Internships are more essential in 2016 than ever. Here's our rulebook for landing one—and making the most of it.
Having work experience goes a long way in the graduate job hunt, and an internship is a great way to impress employers. If you want to give yourself the best chance of landing a graduate job, it's important you don't miss out on these valuable opportunities now.
Internships aren't just a good idea for current students, either. Graduates who are in the middle of their job search would be hard-pressed to find a better way of sampling different industries and careers before committing to a long-term contract.
There is a lot of information on internships out there, so here's the essentials - conveniently condensed into our 10 minute rulebook for getting an internship in 2016.
1. Apply now
Internships and placements usually occur during the summer, but you shouldn't wait until you finish the spring term to start sending off applications. Many of the larger employers look to get the ball rolling on their summer internships in January and February—so don't miss out.
2. Cast the net wide
The best thing about internships is their short duration, which makes them excellent opportunities to test the waters in different industries and roles. There is no harm in trying something you might not have seen yourself doing for a few months—especially if there are specific skills or contacts you can take away from the experience.
3. Be creative in your approach
Internships come in all shapes and sizes, with varying levels of responsibility. While many of the larger professional organisations such as Deutsche Bank or J.P. Morgan offer regimented, immersive internships, smaller organisations also offer similar opportunities to gain experience.
For instance, if you want to work in Accountancy, by all means apply to the likes of KPMG or Zurich. But if you are unsuccessful, try thinking on a smaller scale and consider approaching local, independent accountants. They can offer you the same chance to brush up on experience, and you may even benefit from the more personal approach of a smaller firm.
4. Don't dismiss anything
Graduates shouldn't be picky when it comes to gaining experience—interning in one field will not pigeon-hole you for the rest of your career. Much of the work undertaken during internships provides a range of skills which can be re-appropriated to different applications when it's time to look for a permanent position.
Employers also like to see applicants who have been proactive about developing their careers, even if the experience is not directly related to the industry or role they are applying to.
5. Treat it like a job
Finding an internship can be hard work—but so is succeeding at one. From the first day, you should aim to put in your best effort. If you are hoping to be kept on after your set period has elapsed, it is important to make a positive impression, and the best way to do so is to make a real contribution from the start.
6. Don't dismiss voluntary work
There has always been controversy surrounding the payment of interns. While valid arguments may exist on both sides of the debate, we will simply say that graduates shouldn't immediately dismiss a position because it doesn't pay. Some highly competitive fields such as Media and Advertising & PR frequently use volunteer workers, and while you should be wary of being taken advantage of, some of these positions are a great way to get your foot in the door.
Admittedly, interning for free is a luxury—but if you can make it work by sofa-surfing and picking up paid evening and weekend jobs, it may pay off in the long run.
7. Make friends
Your first day at a new job is much like your first day at school, with such important questions to answer as who are you going to have lunch with and whether you're going to the pub on Thursday.
These are valid concerns, and new interns should try not to miss out on opportunities to make connections while they've got their foot in the door. If you make a good impression, you might come out of your internship with valuable contacts for the future.
8. Enjoy it
In the effort to impress, some graduates lose sight of the fact that internships are designed to be learning experiences. They exist to help you develop your career skills. Remember this when you are clocking in at 9 am. Some internships might not be as enjoyable or rewarding as you had hoped, but there is always something to be learned—and if not, you can politefully and respectfully explain the job isn't a good fit for you.
These eight rules are vital for internship success. While every position will be different, any experience gained in the work place will do wonders when you start applying for full time positions. Approach internships with an open mind, and you may even discover a passion you didn't know you had.
Take a look at our Internships and Work Placements page to see what is already open for applications.