Internships: How to Find One and How to Own It

Sukey ScoreMy name is Sukey Scorer and I’m in my third year at the University of Edinburgh. I have spent the past nine months on an Erasmus exchange studying in Lyon, France. I am currently nearing the end of a ‘stage’ at euronews, and I have previously interned for a London-based music magazine, as well as writing for numerous student publications.
Ah internships, the holy grail for students. Nowadays they’re extolled as the ultimate gateway into your career, a life-changing period over the summer when you’ll learn new skills, be given tons of responsibility, and come away with a shiny new addition to your CV and an address book full of helpful contacts. Well that’s the idea anyway – reality can often feel a bit more like this :
Need experience for job. Need job for experience.
So how do you find an internship ? And if you do, how do you ensure that you won’t just be making coffee for your boss ? I asked some of my friends who’ve had success in this area to chip in with their tips and advice.
Finding the elusive internship:
  • Make a badass CV. Now is the time to take advantage of volunteering opportunities or student activities at your university so you have some basic experience. This demonstrates that you can at least hold down some form of responsibility to a future potential boss. Your CV is also the first impression that an employer is going to get of you, so make it look good, there’s tons of advice online to help you. And most importantly, don’t exaggerate or lie, it will only come back to haunt you later on.
  • Think small. Figure out what sector you’re interested in and then look for the smaller companies. It’s all very well to apply to the big names who have official internship programmes, but the competition can be intense. Smaller organisations are more likely to give you a chance – reach out to the person in charge and ask if there’s some way you can get involved, even if they don’t have a specific internship scheme.
  • Use social media. Don’t underestimate the power of Twitter. Follow companies, interact with them, and stay up to date in general with current events in your sector. Sometimes businesses tweet their internships before they publish them on their website, so this can help you gain a minor advantage.
  • Apply! Show that you’ve done your research into the company, don’t just fire off a generic application. Mention specific things they’ve done in the past and how you could use your skills for them in the future. Think about what you can offer that no one else can.
  • Interview like a pro (even if you aren’t). Richie, a friend of mine interning at the Saltire Foundation, says: “I researched the company I was going to the interview for inside out, I knew people’s names and faces.” He continues: “You want to be confident, when you greet the employers, smile, give a firm handshake, and always reply positively. If they ask how you are, always say great! Positive attitudes spark good impressions.”
  • Follow up. Check back with them to find out about your application – people are busy, so a little reminder won’t hurt. And be nice, Richie is of the wise opinion that a little schmoozing never hurt anyone.
Typical internship
You got an internship! Congrats! But now what?
  • Look the part. Dress smartly on your first day, unless you know the company has a particularly relaxed dress code. Even then, it’s better to turn up and feel like the the best dressed person in the office than to be sloping around feeling scruffy in jeans and Converse.
  • Get to know the team. Try to make as many contacts as possible without being obnoxious. When you’re introduced to someone, repeat their name back to make sure you remember it.
  • Get involved. Lea, one of the interns here at Euronews, thinks the most important thing is not to wait for someone to come and give you stuff to do, but to go and ask how you can help – in essence, take the initiative. Everyone will appreciate it and you’ll seem helpful and keen.
  • Be prepared. Busy as you’ll hopefully be, it’s inevitable that there will also be quiet moments, so bring a book or a newspaper so you’re not standing around like a lemon in the downtime.
  • Financial matters. Be clear about money from the start. One of my pals Millie told me: “It’s ok to value your skills and experience enough not to give them away for free. If they don’t offer you at least expenses, it’s ok to ask why not.”
  • All’s well ends well. When you finish the internship, get someone to review your performance and ask what areas you can improve in. It looks professional and will be helpful in the future.

World's greatest intern

Hopefully this will have been some help to you, but if you remain unsuccessful in the world of work experience then don’t become disheartened. Internships are like summer romances, they’re short and usually sweet, but unimportant in the grand scheme of things – and there’s always next year.
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