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

Jan 27, 2020

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. 

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