Internships are often said to be the key to getting the career you want. They offer a unique opportunity to gain skills, knowledge, and experience, and do it all in a real working environment. In addition to providing great experience and exposure to the job market, they are also a chance for you to decide whether the specific industry you are interested in is really right for you. So it’s no wonder that so much advice now includes some variation on ‘intern as much as you can!’

But what does being an intern actually entail? Here at OSA Inspires, we want to help you make the most of all the opportunities on offer to you, so we’ll be publishing a series of articles on all things internship! First up, our top tips for getting your first internship, and how to make the most of it.

How do I get an internship?

In today’s competitive job market, landing a job after university/college can be a challenge. To gain an advantage over other candidates, students increasingly seek internships in their university vacations in order to broaden their experience and network of contacts in the world of work. Internships are different in the US and Europe. In Europe, they are generally still paid work, whereas in the US it is expected that you’ll do a number of unpaid internships before landing a paid job. Wherever you are though, the process of landing an internship is the same, so here are a few of our tips about where to start:

  1. Be bold

The first and foremost rule for applying to internships is to be bold and get in contact with people. Emails are great but can be easily ignored. Calling up a company and asking to speak to someone from their internships team is perfectly reasonable and shows you to be a proactive person who’s out for success. People are also more likely to remember a voice on the phone than a name at the end of an email which can be good for your application and even better for your growing network.

 

  1. Utilise your College/University’s resources

Most colleges and universities will have contacts and resources available for students looking for internships. Many will have teams of staff dedicated to this task in their careers office. Make the most of them. Applying through your university can give you a status you wouldn’t otherwise get on your own, and the careers department can give you help and advice throughout the application process.

 

  1. Use your contacts

Going through family friends and parents of friends is a great way to get an internship, particularly if you’re looking for your first one and are short of experience as they can give you a personal recommendation. Don’t feel embarrassed asking either. More often than not people are flattered to be asked to help out and will do their best for you.

 

  1. Google is your friend

Think how much harder it must have been to find a job or internship before the invention of the search engine! Nowadays you can find a list of available internships in seconds with a quick type in a Google search bar. Not only that, but you can seek out particular companies and even people’s contact details just with a few targeted Google searches. Make the most of it. Search for the internships that are harder to find or ones you think might suit you better. Get in touch with the people you come across online. Find out more about the company you’re applying for. With Google, anything is possible…

 

  1. Work hard

You’ve landed your dream internship, now what? Give it everything you’ve got. Internships are not about making money and living a quiet comfortable life, they’re about reaping everything you can from the opportunities you’ve been given. Be a perfectionist. Make sure your assignment is the best it can be. Ask questions, meet with people, and ultimately learn as much as you can. The more experience you gain, the better job you can get.

 

  1. Ask around

People generally enjoy talking to enthusiastic interns about what they do! Make use of the network of people at the organisation to find out more about the industry, and increase your knowledge of the options available to you. Just because your internship is in the marketing department doesn’t mean you can’t ask someone from accounts about their job, or spend some of your spare time chatting to someone in HR. Even if you don’t set up any official informational interviews, just be interested in other people, and you’ll probably learn a lot.

 

  1. Ask for recommendations

The final step is remembering to ask for a recommendation. Once you’ve done your first internship, getting the next one can be a comparative breeze if you’ve got good recommendations. Employers look more favourably on applications where you can provide evidence from someone who’s found you valuable in the past, particularly if it’s in the same industry. Make sure you ask someone who worked directly with you and can comment properly on your time as an intern – your line manager is a good place to start.

 

Check out this handy guide on Forbes from a serial internshipper for some more advice!

Have you had a great internship? How did you find out about the opportunity, and what was the application process like for you? Let us know, and your experiences could help other students find their dream internship!