I’m a firm believer in the benefits of doing internships, and with summer approaching there’s no better time to get your foot in the door. As someone who has done several internships covering a year in total, they were an invaluable experience and definitely worth my many worries in the end when they landed me a full time job as a designer, on top of my degree.
Internships aren’t usually obvious to come by. All the internships that I undertook weren’t advertised. You need to take the initiative to approach the companies directly, if you’re too shy about phoning them to speak to someone in charge of what you’re intending on interning under, try and find out their email instead. Too often companies get emails to a generic inbox under ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ addresses, and the likelihood is that you either won’t be looked at, or it will get lost under the masses.
Keep in contact – if you haven’t heard back and it’s been over a week, send them a little reminder email to see if there are any opportunities available. You have to appreciate how busy companies are and emails which aren’t client relevant often get lost or forgotten about when it comes to responding. Go a step further and add them on LinkedIn, to get a real sense of the company keep up to date on their social media channels, is there a way you can engage with them over Twitter or Facebook to get yourself noticed?
Sadly it comes all too often that people aren’t paid for internships. Unless you can get in with a really big company who specifically offer internships, which can be highly competitive, you’re looking at taking a hit. I moved to Edinburgh and did a whole year of internships and still managed to get by on my own. Paying my own rent, food, and bills each month. Anticipate how this is going to affect your outgoings; is there anything you can save on ahead of doing an internship in preparation? Although you might not be likely to be paid for your internship, the experience is indeed invaluable, even if you don’t believe it at the time when you’re having your third tin of baked beans for dinner that week. When a potential employer looks at your CV and sees that you’ve got all this experience, it will put you heads over someone who may only have their qualifications with no real experience.
You can however expect, and you should definitely not be afraid to ask, for some kind of living costs to be covered. Something that you can claim back as petty cash expenses from the company to cover your transport and food costs for the time that you are there. It’s not going to pay your rent, but at least it’s something. Most internships seem to range anywhere from a month to half a year, you might find that as time goes on if you really make a good impression they might be willing to pay you something more reflective of a proper wage. Or even if you can apply for contract jobs in between intern periods where you could take on maternity cover, or if there’s an evening bar job you could pick up to help with money problems.
It’s a massive leap of faith, but everyone whos working have indeed started somewhere, and they are there to help you do the same at the end of the day. Ask questions, stay eager, be the first there and the last to leave, make a good impression, make friends, involve yourself in the team, and for goodness sake – make the tea round!
I hope this has helped with anyone wondering about internships and how to go about progressing onto the next stage for your future, or a change in career. Don’t hesitate to ask me any additional questions in the comments!