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Finding and Managing a Postgraduate Internship

Your Masters could be the perfect time to do an internship.

With a Bachelors degree already under your belt, you’ll be more attractive to prospective employers than ever before. So with some careful searching, you could end up with a great placement to accompany your new degree.

But how do you go about finding an internship? And, once you’ve secured one, how do you fit it into a postgraduate timetable? This page provides some simple advice.

Knowing what to look for

First, you need to know what you’re looking for. For example, where you would like to work, what you would like to do, and how you plan to fit a placement around your studies.

Where?

Internships are offered by a wide variety of organisations: from small, local businesses to large, multinational companies.

For small businesses, internships are a great way to get some extra hands on deck. Interns might be offered more responsibility at this type of organisation than at a larger business with more staff.

Bigger companies also offer internships, along with the benefit of a recognised brand. Some such placements are offered on an annual or rolling basis. They are likely to be well-established, and follow a particular routine.

What?

An internship is a great way to apply all the skills you’ll develop on a Masters, but it’s also a great way to look beyond your degree.

If possible, try to find an internship directly related to your dream career. That might mean working for a desirable employer, or directly shadowing someone whose job interests you (or whose work you admire).

Keen to do an internship, but still not sure exactly which industry you want to work in? Don’t worry. You don’t need to have your future career mapped out before you do an internship, and one placement certainly won’t tie you down to any particular path.

But if not, remember that internships can be a great way of working out what you don’t want to do after you graduate, as well as what you do want to do.

The value of an internship

It’s likely that most internships will provide you with some transferrable skills and experience that will be useful to you in the future.

When?

You may be able to find some internships which operate over a couple of days a week, over several weeks. Depending on your contact hours, you may be able to carry this out alongside your studies.

However, if your timetable is absolutely packed out, it might not be possible for you to do an internship during term time.

If this is the case, try looking for placements that are available over week- or month-long periods during holidays and reading weeks.

Getting paid

It’s not unreasonable to aim for a paid internship.

For one thing, you may not have time for a postgraduate part-time job on top of an internship, so a paid placement could make a real difference. For another, at this stage in your academic career, you have a range of skills and experience that could benefit a potential employer.

But don’t automatically turn down unpaid internships. Many employers do not (or cannot) afford to pay interns but will still provide you with a great bit of experience.

If you find it difficult to cover the cost of transport and accommodation, try speaking to your university. It may be that they are able to offer some help, to make it easier for students to carry out unpaid work.

Beginning your search

There are plenty of places to look when you’re hunting for a postgraduate internship.

Ask your department

Your university department is a great place to start your search. Faculties are usually keen for their students to gain relevant work experience.

So, try talking to your personal tutor or to our department’s careers adviser, to see if they know about any opportunities up for grabs.

Remember to also keep an eye on your emails, for advertised placements.

Consult your careers service

Your university’s careers service is likely to have some great industry connections. Plus, many businesses recruit interns by advertising placements with local universities.

Try browsing your careers service online for listings, or arrange a one-to-one appointment with an adviser.

Apply for on-campus internships

Some universities offer campus-based internships. These are a great way to boost your CV, and are usually available across a variety of areas, from public relations and marketing, to roles within specific faculties.

As universities understand the time pressures of Masters students, these placements are often flexible, and designed to fit around a busy postgraduate schedule.

Look out for university internship programmes

As well as offering internships themselves, some universities will set up programmes for placing students with local businesses and other employers.

These may be more common in vocational and professional subject areas (such as Journalism or Marketing).

They can make it easier to find an internship that’s relevant to your course (and fits your timetable). If you’re very lucky, your university might even provide some financial support for the placement.

Search industry-specific websites

There are many well-established, industry-specific jobs websites. For example simplylawjobs advertises vacancies in the Law sector, while Mediargh lists jobs in PR and Journalism.

Be sure to check these regularly for updates, as they’re likely to have a greater number of relevant of jobs than general, non-industry-specific careers websites.

Use general job search websites

Job search websites such as Reed, Monster,and Indeed often post internships as well as permanent vacancies, so are worth a quick search.

It’s also possible to set up notifications, so that you receive emails when new internships come up in your industry or geographical area.

Managing an internship

Keen to secure an internship, but not sure how you’ll fit it into your schedule? Check out our top tips on looking after your mental health while juggling postgraduate commitments.

Send out speculative applications

Is there a particular place at which you’d love to gain work experience? Don’t worry if they aren’t currently advertising a vacancy- you can put out a speculative application.

A speculative application is an application for a position that hasn’t been advertised, and doesn’t necessarily exist yet. The aim is that a business will consider giving it to you anyway, or else will bear you in mind as a candidate for the future.

Plus, by applying speculatively, you make it clear that you’re conscientious and keen for experience.

Perfect your online presence

It’s becoming increasingly common for companies to advertise positions on social media.

This makes websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn a great place to scout for internships.

Firstly, ensure you make a good first impression by cleaning up your social media presence.

Then, try searching. You can try tweeting, or posting by LinkedIn or Facebook, to let your contacts know you’re currently seeking experience in a particular field.

Start an internship sharing group

Does your course have its own social media page? If so, try looking on there for internship opportunities.

If not, make one!

Invite your course mates, and use it to post any relevant internships your peers may be interested in. With luck, someone else will reciprocate this gesture and post a link to your dream placement.

Ask your friends

Some businesses have rolling internships, meaning they almost constantly have at least one intern on the go.

If a friend of yours has been on this kind of placement, see if they can give you feedback on how they found it, and whether they think you’d enjoy it.

What’s more, they may well have some great tips which could help you to secure a similar placement.

Applying for a postgraduate internship

Once you’ve found an internship, it’s time to focus on your application.

Most internships require a CV and covering letter, though some may have other requirements. For example, you may be asked you to submit a portfolio of your work.

Sell yourself in your CV

Make sure you keep your CV up to date with all your recent experience, including your Masters.

Your postgraduate degree will really help to set you aside from other applicants who don’t have a Masters, so make sure you do it justice.

Now’s the time to start deleting irrelevant information from your CV. So delete those old babysitting credentials, and instead use the space to detail particular university modules that have helped you to develop relevant skills.

Convince them with a covering letter

A covering letter gives you the chance to go into real detail about the specific experience that makes you perfect for the role.

You should include all the ways in which your Masters course has prepared you for the internship. If it’s relevant to the placement, don’t be afraid to go into detail about some of the work you’re particularly proud of.

Aim to keep your covering letter to no more than a page in length. But make sure you don’t hold back when detailing the skills you can bring to the role, as well as the aspects of the placement that you find particularly exciting.

An employer is far more likely to remember an application with interesting information that’s specific to you, than a generic CV with no memorable examples of experience.

Getting more from an internship

After your placement, make sure you keep in touch with the company you interned with. They may be able to offer you work on a freelance basis, or let you know if a job opens up.

Impress at interview

If your internship application is successful, you may be invited in for an interview.

Before you go, make sure you:

  • Read up on the company – do plenty of research, so you know the background of the business, what it does, and how it operates.
  • Search it on social media – take a look at what the company puts out on social media. This will help you to develop an idea of their brand, and what they’ve been up to lately.
  • Prepare some questions – have a few questions about the business or the role to hand, in case there’s time for them at the end of your interview.

Internships while studying abroad

Many Masters courses abroad, for example in Europe, are two years long.

One benefit of this is that students are able to enjoy a full summer holiday between their first and second years of study.

Many students take advantage of this time by carrying out an internship or work placement, so that when they finish their course they already have experience and industry contacts in place.

If you’re interested in doing a Masters outside the UK, take a look at our study abroad section, which offers country-by-country guides to postgraduate study across the world.

Working during a Masters

Interested in working alongside your Masters studies? Check out our advice on finding the perfect postgraduate part-time job!

Last updated - 27/06/2018