the summer holidays. If you’re a graduate, your internship may span an entire year. If you have excelled during your internship, many employers will consider taking you on as a full-time employee.
Are internships paid?
If an intern carries out the same level of duties as an employee and counts as a “worker”, UK law states that employers must pay the intern national minimum wage. If you’re left to work unsupervised, work set hours or manage other staff members as an intern, you count as a “worker”.
However, if the intern is carrying out the placement as part of a higher education course, is working for a registered charity or as part of a shadowing scheme, they may not be entitled to payment.
Which industries take on interns?
Most sectors offer internships. However, they are more common in competitive industries such as public services, media and law, as experience is essential if you want to start a career in these sectors.
An internship is not the best move for everyone. But if you’re looking to enter an industry where experience is necessary, consider an internship.
During your placement, you’ll improve your understanding of the industry and role, expose yourself to other positions in the industry you may not have considered, be able to network with influencers and other professionals, and have the chance to put your newly developed skills into practice.
In short, you’ll expose yourself to a range of experiences that will make you more employable in the long run.
Be aware though that first-hand experience may not be necessary for your chosen career path, and many employers could be willing to take you on as a full-time employee and train you up, making an internship redundant.
Where can I find an internship?
There are plenty of ways you can find an internship. One way is to visit a leading job board, like CV-Library, and search for internships.
You should treat finding an internship the same way as any job search. Don’t rule out contacting your network on LinkedIn to see if they can put you in touch with their employer, or reaching out to companies speculatively.
How do I apply?
Before you apply for an internship, note that these placements are typically open to students, or 18- to 25-year-olds. If you’re a seasoned professional looking to change careers and therefore get some extra experience, it doesn’t mean you can’t become an intern. Just ask the employer if there are any age restrictions when you apply.
Applying for an internship is similar to any other job application. Typically, you’ll need to submit a CV and cover letter or an application form. If the employer is interested, you will be invited for an interview or assessment centre.
Most employers won’t expect interns to have previous experience, although they may expect a demonstration of relevant skills developed throughout studying. Therefore, you need to express your interest in the industry and company clearly by tailoring your CV and cover letter to every application.
About the author: Laura Slingo is content executive for the UK’s leading independent job board, CV-Library. For more expert advice on job searches, careers and the workplace, visit its Career Advice pages.