Intern-tips

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Photograph: Steffen

Internships are like visits to distant, elderly relatives: you can learn a lot from more experienced people, they can be very rewarding, they involve numerous cups of tea, and they’re ultimately worth it if you get slipped a fiver at the end. Nowadays, it seems that entry level graduate jobs require not just a good degree, but also social media skills that surpass that time you got 15 ‘likes’ on a picture of your mate Dave bollock-naked with a banterous traffic cone hat, the blood of 3 sacrificial virgins, a Nobel prize, MBE, the Lancaster Award and 12 years of relevant work experience.

Internships can be a great way of bolstering your CV, and needn’t involve weeks of buying skinny decaf soya half-shot lattes and filing papers. Websites such as GoThinkBig, TargetConnect and Internwise offer a broad selection of work experience opportunities spanning a range of sectors from media to graphic design to law. As well as the practical skills learnt on the job, you are able to experience working in professional environments and, as many internships are unpaid, you will quickly learn how to budget strategically. In the summer, I spent 7 weeks as an intern in London, writing and uploading content for an online travel market-place. The team was small, friendly and welcoming, and, thankfully for me, making tea for everyone was a shared responsibility. As an unpaid intern living off the arse-end of my student loan in the capital city, I soon learnt that nights out and regular pub visits were off the cards, and sandwiches from Pret a Manger were replaced with limp salads made the night before (a great excuse to buy my first lunchbox since the age of 7). The placement was a fantastic way of establishing some semblance of routine to my summer, with a commute framing my 9-6 working day. I learnt many useful and, dare I say it, ‘transferable’ skills from the actual work, including research, copywriting, public relations with our clients worldwide, and added useful bundles of letters like ‘CMS’ and ‘SEO’ to my vocabulary.

Not all internships, however, will provide so much responsibility. It is important to research the companies thoroughly, and to decode the job descriptions. If the description is primarily ‘admin tasks’, you can expect to partake in a fair amount of filing, emailing, coffee runs, etc. This can still enhance your CV, however, particularly with regard to communications and team work. While some people are lucky enough to secure paid work experience, this is unfortunately not the norm, and some companies may be looking for a free assistant/office-bitch, so by all means ask the employers what responsibilities you can expect to be given, or what a typical day may entail. If you have to travel to your placement then it is reasonable for you to expect travel expenses, and many employers will also offer a lunch allowance.

Internships can sometimes end in job opportunities, or at the very least a good reference for future job applications, so make a good impression: brush up on your knowledge of technological acronyms, practice your phone voice, and consider setting that picture of your mate Dave to ‘friends only’.