5 Tips to Find Your First Internship | Top Universities

5 Tips to Find Your First Internship

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated March 22, 2021 Updated March 22, 2021

Sponsored by Nottingham Business School

Graduates today face the toughest job market in decades. Students leaving university over the next few years will be likely to face increasing competition and a shrinking number of graduate opportunities.

To market yourself to recruiters, it’s vital that you start thinking about ways to differentiate yourself right now. One method is, of course, via work experience.

Whatever your trade, having internships on your CV before leaving university tells prospective employers that you have experienced office environments, are committed to your career and have some knowledge of the industry you’d like to work in.  

Sadly, students often struggle with finding those first internships with zero prior work experience and only a vague notion of what they’d like to do… Read on for some simple steps to break through that first internship barrier.   

1. Perfect your CV  

Writing your first CV is always a bit of a catch 22: you need a CV to apply for your first internships and jobs, but haven’t yet got much to include. Or at least you think you don’t. In truth, you probably have lots to mention. Consider personal hobbies and extracurricular interests, volunteering and part-time work, and all the skills and knowledge acquired during your studies. What skills do you have that an employer could use? This could be anything from research and planning, to social media community building or Photoshop. Instead of organizing your CV based on employment, list your key skills and then give concrete examples of how you’ve acquired and utilized each one.

2. Make use of your university’s careers service.  

Your university’s career service is not just a place to discuss different career paths; it’s also a way of connecting with a large network of professionals and businesses. Find out about the alumni network and how you can make use of this, and ask about any mentoring or placement schemes. Attend networking events organized by your university, or contact alumni with interesting-sounding job titles directly – building these connections will help you find out about different sectors, and hear about new openings.

3. Send speculative applications.

Devise a list of companies you’d most like to intern with, and send out speculative emails. Don’t forget to attach your CV with a short personalized cover letter explaining why you’d like to complete work experience with them, and enquire about any upcoming vacancies. Keep track of the names of all the companies that you’ve emailed in a spreadsheet along with the date of your email and any response, keeping in mind, of course, that you are probably not going to hear back from most of them. For every 50 emails you send, you will probably hear back from about – say – five or so. Don’t let this get you down! Perseverance is all part of the process.

4. Check out job listing websites.

Browse through job listing websites to find internships, filtering by industry and role. However, don’t rely on this approach alone. Keeping in mind that many internships are not advertised online but are instead filled through word of mouth, it’s best to make use of a range of different methods to maximize your chances of finding a good internship.

5. Try volunteering.

While searching for your first internship, you could also try volunteering with an organization (political, charity, or a special interest group) that you admire and feel inspired by. This is a great way to build experience, develop skills relevant to your target role, and grow your network of contacts.

Access more internship opportunities via Nottingham Business School

Whatever your level of study, Nottingham Business School’s career advice team will help you score internships, jobs, understand your job market and send off picture perfect applications and cover letters to recruiters.

Nottingham Business School’s alumni community comprises of over 100,000 professionals working across all sectors globally. To meet with Nottingham Trent alumni and discuss opportunities and job markets, the university organizes regular events worldwide linking students with former students. Find out more here!

This article was originally published in September 2016 . It was last updated in March 2021

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