An internship is a form of work experience but it is much more structured and the participant can expect a significantly higher level of responsibility and involvement. Internships are available in a broad range of job sectors including banking and finance, professional services, property, pharmaceuticals, engineering and IT. It is normal for companies that offer a graduate scheme to offer an internship programme although in some sectors, such as management consultancy, it is less common. Although the majority of opportunities lie with large graduate recruiters, smaller and more specialist organisations in areas such as advertising, publishing, political research, marketing, events management, property and environmental consultancy do recruit a small number of interns. Structured opportunities exist in both the public and not-for-profit sectors; the FCO and Cancer Research are examples of organisations with established internship schemes. The legal sector offers two week 'vacation placements' to both law and non-law students wishing to explore careers in this sector.
Opportunities normally last between 6 and 12 weeks and predominantly take place over the summer months. Internships are often salaried positions but this very much depends on the nature of the organisation hosting the placement. While internships are not essential in securing a graduate job, they can improve your employability significantly. A successful internship can lead to an offer of a graduate position with that organisation. It is difficult to simply define a 'successful internship' but it is important to remember that you will be assessed during the course of the placement and often you will have a project to complete. The internship programmes are aimed primarily at penultimate year students but, depending on the employer, there may be some room for manoeuvre. In specific sectors, such as investment banking, companies also offer targeted work experience opportunities for first year students as well as placement schemes directed towards the needs of graduates.
How do I get an Internship?
Internships are predominantly advertised positions and the selection process is often equal to that of graduate recruitment. Competition is intense and indeed can be more competitive than graduate recruitment because the numbers of opportunities are comparatively few. It is for this reason than anyone unsuccessful in attaining an internship should not be too downbeat: there are plenty of other avenues to consider in respect of relevant work experience.
Anyone considering applying for an internship in their penultimate year should be researching opportunities over the summer and during Michaelmas term. Use the links on the right-hand side to research advertised opportunities. It is also hugely important to consider and identify the type of organisations with which you would like to undertake an internship. The employer directories within the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre can help you to identify appropriate organisations as can resources such as Prospects and Target Jobs. The next stage is to visit the careers section of employer websites to find out more about their internship programmes. Closing dates vary but in some sectors can be as early as November or December. The majority of internship schemes will close between January and March but always check directly with companies, particularly if there is a sector in which you wish to gain specific experience. Don't forget the old adage that it is best to apply early!
As has already been mentioned the application and selection process for many internships is similar to that for graduate positions. Consequently it is imperative that sufficient time is given, initially, to submitting a strong application and, subsequently, to preparing effectively for the assessment centre. Refer to the information on this site in respect of applications and interviews; individual support is also available through the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre.
Internships - Disability Inclusive Employers
There are a number of not-for-profit organizations that work with graduate employers to facilitate internship and work experience opportunities for disabled students and graduates.