Internships can be undertaken during college, university or post university. They are usually temporary and may last anywhere between one and eighteen months. Internships may be paid or unpaid (often with expenses). However, interns should note that if they are not being paid, their rights are very different. See the government’s outline of employment rights for interns for more information.
There is no concrete definition of what constitutes an internship, however they differ from work experience in three ways:
Length: Internships tend to last months rather than weeks, with some lasting up to a year.
Time commitment: If paid, interns are expected to keep the same full-time hours as other members of staff
Work expectations: Internships are not training courses, and in most cases, interns will be expected to do real work that would otherwise require a paid member of staff
An internship will give you a better general understanding of the world of work. It will allow you to develop and hone the transferrable skills necessary for every future job, such as organisation, communication and teamwork. You will also gain explicit knowledge of a certain sector, organisation and job role. You will gain insight into the way that the organisation is run, far better than would through work experience. You will also be able to assess whether the industry or position is really right for you in the long term.
The experience and understanding you will gain will make it far easier to look for jobs in the future. Your employer will also give you a professional reference for future job applications. Furthermore, some internships are like extended trial periods, with a possibility of a full-time position at the end. In some industries, such as the media, charity work, and fashion, internships are the main route into employment. However, employment at the completion of an internship is never guaranteed.
Applying for an Internship:
Internships for university and college graduates are usually advertised on all the normal job sites. Often you can choose to specifically search for roles described as internships, or for roles with fixed term contracts. For students at university, you also have the benefit of your university careers service which may often run its very own internship programme. If you are still at school or college it is much harder to find internship opportunities but check the Eluceo network to see if there are any available in your local area.
Internships are usually undertaken when you know what career you want to go into. In this way, you should apply to an internship in which you have a real interest or some prior experience. Applications for most internships are similar to those for full-time permanent jobs. They will involve a CV or filling in an application form, as well as an interview. To find out more about this style of application, see our guide to CVs and Cover Letters and Interviews.