Finding work can be a challenge at the best of times but especially when you have only just qualified and lack experience. To get a job you need experience, to get experience you need a job… Cue… the internship.
Internships can provide you with exactly the sort of skills that European business leaders are looking for, such as: confidence, teamwork, self-motivation, networking and presentation skills, not forgetting, of course, experience. They can provide useful networking opportunities and ensure you have no unwanted “gaps” on your CV. All good tools for helping you get the first leg up on the labour market ladder.
There are a whole host of organisations out there offering internships for new graduates. If it’s an experience abroad you want then the Eurodyssée website (read our article: Two ways to kick-start your European experience) contains a number of internships and placements for 18 to 30 year olds, for periods of three to seven months. And of course, you can always contact your local EURES Adviser.
But hang on, some considerations should be taken into account before accepting an internship. Although internships do have clear benefits, financial gain is often not one of them. While many companies see internships as a way to spot and recruit new talent, others may not be quite so obliging. Some internships can leave young people feeling underpaid (or not paid at all), overworked and, well, generally exploited. “When well balanced, an internship can be the perfect professional relationship – a win-win situation. But be wary of companies that only see you as an ‘extra pair of hands’. Your objective is to learn new things and improve what you already know. If this doesn’t happen, it’s not useful,” says Diane Carvalho from Eurodyssée.
But don’t be put off by the unscrupulous companies out there. An internship can be an enriching experience that can give you your first break. Just be sure to do your homework first before accepting an internship. The following checklist can help you to make the right choice:
Do’s and Don’ts for finding an internship
- Keep an open mind when applying for an internship and cast your net wide applying for as many positions as possible.
- Research the company/organisation for which you are applying to ensure you make a wise choice.
- Ensure you cover letter and CV are relevant for your company.
- Check to see if the company has a policy of taking on interns at the end of an internship.
- Set out clear goals with an employer to ensure you get the most out of your internship.
- Focus only on one country – other countries may have more opportunities in your chosen field.
- Be put off by the language or culture. It’s easier than it seems.
- Let your plan become you’re rules but be flexible to adapt to what the world has in store.
- Let set backs put you off – you may have to send a quite a few applications before receiving a reply.
- Only aim for multinationals, SMEs can also provide interesting internships.