So you’ve got that degree in the bag, waved goodbye to student life and are ready to finally earn some proper money. If you haven’t managed to land yourself a graduate job just yet, you might want to consider doing a graduate internship. It could provide you with the crucial work experience that most employers require.
What does a graduate internship involve?
Most graduate internships last a few months. They are an excellent way to build your confidence, make industry contacts and hopefully help you on the way to getting a job. A substantial number of graduates get jobs through internships; either they impress the employer so much that they get hired, or they build up contacts in the industry and get recommended or given a heads-up about unadvertised jobs. This doesn’t mean you should stop job hunting while you’re doing your internship though; keep applying to those advertised vacancies!
Aren’t graduate internships just for rich kids?
No, internships aren’t just for rich kids. There are many paid internships out there. In fact, if you are performing tasks as a ‘worker’ during your internship, you are legally entitled to receive at least the National Minimum Wage. This is the case for any internship or period of work experience, unless you are shadowing someone or you are taken on as a volunteer.
Of course, many internships are still unpaid and tons of people choose to take these opportunities to gain valuable experience. However, if you do decide to take an unpaid internship, you should at least ask the organisation to pay your expenses, such as your lunch and travel costs.
Before you start looking for internships, it’s important to know what you’re entitled to, so check out our Know Your Rights article to find out more!
How do I get a graduate internship?
You should approach your graduate internship application like you’re applying for a paid job. This means tailoring your CV and covering letter for the company and really showing them how you fit their internship requirements and why you want to work for their company.
Once you’ve landed an internship, you should imagine you’re a fully-paid member of staff and behave accordingly. Do your best to earn your stripes in the company. If you want to impress them, be enthusiastic and work hard.
What sort of thing will I be doing?
Yes, there will probably be some menial tasks involved, e.g. tea-making or photocopying, but if you do those enthusiastically enough, the likelihood is that you’ll be given something more challenging to handle. Make sure you talk to the other employees and learn more about the industry from them. If you build up a relationship with the team, then they’ll be more likely to give you a heads-up about jobs or offer you advice.
If you think you’re being exploited and your days are spent doing utterly menial tasks, which are basically wasting your time and not giving you any experience, then you should bring it up with your employer. If it doesn’t change, then you could always leave the internship early; but always as a last resort!