The idea of an internship can be daunting, but they’re not that scary when you know what to expect and how to deliver

Internships can be seen a step closer to your chosen career path or simply a waste of time. The evolution of internship branches comes from the term ‘apprenticeship’. In eleventh-century Europe, tradesman would hire young learners, who served their master for most of their teenage years. According to the 1911 Labour and Apprenticeship book by Reginald Bray, the apprenticeship system’s main objective was supervision, training and filling job openings. Today the first two objectives may be true but the last one, not necessarily so.

In the late ’80s/’90s ‘internship‘ was new terminology to the working world and was not given much acknowledgement. The ideology of the system was that qualifications come first and serve as a foundation to enter into the working world.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century: internships have become a necessity rather than something desirable, especially in places where there are larger numbers of graduates, and so an increasing amount of competition. Many employers favour applicants whom have work experience or have been part of an internship programme.

Almost every industry in the UK offers internships to students and graduates. From the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme to simple office administration internships.


Internships can either be paid or unpaid; it is a bonus if your internship is paid for. If you are being paid to get experience in your field, you won’t have to worry about time management between your internship and a paid role because your internship does both!

Application Process

The internship world is a very competitive one. You are competing for an opportunity and may be up against a hundred other candidates. From personal experience, the requirements of the role are so high, it can make writing the application even harder. Cover letters have to be unique and individuals must demonstrate that they are the best candidate for the role and will be an asset to their organisation.

Interview Stage

This would be your last opportunity to ‘seal the deal’, to show that you are the best candidate for this role. During your interview you have to demonstrate to the panel that your qualifications and personality suit the requirements of the role, especially if the internship is paid for. Companies want to know their money is being invested in someone who is willing to work hard, occasionally work extra hours and carry out clerical duties.

Seeking Further Opportunities

Once you have accepted the job, as a paid intern, you must deliver what you promised and signed for as a minimum. As you are on a payroll, remember that your boss will be keeping an eye on you. Try to impress them by remaining organised, taking initiative – basically going the extra mile to impress and show their investment in you was worthwhile!

My Personal Experiences

I have had the opportunity to work in both paid and unpaid internship programmes. Both were in two very different industries as I was unsure what career to progress into.

Paid Internship Experience

My paid internship was in property management. I was responsible for reviewing and updating customer details. Most of my time I spent carrying out administrative duties. I developed my customer service as well as clerical skills.

Unpaid Internship Experience

My unpaid position was in an interfaith charity organisation, which was made up of six small teams. Although I was assigned to work with one team, I was offered the opportunity to work around the organisation. I gained knowledge and experience, from dealing with finances to liaising with MPs. I even had the opportunity to travel!

When compared, I rather enjoyed my time at the unpaid internship programme. I was encouraged and supported by staff members to develop my current skills and learn new ones. Both experiences however gave me an insight of what to expect if I was to consider either career at entry level.

Although my personal experience of paid internship work was not what I had expected, that does not mean it will be the same for you. I would encourage any student, especially while at university, to apply for various types of internship programmes, whether paid or unpaid. By ‘test driving’ various career paths via the internship rout, you are likely to make an informed choice when choosing what career sector to go into.

And remember, no internship is ever a waste – everything can be used as experience!



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