The Smart Internship Guide: Everything you need to know about completing an internship while at Uni

Getting stuck into your degree is a really exciting time. There’s a lot to take on board, decisions to be made, and a lot of freedom too. You might be thinking your career is a problem for the future you but as an undergraduate, you’re actually perfectly positioned to set yourself up for career success now.

How do you do this, we hear you cry! 

Well, one of the best ways is through a structured internship and it’s your lucky day as we’re taking a closer look at everything you need to know to get started.

➡️Editor’s comment: For this post, we collaborated with Sid Balachandran from Springpod.

First Things First: What is an Internship?

Internships are opportunities offered by employers that allow students and early career starters exposure, experience and understanding of specific roles and industries.

They tend to last anywhere between a week or 12 months, with many being offered for 3-6 months on average. Most internships are focused on one particular role, but some offer you the opportunity to work in a few different positions within a company.

There’s generally a lot of variety around internships. Some placements are offered as part of a degree course and embedded in the curriculum, allowing you to gain credit if you undertake one. Many universities also work with employer partners to offer internships during study breaks. Other internships allow you to attend one or two days a week to fit in with your studies.

Outside of university, companies offer their internship programs and placements directly to new graduates or current students during their summer and winter study breaks.

Internships have traditionally been unpaid, but this is changing as employers seek to be competitive and reward students for the work they contribute. Where they are unpaid, it’s not uncommon for employers to offer additional incentives such as travel and lunch reimbursements.

What is the Difference Between an Internship, Work Experience, and Volunteering?

There’s a lot of crossover between the three, with the terms ‘internships’ and ‘work experience’ often being used interchangeably. That said, there are a few core differences:

What Should You Consider When Looking for an Internship?

Once you’ve made a decision about the types of roles you want to get experience in, there are a few other things you might want to think about:

  1. Location Location Location – Make sure any internship you apply to is within a fair commutable distance. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to consider whether an internship abroad appeals to you.
  2. Time Commitments – How long is the internship for and how is it structured? Will you be expected to attend a certain amount of days a week? How will this impact your studies?

  3. Paid or Unpaid – Is undertaking an unpaid internship something you can commit to financially?

  4. Company Culture – When researching companies, have a think about where you see yourself, and what type of vibe you think you’d thrive in for work. Finding somewhere that’s a good cultural fit will lead to a great experience.

  5. The Practical Stuff – What types of tasks do you see yourself doing at work? What tasks do you really enjoy and not enjoy? These questions help you build a better picture of what you want to be doing, so you can target the right opportunities for you.

When Should You Apply For Internships?

This will come down to your own thoughts around how you want to complete your internship. As mentioned, some are already embedded as part of your course, whereas some you’ll have to proactively apply for. 

When thinking about when to apply consider:

  • Whether you want to gain credit or not. If an internship is offered as part of your course, you’ll need to apply for and be accepted into the unit. Make sure you know the deadlines for doing this. (Hint: It’s typically a semester or two before you do the unit).

  • If you’d rather focus on your studies during term time, utilising your breaks could be a great opportunity for an internship. These can get snapped up quickly, so whether you apply through your university or directly with a company, check out time-frames and application deadlines. (Hint: Put reminders in your phone so you don’t forget!)

  • Many internship opportunities are targeted at new graduates. Once again, these can get competitive so research the companies you’re interested in and sign up for alerts so you know when to apply. (Hint: It’ll usually be before you graduate, ready for you to start once you’re done!)

Where to Find Internships: Some Helpful Resources

There are HEAPS of resources and websites out there offering internship placements. Your university careers team is one of the best places to start, but additionally, you could:

  • Tap into your Personal Network (Parents, friends, relatives, etc)
  • Research the Top Employers in your industry and their program offerings
  • Review Springpod’s Company Profiles for their internship opportunities
  • Sign up to the Gov.UK Find an Internship Service

Where to Next?

We bet internships are starting to sound like a better idea by the second. If you’re keen to get started, you can create a Springpod Profile that allows you to track potential companies and their opportunities, as well as ask questions to Company Ambassadors. 

Graduate Coach Hosts a Workshop at Vita Student Edinburgh

Our founder and head graduate coach, Chris Davies was invited to Vita Student’s Edinburgh location to deliver a workshop to a group of students. 

Vita Student is a student community with a difference. Its mission is to deliver an inspirational community and fuel success as much as the university experience itself. Through business engagement events and online initiatives, Vita Student provides a platform for partner companies to connect with future talent and their students gain access to industry and opportunities to inspire them to succeed. Vita Student helps bright young people to BEGIN BIG. 

The Workshop

On the 20th of November, Chris Davies and René Mance travelled to Vita Student Edinburgh, Scotland via train from London. 

When they arrived, they were welcomed by Grace Thompson the Alumni & Partnerships Manager at Vita Student. They were impressed by the stunning student accommodation and facilities, such as the social spaces and gym equipment. 

Chris delivered the workshop in a communal living space with a big screen to share his presentation.  

During the workshop, Chris covered a wide variety of topics with a core focus on employability skills for graduates

The key takeaways from the workshop were:

  • Academic excellence is not enough 
  • Build employability skills now
  • Demonstrate employability skills at all stages of the recruitment process
  • Learn your career typology and the job titles that will suit you best
  • Do not wait until you graduate to start preparing for your job search

Our Feedback

“Graduate Coach shared expert insights to provide our students with real advice and a constructive action plan to start achieving their career goals, tailored according to course, year of study and future aspirations.” – Grace Thompson Alumni & Partnerships Manager at Vita Student 

Graduate Coach Workshops

We host career coaching workshops on a one-to-one and group basis. These workshops are designed to help students and graduates to discover their career path, gain a deeper understanding of the graduate job market and work out what types of careers will suit them best.

Click here to find out more about our workshops.

Chris Davies delivering a career coaching workshop at Vita Student in Edinburgh.

The State of the Graduate Job Market in 2020 [Infographic]

In this post, we give an overview of the graduate job market in 2020.

Overview of the graduate job market

Up until 1990, the number of graduate job vacancies matched the number of graduates. This meant new graduates could essentially turn their degrees into graduate careers. 

However, now there is an overabundance of qualified graduates competing for a much smaller number of jobs. To put this into numbers, at any given time, there are 2.3 million graduates searching for a job, and there are only around 30 000 graduate job vacancies advertised per month.

Check out our press release on why it is so hard for graduates to find jobs nowadays. It includes an infographic that provides an accurate snapshot of the current graduate job market supported by facts and figures.

What graduate recruiters are looking for

Recruiters are looking for graduates who possess a transferable skill set and a range of work experiences.

Having a degree is no longer a differentiator. In order to stand out as being a high-quality candidate, you must show graduate recruiters that you have what they are looking for. 

Graduate job applications are rigorous and demanding. The typical application process involves multiple stages including: 

  • An online application form 
  • Online tests 
  • A video and/or telephone interview 
  • An assessment centre 

Throughout all stages of the application process, you must demonstrate to the recruiter that you are competent to perform highly in the job and that you genuinely want the job. 

It is vital that you demonstrate the following skills: 

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Organisation and planning 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Professionalism 
  • Working on your own initiative 

Why graduates find it hard to get a graduate job

Here are 4 key reasons why graduates are having a hard time finding a good graduate job in today’s graduate job market:

  1. There is an overabundance of graduates competing for too few jobs. Graduates are not just competing against candidates who graduated at the same time as them. There is competition from older graduates and international students.
  2. Academic success is no longer a differentiator to employers who are looking for experienced graduates who can demonstrate their skills. Many graduates do not have work experiences to convince employers that they have the required skills to excel in the role. 
  3. The demands of the job market have drastically changed. More and more jobs require candidates to possess digital skills. However, despite this fact, the content and delivery of many degrees have remained unchanged. 
  4. 90% of graduates have non-vocational degrees, and find it really difficult to work out what type of career would suit them best.

If you are a student or a recent graduate, we strongly recommend that you read The Student Book, as it contains everything you need to know to get the job you really want. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you are finding it hard to land a good graduate-level job in this competitive graduate job market, get in touch with us. We can help you.

Further reading:

Technology Graduate Schemes [Ultimate Guide]
Why technology is the go-to career for graduates in 2020…
Key employability skills for graduates

Why technology is the go-to career for graduates in 2020…

Craig Allen is Director at niche technology staffing firm Nigel Frank International. He has over a decade’s worth of experience in IT recruitment, having graduated from Newcastle University in 2007.

As you reach the end of several years of hard work, the reality of finding employment is probably starting to kick in. Do you need to specialise further? Are there enough jobs in your chosen field? Do you even want to do it now?

It’s a dilemma that faces soon-to-be-graduates, as worries manifest over how to start earning a good wage in a secure environment.

Often, what seemed a viable career option four years ago may not be as straightforward now that the talent pool has been flooded, and your chosen industry is much more competitive.

Rather than panic, this could be the perfect opportunity to take stock of the options ahead of you.

If you still have the fire and desire to succeed in your chosen field, then your decision will be much simpler. But, if you are having second thoughts, then technology may provide you with a viable career path as you look towards the end of your academic life.

Tech grad scheme

But why?

The industry is an incredibly exhilarating place to be right now. Think about your own life and the part technology plays in it: no matter your age, you will rely on digital solutions more and more in your day-to-day life.

Whether that’s switching your television viewing to streaming platforms such as Netflix, or paying bills online, these simple changes rely on new platforms and constant innovation.

Our world is moving towards one where technology is the dominant force, and the ability to play a part in shaping this is exciting.

And it’s not just you that’s reliant on technology. Businesses are focused on increasing their use too, from employing bespoke software to streamline internal processes for maximum efficiency, to making customer data more secure by using cloud storage solutions.

All of this requires skilled talent, and as the need for that has exploded in the last decade, there’s a critical shortage at present that shows no signs of improving.

Businesses are in desperate need of workers with the right knowledge to fill the skills gap, meaning employers aren’t holding all the cards when it comes to finding solutions.

Talented graduates are an appealing way to address the issue, and this need for adaptable, digitally savvy people gives you the chance of a lucrative career straight out of the blocks.

Is it secure?

Absolutely. The demand for technology from a consumer point of view simply won’t slow down. If I offered you a mobile phone with less capability on it, would you accept?

Even if it offered you a huge cost saving, my hunch is that you’d say no. We’re in an era where a new smartphone costs £1,000 – that’s the value we place on tech, and it’s not a flash in the pan. 

People are becoming more reliant on technology in almost every single industry, from sales to medicine. Even traditional sectors such as construction are embracing this new way of working.

The global shift towards digital solutions is becoming the new normal, giving you job security for decades to come. 

The World Economic Forum has predicted that at least 133 million new jobs related to tech will be created around the world by 2022.

That will cover a huge myriad of technologies, with limitless opportunity to travel. Coding, for example, is a universal language (although you may need to be able to speak the native tongue as well). If you can do it in Brixton, you can do it in downtown San Francisco—you will be armed with a skillset that’s in demand around the world.

What’s in it for me?

While we all want job satisfaction and the perfect work-life balance, remuneration will always play a part. That’s likely why you’ve dedicated this portion of your life to study; to put you in the best position to earn a higher salary once you finish university. 

With talent in high demand, professionals working in tech can negotiate a much higher pay than the national average. The average wage for graduates in the UK is around £19,000; this rises to £30,000 for those in tech, with a usual salary for experienced professionals of £50,000.

Not only that, but the benefit packages offered to attract workers tend to be favourable too. We interview tech professionals on an annual basis to find out what it’s really like working in niche technology ecosystems, and in the process, we see first-hand the sort of perks that employers are putting in place to land the best talent. 

This year, we found that two-thirds of those working with cloud platform Microsoft Azure spent at least one day working from home, with 9% spending the entire week based remotely. Homeworking is a highly-valued benefit and more and more employers are offering that flexibility as the battle for tech talent intensifies.

With higher-than-average salaries, great benefits that provide an optimal work-life balance, and job security that very few industries can offer, it’s no wonder that tech is seen as such a lucrative career option for those who may not have considered it previously.

But my degree is in…

Of course, the initial worry will be that you’re totally unfamiliar with the industry. You might be wondering if your degree contains enough transferable skills. Thankfully, being able to demonstrate a desire and ability to learn may well be enough to get you in the door.

Over a quarter of the professionals, we questioned for our salary survey hadn’t even studied at a college level, which is a high number of people being able to forge a career without being held back by a lack of industry-specific qualifications.

It would be insincere to suggest that you can just walk into an interview for a Developer’s job with a degree in archaeology and a smile; there’s more to it than that. You need to be trying to get some experience. That can come from self-study, or trying to learn in a real-world environment.

Many non-profits, for example, will have software that has been donated to them, without a team who can really take advantage of this and implement it. Look to your local voluntary organisations to see if there’s a way you can contribute and get hands-on.

This experience, coupled with your ability to learn a subject at university, will stand you in good stead when looking at tech jobs. An interview isn’t just about who has the longest list of accomplishments on a CV, it’s about establishing a culture fit and whether you have the right personality that the organisation is looking for.

Given how fast things change in tech, a hunger to learn and track record of adapting to new situations will often trump skills taught in a classroom.

In short

There’s no getting away from the fact that tech won’t be the perfect choice for every graduate. When things go wrong they need an immediate fix, which means problem-solvers who can think clearly under pressure will naturally thrive in the role more than others.

The flip side means that if you fit the bill, you’ll be much in demand. You’ll be rewarded with a great salary and benefits that allow you to have a fantastic work-life balance.

As new platforms and technologies emerge you’ll have transferable skills, and your experience will only make you more valuable as you have a greater appreciation of how to come to terms with new innovations.

You may have seen viable career options appear and disappear in the short time you’ve been studying—the good news is that technology is here to stay, offering you a fantastic career option if you choose to pursue it.

Following Up After A Job Interview [4-steps]

Once you have completed a job interview, it feels like the hard work is done. A huge exhale of breath is usually followed by introspection at how the interview went.

You run over in your mind all the good things that you did, but of course, it’s human nature to dwell a little longer on the mistakes that you felt you made along the way.

And then you wait. You wait for a phone call, or you wait for an email to let you know if you have secured the job or not. Except, maybe this is not the right way to go about things. Maybe there are certain steps you should have followed after the job interview was completed.

In this guest post by Ellie Coverdale, we share four proactive steps for following up after a job interview. 

1. Find out the next steps before the interview is over 

During your interview, it’s a good idea to ask the interviewer what the next steps are.

This is an effective approach for two reasons. Firstly, you are showing an element of nous and organisation in asking this question. Now, not asking it is not going to work against you as such, but enquiring does show an important bit of gumption.

The second benefit to taking this approach is that you now know, or at least have a good idea, what the next step will be.

So you know how long you will probably have to wait, and you will know if you need to do anything (be proactive) or simply wait by the phone. It clarifies the next step in your mind, which can never hurt.

Pass your next interview

2. Send a ‘thank you’ note 

Really? Well, not a physical note, obviously, but an email to the person you were dealing with before the interview was conducted to thank them for their time and for meeting with you.

“Sending a ‘thank you’ note may seem a little old-fashioned, but that is just one of its charms. The fact that perhaps not a lot of people do this anymore will stand you out from the crowd, and anything that does that in a positive way had to be a good approach to take,” recommends Charlie Kravtitz, a career blogger at Academized and Stateofwriting.

You may find it useful to find a ‘thank you email template’ online. Generally, in your thank you email, you will:

  • Thank the person and company for meeting with you.
  • Reiterate that you are interested in the position.
  • Cover any points that you feel you failed to cover and provide any relevant additional information


  • As a rule of thumb send out your thank you note within 24 hours.
  • Don’t forget to use an eye-catching subject line.
  • After every interview, send a follow-up email.

That doesn’t mean regurgitating what is on your CV, of course. But anything that you wish you had said in the interview but didn’t can now be included in the email, so it’s a good way of rounding everything off. Try it. Oh, and make sure you do it quickly too.

3. Ask if you can connect via social media

Another question that you should ask in the interview itself, or you can include in the ‘thank you’ note, is to enquire as to whether you can connect with the company via the right social media channel, which to all intents and purposes here, is probably LinkedIn. The company’s other channels are for marketing, and so anyone can follow and like the company there, but LinkedIn is different. 

“LinkedIn is something a little more focussed on recruitment and B2B. Getting in this way keeps you fresh in the company’s mind, and just reconfirms your proactiveness and desire to get the job,” says Piers Cuelmo, a business writer at BigAssignments and AustralianHelp.

Connecting with the hiring manager

4. Check-in

Even if you have been told that the company will contact you, after a certain period of time has elapsed, it’s certainly not a bad idea to check in once more.

Obviously doing it too quickly will show that you are a little overeager, which could count against you, but certainly after a week or so it’s no bad thing to follow up with an email or a phone call to simply ask at what stage of the process the company is at in its decision making.


How do you inquire about a job after an interview?

So you’ve already sent your thank you email and you haven’t heard back, even though they told you that you’d know the outcome by now.

What should you do? At this point, it is worth sending out a follow-up email to inquire about the job.

They may well have given the job to another candidate however, it is possible that their recruitment process may have been delayed or the team is still in the middle of their decision-making process.

Enquire by sending an email reinstating your interest in the job and asking when you are likely to receive an update.

Whilst waiting to hear back, be sure to continue your job search.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post! Feel free to reach out to us here at Graduate Coach if you are currently on the hunt for your dream job – we can help you. Check out our 1-2-1 coaching programme or our interview coaching programme page for more information.

If you are a job seeker currently looking for a new job check out these related blogs posts:

Ellie Coverdale is a lifestyle writer at EssayRoo as well as at UKWritings. She has been involved in many projects down the years, which she has taken valuable learning experiences from, and she also teaches writing at BoomEssays.