Internships can be a great way to get your foot in the door, gaining valuable work experience in a position that would not normally be open to someone with your skills. Finding one and getting it can be hard though, especially in competitive industries like the arts, journalism or music. Here are some top tips on how to land that dream internship!
Instead of pinning all your hopes on a week making coffees at Vogue, for example, how about a month at the local paper? You're more likely to get longer, therefore more useful, experience at a less well-known place, and future employers are looking for quality experience - smaller places often give you more responsibility and more proper work than high-profile organisations. All great for that CV.
Perfect your CV
There are a lot of things to take into account when perfecting your CV for an internship: you should be aware of mistakes to avoid, and also use buzz words and mention your transferrable skills. Most importantly, make sure you tailor your CV to the internship you're applying for!
Write an enthusiastic cover letter
Why do you want to work in the industry, and at that specific company? What can you already do, and what are you excited to learn more about? What is the job you are aiming for? If you're applying for something in the creative industries or journalism, include a portfolio of your work. This can take a hard copy/printed form, or set up an online version - there are plenty of free and very simple platforms out there which will help you demonstrate the skills you already have, and show that you're genuinely enthusiastic about the sector.
Explore the routes in
Some organisations will have official application channels for gaining work experience. Some will be less formal. If you or your parents have any contacts in your chosen industry don't be shy - ask if they need anyone over half term or the summer to pick up extra work the team might be struggling with, or just to answer phones and make coffee if they're busy. It never hurts to ask and believe us - you'll never regret asking.
Stand out from the crowd
This is especially important if you are applying for an internship at a high-profile, in-demand organisation (with hundreds of internship applications every year) or if you're sending speculative letters, i.e. not through an official channel.
We heard of someone applying for work experience as a runner at a Soho film production studio, and with his CV he included a "tea chart" in the style of a paint sample booklet, with tea colours ranging from weak to blow-your-head-off strong, saying he was able to make tea to match any of the colours on that chart i.e. However the crew wanted their tea, he was their guy. Needless to say that his CV shot to the top of the pile and he landed the internship- he demonstrated humour, creativity, and of course, an expert knowledge in what keeps all British film sets going: tea.
A great LinkedIn profile can also help you stand out, especially if you’re still at school as this will be fairly unusual.
Be polite but persistent
Once you've sent your application or speculative CV and cover letter, follow up with a friendly phone call to make sure it's been received. Whoever you speak to will be impressed that a young person has had the initiative to ring up, and once you've charmed them with your glowing personality they'll be able to put a voice to a name. Ring back regularly (but not too regularly!) until they can give you a decision. Maybe once a week if they haven’t given you an exact date when they’ll be letting people know if they’ve been successful, or a day after the date they gave you if you haven’t heard from them.
Again this is part of standing out: a popular industry will be flooded with people just like you trying to get experience: you need to give them a reason to choose you.
Prepare for interviews
For some industries (law or accounting for example) you may have to go through an interview process, even though it's only for an internship. If this is the case it means that competition is seriously high and the organisation wants to ensure they only get the best interns. Treat this exactly as you would an interview: dress smartly, be prompt, prepare answers for questions that are likely to come up (and maybe some more 'crazy' ones) and read up on the organisation - the more you know about them the more enthusiastic you'll look.
Image courtesy of Caleb George