Should I Take An Internship?

Graduate Internships can be a good way of gaining some valuable work experience while looking for long term employment.

Our guide explains the benefits of taking an internship once you've completed your university studies.

What is an internship?

An internship is an agreement that an individual will work for a company for a fixed period of time, usually between one month and one year.

The contract may be part-time or full-time, and can be paid or unpaid depending on the company concerned.

‘Sandwich’ placements are sometimes taken just before the final year of a course, and form part of a degree programme.

This year in industry is a paid placement and often forms part of a science or engineering degree, as well as some finance-related courses.  

Who are interns?

Interns are generally undergraduate students in their final year at university.

They may be looking for an opportunity to gain work experience in their chosen industry, and use existing connections between their university and relevant companies to arrange this type of placement.

Which industries use interns?

Internships are commonly offered in the following industries, but it is worthwhile talking to a careers adviser to find out more:

  • Graphic design
  • Journalism
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Media
  • Science and engineering
  • Fashion/design.

Where can I find internships?

University careers departments should be the first point of contact, and will have details of companies that have previously offered internships. Alternatively, you could contact a company directly. 

Even if they have not offered this type of contract before, they may see the value of it for both sides, particularly if they are looking for a graduate entrant in the future.

Websites where you can find current internship vacancies include:

Benefits of an internship

Although not all internships are paid, you will gain specific experience of working in your chosen sector and have a valuable addition to your graduate CV.

This alone can boost your chances of getting the job you want after graduation, as it sets you apart from your competitors.

The benefits of completing an internship are many, and include:

  1. Gaining practical experience of the world of work - during your placement, you will get to do lots of different tasks, which will help you to build your organisational skills.
  2. Specific exposure to your chosen industry - you will gain lots of experience in the field you are looking to enter.
  3. The chance to gain and improve on life skills such as leadership, communication and time-management.
  4. Enhancement of your CV - doing an internship shows initiative and potential employers will see this as a positve addition to your CV.
  5. The opportunity to show that you can deal with challenging situations - again, these soft skills are highly sought after by employers.
  6. Being able to connect and network with people in your chosen industry - an internship may help you gain new contacts that could be useful for your future employment.
  7. Your chances of getting a job will be boosted - sometimes, especially if the company feels you have performed well, you might be offered a permenant or temporary role where you can continue to add to your experience.

Potential negative aspects of an internship

The fact that internships are generally unpaid has been a topic of debate for many years, with some people claiming ‘wage theft’ by the companies involved. 

Some of the negative aspects of an internship might include:

  • No guarantee that you will be offered a job at the end of your contract
  • Potential exploitation by some companies who using interns for menial tasks, giving no thought to the level of experience and skills they should be gaining
  • You may need to find other ways to support yourself whilst working
  • Perhaps you cannot afford to work unpaid.

Is an internship right for you?

The best way to approach an internship is with your eyes wide open. Ask yourself why you are considering it – is it a ‘rite of passage’ in your particular industry? Are you unlikely to gain employment without it?

Most students view an internship positively, as it can make a huge difference to your employability following graduation. 

Successfully completing your contract and receiving positive feedback speaks volumes, not only about your practical ability to do the job, but also about your personal qualities and work ethic.

The best advice is to negotiate with the company before agreeing to a position there. You need to establish:

  • the hours you are expected to work
  • whether you will be paid a wage, only your expenses, or nothing at all
  • an agreed list of the roles you are expected to fulfil.

Being armed with all the facts will help you make the right decision, and the experience should prove to be worthwhile. 

What happens after the contract ends?

Once the internship has finished, whether or not you are offered paid employment with the company, you need to make sure that all the skills gained during your placement are documented in detail.

This will considerably boost your CV and show future employers that you have what it takes to succeed in the world of work.

Further information

For more tips and advice on looking for graduate jobs, please see: