How to find an internship or work experience

Most formal internship schemes with big employers take place in summer - purely because it's the longest vacation you have. This does not mean its impossible to find an internship or experience at any other time of year but it may not be called an "internship" and it may take a little more effort to find.

Off cycle internships = internships not in summer

Some students have to do an internship or placement as part of their degree for a few weeks or a few months that don't fall in summer. January and February are popular times for academic programmes to fit this in.

However, it's not always that easy to find lists of these - it can be a case of picking through internships to see when they start and how long they are for.

Finding or creating your own internship

First look for advertised opportunities, but be flexible look at any type of job including part-time or vacation work. You could ask the employer if they would consider you for 5 weeks or 3 months (whatever length you need.)

It's likely you will need to approach companies speculatively to see if they have any opportunities. Do your research:

  1. Make a list of companies you are interested in - check the opportunities on their websites. Smaller firms can be located using company directories – listings of businesses in a particular sector, sometimes nationwide but often within a particular area. It can be easier to search in a small area at first – you may be surprised at how many companies you find.
  2. Do they have opportunities similar to you what you would like, but at a different time of year?
  3. What skills do you have that match their needs - what can you offer?
  4. Once you have your shortlist of companies to approach, make some phone calls (emails and letters take longer, and are easier to ignore). Aim to get a simple Yes or No from them as to whether they could offer you work experience – just be prepared to take some questions on why you chose their company. Once you have some positive responses, then write some glowing letters or emails to them, drawing on your research and explaining where you would fit in.
  5. If you don’t feel comfortable cold calling companies you could email. First establish the appropriate person to contact, then send an email and follow this up with a letter 10 days later. If again you don’t hear anything, call the person up to follow up on the email and letter with CV that you have sent.
  6. Using LinkedIn can be a quick way to connect with people, and ask about the possibility of work experience. Maybe try connecting with alumni who studied your course and get advice from them about how they secured work experience and whether they could support you.