You’ve completed your degree, made new friends and experienced a rich life as a student in the UK.  What now?

Internships may come to mind for many students – either as a course requirement or a way to experience work in a chosen sector.  Internships are good opportunities to gain insights into a field that you’ve selected and more often than not, can turn into full employment if that’s what you’re after.

Having practical work experience goes a long way as it gives you competitive advantage against others – particularly in a market where the best jobs are up for grabs. Working in a company or organisation gives you exposure to working on projects, campaigns and teaches you to apply what you’ve already learnt at university.  Here’s a few simple tips to help you get started.

What are internships?

First, let’s understand what internships mean for a fresh graduate. It is simply work experience offered by an organisation for an agreed time.  Some companies call these positions work placements and these positions can be paid or are voluntary with other benefits offered.  If the location is new to you, some organisations may offer full boarding in exchange for pay.

Some students do this during the longer holidays over summer as more time gives you more opportunities to learn from the organisation.  These placements could run over 4 weeks or even up to 12 weeks.

There are courses that require you to take up an internship, say like medicine or an Arts course, where the internship counts towards your credit hours.  Some students may also be able to squeeze in a work placement during term but be mindful that it does not affect your workload and performance as a student.  Unless mandatory, working and studying requires plenty of resources so be sure about your internship commitments during your time in university.

How do I find internships?

We’ve said it before, and will say it again. Research goes a long way in anything you choose to do, and that applies to internships as well.  Start by browsing companies’ websites to get a sense of what is offered. Depending on what you study, pick a company, brand or non-profit organisation to learn about their goals, products and services, and how to contact them.   Usually there is a contact or an internship section that provides you with simple instructions on applications. Go to their social media channels to find out what type of work culture and branding style they adopt – see if it appeals to you as a way to upskill and gain experience in your selected field.  Most organizations prefer emails, but some organizations welcome communication through these social media channels, so feel free to reach out to them.

Virtual career fairs or youth online events are other ways of “meeting” company representatives, so sign up for these sessions.  They are usually free as they want to reach out to as many talented fresh graduates as possible.

What to include in an application?

It is recommended that you pick an internship that you are interested in. Or if there is a cause you’re passionate about, go for it. Employers will see that as an advantage and a good working relationship with your supervisors will help towards strengthening your networks in the long run. Even if it is a company that you may be unsure of, look for the roles they offer interns. The type of work may be something you’re keen on and helps with your skills and qualifications. No one is interested in a half-hearted application.

Include a professional CV, list of work samples or short essays if you’re after a role that requires writing skills. Other useful additions are visual portfolios, perhaps photos, videos or designs from your own blogs or vlogs. At times add your public social media account if PR or marketing fields are on your radar. A social media CV also adds value to the application. Always remain professional in your application and treat it seriously. There is value in professionalism and shows you are genuine in gaining a work placement.

Be kind to yourself

Some students or graduates feel they can do more than one internship, particularly if faced with multiple offers. Multitasking may be your forte, but we suggest you manage your expectations and workload well, so that you do not feel overwhelmed during your work placements.

Will multiple internships enhance your skills or expand your chances of gaining full time work?

Consider if the internships are worth your time, basing your decisions on whether these placements pay you or offer you a unique opportunity to experience the workplace.

Be transparent not only to your employers but yourself, so don’t overdo it if you know you shouldn’t – physical and mental health are important and you want to be healthy to be able to enjoy your time at the organisation.