For many people, paid internships might seem as rare as Lady Gaga in trackie bottoms. Everyone is doing unpaid internships, right? That’s why there’s been so much grumbling in the press. But here’s the thing, paid internships do exist and the number of these opportunities is rising, particularly with the recent publicity around illegal unpaid internships.
Where can I find paid internships?
As part of our policy, we only advertise paid internships, so looking on our internship job board is a good start. It’s also a good idea to make a long list of the big players in your chosen industry, and methodically scour their websites to see if they offer paid internships.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of securing a paid internship will very much depend on the industry sector you’re interested in.
If you want to work in management consulting, law, engineering, banking or finance, you’ll probably be able to track down plenty of well-paid internships. Paid internships in areas such as fashion, media and culture, music and performing arts, however, are like gold-dust. Competition is so high for internships in these sectors that most companies will expect you to work for free. If a paid internship opportunity does arise, you’ll have to fight tooth and nail to get it.
What kind of companies offer paid internships?
Landing a paid internship with a small or medium-sized company can be difficult. Plenty of SMEs do offer paid opportunities, so it's definitely worth looking for them; however, your best bet is with big companies. They often offer a number of internships across a range of departments and, as always, competition for these places will be tough.
There’s another reason for getting one of these internships: many companies with graduate recruitment programmes offer a significant amount of their graduate places to candidates that have previously done an internship with their organisation.
Other than the money, how do paid internships differ?
Companies offering paid internships will expect far more from you. With unpaid internships, students might be able to wrangle a few days off or be more informal with their working hours. Companies offering paid internships will expect you to treat your internship like a paid job.
They’ll usually require you to sign a contract committing to certain working hours and conditions. Some finance companies and law firms might even ask you to sign a written agreement opting out of the 48-hour week restriction.
Paid internships schemes are likely to be more structured and formal than unpaid ones and you’ll be expected to work very hard; in fact, just as hard as any other employee.
How hard is it to get a paid internship?
Competition for paid internships is tough; it’ll be more akin to applying for a graduate job than work experience. Many employers will have selection processes pretty similar to their graduate programme, so you might have to battle your way through a round of interviews or even some assessment centre tests. Again, this will vary from internship to internship, as some companies will be satisfied with just an interview.
For a chance of being successful, you’ll have to dedicate some serious time to applying for internships. That means treating each application as a job application; a casual email and a quickly-put-together CV won’t cut the mustard.