Making an internship work for you

2 minutes

Internships can be a great first step into your chosen career. An internship is different from a job, it is a fixed-term position through which you gain experience in a role. An internship can help you gain valuable career skills and knowledge. If you’re considering an internship, here are some tips that could help you. 

Prepare for your internship  

When you’re looking for internships, ask yourself: 

  • will it help me develop skills that will be useful in my future career
  • is it at the right level for me – for example, is it a summer placement for students or a gradate scheme 
  • does the company have a good reputation
  • will it help me to improve CV
  • is there a chance of a job at the end
  • If you can not answer yes to at least a couple of these questions, the internship might not be right for you 

Make the most of your internship 

Follow our 4 tips to make sure you get the best experience out of your internship.

1. Be professional

Treat your internship like any other job. This will help you to make a good impression with your colleagues.  

2. Take the initiative

There’s a lot to learn so take any opportunity you can find. Look for ways to get involved and help out. 

3. Make yourself indispensable

Try to develop a role for which involves regular tasks and fills gaps in the business. This can help you to gain a long-term position after your internship. 

4. Listen out

Pay attention to conversations about vacancies or any other opportunities that could help you advance your career. 

Build on your experience 

  • Email your supervisor to say thank you and ask that they bear you in mind for future jobs. 
  • Ask for a reference. 
  • Put the internship on your CV – highlight any important tasks or responsibilities you were given and the skills they have helped you to develop. 
  • Use your experience as an example during interviews and highlight the valuable skills that you gained. 

Find out more from experience

We asked interns at Skills Development Scotland about their experiences. We talked to them about:

  • why they chose an internship
  • what their role is like
  • what they enjoy about their role and why
  • the benefits of an internship

 Learn more about what internships are like first-hand.

Find an internship

If you're a student or recent graduate, your college or university career service should be able to talk you through internship options available to you. Look out for employer visits to campus or careers and internships fairs taking place. 

There are resources out there that can help you to find an internship and prepare for your role. Take a look at these useful links:

Unpaid internships

Under national minimum wage laws, any intern given a ‘worker’ role is entitled to be paid unless they’re working for a charity or a not-for-profit organisation. The legal definition of a worker includes being engaged for an extended period of time, having set hours and being given a specific role rather than work shadowing. 

Most internships fall into this category but not all do. In a competitive job market, many young graduates are willing to work for free. This is seen mostly in industries like the media, music, fashion and publishing. Whether you do that is up to you but make sure you understand what you’re signing up for before agreeing to any placement. 

Be aware of your rights. The UK government website has information on employment rights for interns.