Tis’ the Season for Internships

As February rolls round it heralds the beginning of a new academic year for many … and with the new academic year, comes a new wave of internships that need to be completed – otherwise known as Work Integrated Learning (WIL).

Let’s call a spade a spade … WIL can be stressful. You have to secure the internship, it has to run for a set amount of time, it has to run between a set of dates and generally be on a set topic (which can be hugely confusing for the double-degree people out there)!

Whilst everyone hopes they will land the ideal role that will tick the boxes AND  be an amazing experience … the reality is often more like “Sh*t. I have to secure the internship”.

Indulge me for 60 seconds whilst we consider what WIL is for an employer. It might seem obvious right? An intern is 100 hours of free labour for the employer. Full stop. End of story. The reality is not quite that …

For an employer taking on an intern is a significant investment. Not only does it take time to find an intern, you then have to have tasks that they are going to both learn from and be useful for the company. You need to assume much of the 100 hours will be spent learning/getting them up to speed. The reality is – the quality of output from a student can’t expect to be compared to an employee with many years experience.

So why take an intern? Because interns are fun! Interns bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to an organisation. Because students need the experience, and in our case, we (the genYOU team) fundamentally believe that we all have to play a part in helping the next generation succeed.

However, from my perspective as the employer, if I’m going to take on an intern, I want to be sure I am investing my time in educating someone who really wants to learn from me! Not someone who is just ticking boxes.

So how do you make sure you are not just someone who is ticking the boxes? Here are my top 7 tips when applying for internships:

One // Don’t apply with the form letter that your uni suggests you use. Whilst it is arguably quite good and the uni should know how to write a good cover letter – as the employer, it is blatantly obvious who is just going through the motions and using the stock standard letter and who has bothered to make the effort.

My recommendation: Take the time to customise the letter properly – or better yet – completely re-write it and just inject the legal bits you are required to.

Two // Apply the same vigor as you would when applying for jobs. Although there is no logical explanation why, intern applications often look alot less slick than normal job applications. Maybe it is that you are not using your normal cover letter, or maybe is just doesn’t feel quite as important – whatever the reason – errors look just as bad and do not reflect well on you as an applicant.

My recommendation: Get your Mum, Dad, Significant Other, BFF or random stranger in class to have a proof read of your cover letter and CV. It’s a fact that it’s much easier to spot a mistake in a document you haven’t been reading over and over, so a fresh set of eyes is always beneficial.

Three // Research the company you are applying for. If you were applying for a “real job” this would go without saying. However, when it comes to internships I am always amazed at how many letters I get saying “I would love the opportunity to come and learn from your team and your organisation”. It is clear that you have no idea what I do … actually I’m not even 100% sure you know what our company name is.

My recommendation: Spend 10 minutes reading through the company website to at least understand what they do (and don’t just read the about page … it often has very little to do with what the company actually does)!

Four // If you are lucky enough to score an interview … research the company some more. On multiple occasions I have interviewed interns and my opening question normally starts with “why did you apply for this internship” followed by “tell me a bit about which of our events excite you most”. You would be amazed how many people can’t answer those questions!

My recommendation: As in any interview – you simply have to expect these questions. Make sure you have spent the time understanding the company and their products and if it is a bigger company: the team that you are aiming to intern with. Also, check out their social pages as it will likely give you some great insights on what the company is currently focussing on.

Five // Know what you want to get out of the internship. My third question is about you and learning what you want to get out of the internship. It’s not any sort of leading question, nor am I trying to catch you out. It’s just that job titles and teams can be broad – if you are applying for my events and marketing internship – don’t just tell me you want some marketing experience.

My recommendation: Before going to an interview, work out what you would most like to learn from the internship and then articulate that in the interview. Better yet – from your research above you should be able to link it to things you already know we do.

Six // Know what you can bring to the table. Yes internships are about you and your development but you also need to bring something to the table. After all, you are likely competing against some of your peers for the role, so being able to articulate your strengths is important.

My recommendation: Prep for an internship interview just as you would any other interview. Yes they are stock standard, but make sure you know your strengths, weaknesses and other such 101 interview questions.

Seven // Know where this fits into your overall career plan. Internships are a great way to “experiment” and I 100% endorse people giving stuff a go whilst they are at uni. However, there is a difference between giving something a go because you are interested and giving something a go because you have to do a subject for credit at uni and the reality is – you would rather be cleaning your bedroom than doing this internship … and trust me … I’ll know in a heartbeat which one it is.

My recommendation: If the internship you are applying for is a bit off-beat from your degree and study – tell me why you are interested in interning with me! As long as I understand your logic I will likely be okay with it.


>> A final little plug for our Brisbane followers

On the subject of CVs and cover letters … have you heard about the launch of our genYOU Inspire sessions in Brisbane? Our first session is on how to create a CV and cover letter for maximum impact! Places are limited. Find out more and book here.


>> At generationYOU we love presenting our content with a #NoFilter stamp. What does this mean? It means we share our opinions and perspectives freely. When it comes to managing your career, there is usually not only one answer! Have a different thought or take on a topic? Drop us a line on hello@generationyou.com.au … we’d love to hear from you!