How to choose the right internship for your career ambitions

Today’s job market is highly competitive for recent graduates. What’s more, it seems like even the most junior positions are demanding years of experience from their candidates. As a result, internships are increasingly becoming the norm for those trying to get their foot in the door of a new industry.

The latest market research from shows that “almost half the recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings

from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process.”

Doing an internship is a great way to gain some valuable work experience to spruce up your CV after doing your course.

Aside from impressing employers, internships also have a multitude of other perks. You will:

Gain first-hand knowledge of your chosen industry and get a taste of what to expect from future roles
Learn practical skills that you wouldn’t get in a classroom and improve your confidence
Make professional contacts that you could use later in your career
Have the potential for a job offer after your internship finishes

How to choose the right internship for you  – and get the most from your experience

What experiences and skills will you gain from your internship?

Research the essential skills you will need in your future career by looking at job descriptions of roles you want to apply for later, and write a list of the skills you need to build. Then, look for internship opportunities that offer the chance to build them. This way you’ll ensure you can gain enough relevant experience to talk about in a job interview.

How much will you be paid?

Money should not be the guiding factor when it comes to choosing the right internship, but it is certainly something important to take into consideration. If you are accepting a lower-paid internship – can you afford it? Will you be compensated in other ways? Some other possible compensations you could receive are subsidised travel or lunches.

However, you should know that it is illegal for a company to hire you for free. You should receive at least the National Minimum Wage if you are classed as a worker. “The vast majority of interns are classed as workers,” say – this means you have set hours, duties and responsibilities. There are exemptions from this, for instance if you are doing a sandwich placements as part of a course, you are doing work shadowing, or you are working for a charity.

You should be aware that in today’s competitive job market, many graduates are still willing to work for free. Just make sure you are not being taken advantage of and are getting real value from your internship.

Tips for finding your internship

1. Start applying early and be aware of deadlines. Many industries have early deadlines in order to allow time to sift through high volumes of applicants. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you weren’t prepared.
2. Before you start looking, work out your career interests and use that to focus your search. What kind of role and company do you want to work for? Think about company values, work culture, location, etc.
3. Networking – use your alumni LinkedIn group to find potential people who could offer you an internship, or give you some advice on starting out in their industries. Talk to family, friends, careers counsellors and college tutors for any potential leads.
4. Use online resources, such as, TARGET Jobs, e4s and
5. Write a speculative application. Target Jobs explain: Many jobs aren’t advertised, particularly in media, charity, design and environmental work. One of the only ways to tap into this hidden graduate job market is to write a speculative application. This can also be a useful way to approach small employers who don’t tend to recruit graduates onto a formal scheme or to find jobs in a highly specialised field or specific location.”

Read our tips on speculative job applications