If TV and film has taught us one thing about internships, it’s that interns are condemned to a life of carrying out boring and thankless tasks like fetching coffee, making copies and picking up laundry for everyone – and all for free.
Thankfully, this is real life, and the chances of that ever happening to you is highly unlikely. (Companies who treat their people like dirt – whether they’re interns or employees – are subject to the wrath of the law.)
Internships are actually an excellent way to gain relevant work experience in the industry and career you’re interested in pursuing.
If you’ve chosen to follow this route to a successful career, then you’ve come to the right place. You’ll find all the information you need about how to find an internship in the UK and abroad below.
Almost all available internships are advertised online today, meaning there’s no better place to start your search than the internet.
The first place you should look is the Graduate Talent Pool, a GOV.UK initiative designed to help new and recent graduates gain real work experience in their chosen fields. To be eligible to use this service, though, you’ll need to have graduated from a UK university within the last three years, be eligible to work in the UK and be a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA).
Alternatively, there are many other specialist websites which could prove useful when looking for a suitable programme in the UK. These include:
- E4S (Employment 4 Students) – a great resource for summer internships especially
- Internwise – offers opportunities in London and throughout the UK
- Milkround – the UK’s most widely used student and graduate job website
- Prospects – the UK’s largest graduates career website
- RateMyPlacement – an excellent resource for placements, internships and insights, as well as career advice
- StudentJob – Europe’s biggest job site for students and young talent
If you’d like to do a little bit of travelling, you might want to consider undertaking an international internship. The following websites can be great resources for suitable opportunities in Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania:
- Absolute Internship – offers internship programmes in cities such as Hong Kong, Madrid and Singapore
- AIESEC UK – facilitates international student exchanges through volunteering and internship schemes
- City Internships – a leading structured internship programme provider in cities like New York City, Paris and Sydney
- Erasmus Intern– an integrated marketplace for opportunities in Europe and abroad
- ImmerQi – their Corporate Internship Programme is offered in Beijing and Shanghai
- InternChina – offers openings in Chengdu, Dalian, Qingdao and Zhuhai
Another option is registering with trusted recruitment agencies.
Use Your Network
Your professional network can be an extremely invaluable resource in your search for the perfect internship. It’s not what you know but who you know that really matters – in all aspects of your career.
Speak with teachers, family, friends, parents of friends, former employers, neighbours and anyone else you can think of who might be able to connect you with an employer in the field you’re interested in. Get in touch with them (either by phone or through a face-to-face meeting) for guidance and resources that will lead to the type of experience you’re hoping to find.
LinkedIn is a great place to make connections with industry insiders or re-establish contacts – reach out to your contacts in your field of interest and ask them for advice, and who knows? They just might be able to set you up with an internship in their company! And don’t forget to tell your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, too – don’t underestimate the power of social networking!
Go to Job Fairs
Job fairs, also known as career fairs or career expos, are basically speed dating for employers and jobseekers. Having said that, they’re not just for graduate jobs. Many employers at such events also offer internships, so it’s definitely worth attending at least one to learn more about their opportunities. Most job fairs will be advertised in your local newspaper or online.
Be prepared to give a 60-second introduction (also known as an elevator pitch) that describes your skills, achievements and goals to employers, and make sure you follow up with everyone you speak to at the fair to leave a lasting impression.
Meeting with employers and recruiters face-to-face at these events can be an excellent way to demonstrate your fitness for a company that your CV and LinkedIn profile otherwise cannot. This is especially useful when you have little or no experience.
Use Your University Careers Service
If you’re still at uni (or even a recent graduate), your university’s careers service can prove incredibly useful in your search. You’ll be able to get valuable advice on things like making speculative applications and tips for succeeding in interviews, as well as information about any suitable openings.
If you’re undertaking an internship as part of your course of study, you’ll have little say about the programme, as it will typically be organised for you. These programmes are usually unpaid. However, alumni may be able to use the university’s resources to find paid internships.
Go Straight to the Company You Want to Intern With
If you’ve got a specific company (or 10) in mind that you’d like to intern with, visit the jobs section of their website to see if they have any suitable opportunities for you. Many companies, especially the larger ones, have a dedicated section for internship programmes and will often advertise any available vacancies separately from the ‘real jobs’.
If they don’t currently have any openings, then why not take the situation into your own hands and create the internship you want? Send them a speculative letter, along with a well-written CV, explaining why you want to intern with them and asking them for a meeting.
Some great companies offering internships include:
- Credit Suisse
- Ernst Young (EY)
- Goldman Sachs Group
- JPMorgan Chase
- PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
Things to Remember
Before you dive straight into your internship search, check out these quick and valuable tips to make the whole process an easy and effective one.
- Perfect your CV: Your CV is often the first thing a recruiter sees, so you really need to make sure it gives you an edge over the competition. Check out our comprehensive guide to find out how to write a job-winning CV for every stage in your career.
- Beware of deadlines: Miss one and you risk losing out on a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t ‘save’ internships for later; apply for them now.
- Be persistent: Following up with recruiters and applications is an essential part of the hiring process, and you’re more likely to get a response by demonstrating persistent interest. Remember, though: there’s a fine line between being persistent and being annoying.
- Ace the interview: Preparation here is key for success. Make sure you’ve researched the company, practised common questions, chosen the right outfit and prepared a few questions to ask yourself.
- Determine your financial needs: Though most internships in the UK today are paid, you might not be eligible for pay if the internship you’re undertaking is part of your course, doing voluntary work for a registered charity or simply ‘work shadowing’. If this is the case, you need to ask yourself whether you’ll be able to afford working for free.
- Explore all avenues: Don’t focus on any one of the strategies mentioned above, but rather use a combination of two or more (ideally, all of them) to ensure success.
Have you ever done an internship? How did you find it? Do you have any tips and tricks you’d like to share with other readers? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts and experiences with us!