With the jobs market for newly qualified graduates becoming increasingly competitive, find out why an internship can set you apart from the crowd.

What is an internship?

An internship is an opportunity to experience work with an employer within a chosen sector. It can be an excellent way for entry-level candidates to gain relevant work experience and skills to support their qualifications. It provides both students and graduates with exposure to the day-to-day activities of a business and a possible route into working for an employer who may otherwise prefer candidates with experience within the industry.

Internships can vary in duration, lasting from as little as just a couple of weeks to up to one year, and usually, you will receive payment for any work you undertake. There are internship opportunities across a wide variety of industries, and they can be a useful way of getting your foot in the door of a large organisation.

Internship vs Work Experience

It is essential when applying for an internship that both you and the employer have an equal understanding of what the opportunity will provide. Knowing the difference between an internship or just work experience can be useful when deciding your next move after graduating:

–  Work Experience is typically for a period of only one to two weeks aimed at providing initial insight into the working environment. As the duration is short, it does not usually require a contract and is more often than not unpaid.

–  An Internship, however, is more centred around developing the candidate and providing a structured training schedule, designed to help them become an established part of the business.

What are the benefits of an internship?

There are many benefits to an internship, and if you impress within the role, you have a much higher chance of securing a fulltime position after completion. Studies have reported that 75% of interns were offered a permanent or long-term contract of employment after their programme ended, with many leading to further opportunities and other graduate schemes.

Other benefits include:

  • The chance to develop your knowledge and skills in a specific field of work
  • Gaining valuable work experience to add to your CV and increase your employability
  • Providing an excellent opportunity to make new contacts within the industry through networking
  • Explore different roles within an organisation
  • Obtain university module credits
  • Bringing in a wage for the work you undertake as you ‘earn-while-you-learn.’

You may also find that after working in the role for a while, you decide the job isn’t for you and want to try something new. With an internship, you have the option to make a choice that’s best for your personal development.

How can I secure an internship?

Finding an internship can be just like finding a full-time job, and you will need to be proactive in your approach. In most cases, you will be required to complete an application form and attend an interview, so it is essential to research the organisation and its values.

Companies will often only recruit interns at certain times of the year, so start your search as early as possible and find out when employers have recruitment drives for internship programmes. Competition can be high, particularly in sectors such as banking and media.

Don’t be afraid of reaching out to companies yourself. Recruiters value proactiveness and can often indicate when they are most likely to start considering candidates for internships. You can also increase your chances as securing an interview by communicating with them via social media on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, and by asking your network of family and friends to keep a lookout for any vacancies.