An internship is a piece of full-time work experience, usually taken straight after university. The creative industries tend to offer internships that last 3, 6 or 12 months.
The whole idea is that you learn while on the job. If you took a regular job you may be expected to know exactly what you’re doing before you even get there but with an internship that isn’t expected of you.
Think of it as part job, part learning course. You’ll be run through what you need to do, as well as how to do it and you’ll often be shown how the agency as a whole operates (what the different departments are and how they work together).
You may also be given the opportunity to get involved with other parts of the business and sit in on meetings, that someone with your job title wouldn’t usually be able to, all in the name of learning. Some agencies will even give you a mentor to help guide your time at the company.
But don’t think you’re just there to take. You have to give as well. An internship is full-time and you’ll be expected to do everything that a regular employee would.
Don't be exploited
At FutureRising we believe that you should avoid interning for more than three months in one company. By then you will be fully integrated into the company and helping them earn money. You don't want to be taken advantage of and kept as an intern when you shouldn't be.
Remember that upaid internships are, in most cases, illegal. You have the right to waive financial payment and be paid with experience instead but that is your choice and not something an employer should force upon you. Be wary of any company offering a lengthy unpaid internship as they may be happy exploiting you in other ways too.
FutureRising is a good place to start and to network your way towards an internship check out the company pages inside our network. You should also talk to as many people as possible who you know outside of FutureRising and tell them what you are looking to do. We all know someone who knows someone but if you don't ask you don't get. Agencies will usually promote their internships but only through their own website and social media (give the volume of applications they'll get anyway, it would be waste for them to post these on job boards). But whenever we hear of any internships, we always post them in our jobs area which might be a little easier to check regularly than to try and keep up-to-date with every single agency's website.
For every conversation, be specific on what types of company you want to work at and when you are available.
Applying to internships
Once you have a contact or are aware of an internship opportunity, get in touch. Don't wait until next summer or once you have completed your studies. It's important to build a relationship, send a clear email stating your situation and your intentions.
When the timing is right, be clear on what skills you have, show that you understand who you want to work with and make it easy for them to offer you some time with them. Be up front in asking about money – it's important to check as some internships are paid very poorly and you might not be able to afford it.
Just like with any other job, you may have to go through an interview first. Whether it’s just a casual chat or full-on interview, remember to be yourself. It’s important to show off your true character. Prepare some questions to instigate conversation. Wear appropriate clothes to job. If it’s client facing role dress smartly. If it’s a creative role, remain presentable but feel free to dress a little more casually.
For more interview tips, read our guide to job interviews.
Ways to turn the internship into a full time job
Once you've got there, the hard work starts. Be busy, talk to people, complete tasks well and in good time. Don't rush them, make sure it's right but get it done and ask for the next thing to do. If all else fails, make the tea. The following sentence will turn you into the office hero "Hi guys, I've finished my bits for the day, could I make you a cup of tea?"
Depending on how long your internship is and what the company needs at a particular time, it may or may not be the right time to start working for them. If you've only got a couple of weeks in your summer holidays then you're not going to be hired full-time but you might be able to do a few extra weeks or arrange to come back during your next holiday. Regardless, it's good to impress them as they may be able to help you find work after you graduate.
If you are looking for a job and are on an internship, you've got to stick around and be useful. Make sure you are there for when they need you and after about three months, ask if you can become a full-time member of the team.
It's important to establish if they do want to take you on once you are working on real projects and impacting the output of a company. If they do then great, if they can't then you need to line something else up soon.
Above all, internships should work for you and the employer. They can be highly effective as you define your career path, helping you decide between a small company or a large company, an advertising agency or a media owner, working in creative or working in client services, the list goes on. Get in the right mindset, value yourself, give it your all and don't stop till you get a job.