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Written by Emily StokerEmily Stoker

How to get an internship

6 min read
How to get an internship
Artwork by:Irina Troitskaya
We all know that an internship can boost your CV and even lead to an offer of employment. So how do you get an internship that will get you where you want to be? Consider the big picture and follow our step by step with this guide.

Getting an internship can be a pivotal step towards building a successful career. Whether you're a college student eager to gain real-world experience or a professional looking to explore a new field, internships are opportunities for learning and growth. So how do you get an internship?

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to find and secure your dream internship. From understanding the differences between paid and unpaid internships to acing the interview, we've got you covered!

In this blog post we will cover:

  • Choosing between a paid or unpaid internship
  • How to find internship opportunities
  • How to apply for internships
  • How to get an internship by acing the interview.

Strategic internship searching: paid vs unpaid

Before diving into the internship search, think about what you’re looking for. Paid internships are becoming more common and even legally obligatory in many cases. However, there are still plenty of unpaid opportunities out there. Some may cover some expenses such as local transport and lunch, but there are pros and cons to each solution.

Statistical insight

The most recent internship data analysis from UK social mobility organisation the Sutton Trust shows that over 1 in 4 graduates have worked as an unpaid intern, while less than 1 in 3 working class graduates have done an internship.

How to find internship opportunities

There are a number of ways you can go about finding an internship that suits you. Here are some of our preferred methods:

1 Follow industry professionals

Find professionals in your field who are where you would like to be in a few years time. By following them on their preferred platform — such as Twitter or LinkedIn — you can keep up to date with their career. Plus, you will be among the first to know if they post about any internship opportunities with their team.

2 Scour the internet

You can also search regular job posting sites to look out for internship opportunities in your field. However, consider that by applying via job boards you are throwing your name into the hat with many other applicants and potentially have limited ways to make yourself stand out.

3 Ask your education institution for help

If you are a student, your university might have a careers service. Ask about the resources or upcoming opportunities they’ve heard about. You could also approach your favourite professor or the faculty admin department to see if they can recommend any internship opportunities.

4 Target local businesses

The value of searching for opportunities locally is often underestimated. The fact you are local will help you to build a rapport with the hiring manager. You could even show off your soft skills by dropping off your CV in person.

5 Ask around

Don’t underestimate the power of your personal network. Your fellow students, friends, and family might know of an opportunity. While internships at top businesses in your field can do wonders for your CV, the professional experience you will gain on almost any internship will result in personal growth which is invaluable.

How to apply for internships

You can offer your services as an intern either in response to an advertised position or as a spontaneous candidature. In either case it’s a good idea to start your internship search in advance to increase your chances of securing the best internship spots.

To apply for an internship you will need a well-written CV and a cover letter. Remember to leverage any extra-curricular activities, school projects, or even volunteer work to show the transferable skills you’ve learnt so far. Make your application hyper-focused to the company and role you’re applying for. You can do this with the skills you highlight, but also by talking about your personal motivation in the cover letter and possibly your CV summary. 

Expert tip

Hype up those soft skills

Interns usually have limited professional experience. While academic success helps, interns are often chosen based on their soft skills. So make sure you exude a helpful, professional personality that is ready to collaborate and problem-solve.

Internship interview tips

The interview is your chance to shine and demonstrate why you are the ideal candidate for the internship. Preparation is key. Research the company, practise common interview questions, and remember to dress the part. This counts whether you have an in-person interview or a virtual one.

Attention to detail can make a lasting impression on the interviewer. Arrive on time, maintain eye contact, and exude confidence. Don’t forget to be ready to ask some of your own questions, too! Remember, completing internships can significantly increase your chances of receiving job offers in the future.

Key takeaways

  1. Decide in advance what sort of investment you can afford to make for your internship in time and potentially money (if the opportunity is unpaid).
  2. Choose a tactic for finding an internship and execute it well in advance!
  3. Lean into your soft skills and enthusiasm for the company to make up for any lack of experience.
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