Tips to Get Internships in London
By Joshua Neil
Students coming out of university nowadays find themselves in an impossible catch-22 situation: without at least three months experience- and come on, who can get that at university with all the sleeping and drinking we have to do?- there’s no chance to find a job: without a job, there’s no chance to get experience. The whole experience can be tedious, frustrating, and painful, but there is a way out. Internships are often advertised with very little or no experience, perfect for new-comers to an industry without the twenty years’ experience seemingly necessary in most jobs nowadays. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to get: internships can be as sought-after as proper jobs, and there are some skills which need to be learned if you’re going to ace the steps required to get one.
#1 Starting your Internship Searches
Before you start to look for what’s out there, there are a couple of steps which have to be worked out first, including a few questions which you need to ask yourself. The first, and most important/obvious of them, is do you know what you’re looking for? For many, even coming out of a degree, there’s no clue what their dream job or ideal career is: until you figure this out, you’ll just be spinning your wheels. An internship is the gateway into a career you want to spend a long time in, and to invest that much time and energy into something which isn’t going to help you in any great way can be disastrous. Looking around at what’s out there, going to careers fairs or your uni’s job office can help you get a clear idea of what you want to do, and set you up for finding an internship.
What do I Want?
Once you’ve decided on that, the questions that need to be asked are: what level of internship am I wanting at the moment? Internships can come in many shapes and sizes, and just because it’s in the sector you want to work in doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Some take up more time than others, and just because it pays more money doesn’t mean it’s right for you right now.
Look for what an internship can offer you, as well as what you can offer it- does it give you new skills? New connections and mentoring? Without gaining from it, an internship can only offer you money, and this won’t be useful as applicable skills when you’re looking for that next position. If the position doesn’t make it clear, send an email asking about the specifics- most companies will happily reply to someone clearly eager and interested in the role.
#2 Where to Find Internships in London
A great place to start is to research your industry: find the biggest or most suitable companies for you, and look at their sites: if they have internships going, apply! Even if not, it might be a good idea to send them an email, enquiring about opening positions: most jobs aren’t even advertised, and this can be a good way to get ahead of the crowd. If there are companies near you that look interesting, or that you’ve been keeping an eye on, going in and giving in your CV in person can be a fantastic way to show initiative- the first time I tried that, I got a call back within 20 minutes!
Looking Online for internships
The first place many look for interviews in London is on sites such as Milkround.com and Prospects: these are great places to look, which compile huge lists of internships, searchable by place, sector and interests. If you’re looking to carpet-bomb the industry, handing out hundreds of CVs in a day, these are the sites to go to.
However, there are some alternatives if you want to be more creative in your search: there do exist a number of internship-only search engines, like SavetheGraduate’s search engine, or inspiringinterns.com, which give you a complete list of all internships in your area, giving you a huge range to work from. These are definitely worth saving- checking back every day can net you a huge range of internships to choose from, and as long as you’re persistent, you’ll be sure of a good few replies.
Apart from that, career fairs, your university’s job centre, and even your friends and family can provide you with leads on finding that great internship- you ever know who knows who!
#3 How to Write a CV or Cover Letter for Internships
Applying for an internship is every bit as important and serious as applying to a full-time job- and in most cases, your CV should be laid out to reflect that. The usual rules apply:
4. Include a personal statement
5. Pay attention to the CV design, the hobbies section, your achievements section
Keep your CV professional, with detail only on your skills, experience and what you can do for the job. A very brief personal statement at the beginning should relay that you have the skills they need, and that you can be relied upon. If you don’t have much work experience you may follow these tips.
It’s not a terrible idea to have a CV which stands out from the crowd- some professionals recommend a blue border around your CV, which will provide a little bit of colour to the page and help it attract attention. However, just because you want to be professional and include all the right details doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be creative- it pays to think outside the box, creating ideas and formats that other people haven’t thought about. Most employers will want someone they think can offer fresh ideas and innovative approaches, and creating a unique CV- or even an online, social CV– can help you hugely.
The Cover Letter
For the cover letter, you need to expand on the skills you’ve laid out in your CV, showing how they apply to your internship, and how they make you the most capable candidate for the job. Make it personal, not generic – you don’t want them to think they their job is just one of hundred you’ve sent off for (even if it is)- you need to show that you care about the job, and want it more than anyone else. This is the key factor in anything you do while applying for an internship- being eager, and showing that you want the job passionately. Check out these 5 ways to improve your cover letter.
Think Like an Employer
To understand the key things you need to put across, it pays to think like an employer– what are they looking for in a candidate? As a newcomer to the business, your talents can revolve around this lack of experience: ideally, your degree or background will be closely related to the internship you’re going for, so you should have some knowledge of the industry and its workings, which will be a plus. You’re new, which can mean that you have new ideas and perspectives. Don’t be above anything: this can-do attitude sits well with employers, and shows that you’re keen. Above all, be enthusiastic and creative, and the job will be yours.
#4 Tips for Internship Interviews
When going for an internship interview, the usual rules apply: be professional, succinct, and dress well! When answering questions like ‘when have you demonstrated (this skill) in the past, the S.T.A.R. method is a good one to remember- Situation, Task, Action, Result– that is, say where and how you demonstrated it, and what came of it. Never waffle, but take every opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and the company, and show that you are keen to work there, and get a head-start in the career.
This is just as important in a Skype interview– even the dressing well part. Employers are looking for someone who impresses with their professionalism and dedication to doing well, no matter what, and making an effort for even a 20-minute Skype call can make the difference. Eye contact and body language, even over the internet, can change an employer’s opinion about you, so act confident! Ask questions of the interview (after researching the company, of course), and as in everything, enthusiasm, enthusiasm, enthusiasm!
#5 Other Tips
Once you’ve gotten the interview, there are still a couple of things to consider: if the job is far away, staying with friends or family might be a cheap or free way to live: if not, hostels can be very inexpensive, based on the money you’ll be making. If it’s too far away, or you just can’t afford it, try and request to work from home, and interact via Skype– with the right structure, it can still be a useful way to learn skills while leaving you with a flexible time schedule, and most importantly, some money left.
Seeking an internship can definitely be a frustrating process, and there’s a lot of competition out there for every role: but with the right skills, attitude and angle, you can stand out from the crowd: in the end, you will be successful finding an internship in London.
You may also want to check out our guide to student jobs in London.