Internships: Be in the Driving Seat

Jeriel Bacani gives her top tips for landing that dream internship.

Internships are the norm for a majority of students, many are willing to work to make someone else rich whilst being paid nothing in return. But undoubtedly it is a vital gateway to earning experience in the working world and gaining skills essential for getting a job.

Internships have become a necessity in fact and graduate recruiters highly value work experience when assessing student’s applications for graduate roles. With over 50% of employers stating that graduates with no previous work experience are “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to receive a job offer, it really shows that irrespective of the academic results you’ve achieved, that First can’t secure you that dream job alone.

However, just like that dream job many internship opportunities are extremely competitive and sometimes not everything goes as planned. Be set for rejection emails, with a big tub of ice cream as cold as the sender’s heart, and be prepared for the shortfall of being a reserve candidate – a predicament pretty much akin to the “It’s Complicated” Facebook status.


The above may or may not happen and there is just no way to predict any outcomes that are simply out of your control. However, fortunately you’re the one in the driving seat when it comes to the preparation. 

First things first, be a realist:


Before you organize anything you need to weigh out your options.

Do you want a paid internship? Or would you happily settle for an unpaid placement? Summer internships for undergraduate students while they are valuable learning experiences are often unpaid. So be realistic and figure out whether the experience outweighs your need to earn an income.

I know that as a student the logic is unquestionable to opt for a paid placement. However, from personal experience the unpaid internships have proven the most valuable. Having gained work experience in Parliament and local governments, being an unpaid intern was easily compensated by the skills I gained and the people I was fortunate enough to shadow.

So whether you’ve decided to apply for a paid or unpaid placement, near to home or in the big wide world, consider a realistic budget for each scenario in terms of accommodation, transport and general expenses.

[TARGETjobs has a handy guide on How to survive on expenses]

Putting the ‘pro’ in productive, rather than procrastination

As a student, a much needed break is well earned after those long exam periods and personally, I often find myself putting things off and dawdling. Unfortunately most internships have a golden window of opportunity. Be aware of placements that are only exclusive to penultimate year students and others require pages of time constrained competency questions and online assessments.

For summer internships the application process starts in autumn the year prior and usually accepts applications until late February, to mid-April. Law firms, government organisations and finance companies usually have the earliest deadlines due to intense competition and extensive checks. It’s probably a good idea to be productive during the winter break to search for opportunities or make appointments with your academic tutor to explore which placements are worth the time applying and which are suited for your career choice.

Here are a few useful sites to kick-start your search:

TargetJobs | InternJobs | StandOut Internship: Hong Kong | Prospects: Internship Search | EuroPlacement

Applying – That’s simple enough! But is it?

I am sure I don’t have to outline the basics of application forms and having a tip-top CV ready that is an accurate and error-free record of your education and previous experience. However for a growing number of internships, especially top organisations and charities, you may need more than just the basics. Often they will ask for university transcripts, letters of recommendation, confirmatioApplicationn of study and a few government/public sector placements require a copy of your passport and a sponsor to confirm your identity.

For one of the internships I applied to, I was asked to travel and meet with an employee of the organisation to do a personal security clearance check and passport verification.

This was a vital requirement for the internship and travel costs were all at my own expense. So as you apply be aware of extra documentation you may need, you can typically order these documents so you already have them handy as at times they are needed at quick disposal.

Of course all internships are going to be different and some may require even more preparation than what has been mentioned here. But whatever you may choose to pursue, I wish you good luck and happy hunting.



By Jeriel Bacani

[Image Credit: GenericAsian | Flickr]


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