Debut works closely with leading UK employers across all industries that run internships. With Debut, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about internships, the top opportunities available now, and how you can land a full-time job.
Internships are short-term periods of work, or work experience, which often lead to a full-time role within the organisation, depending on your progress throughout.
Internships are a key part of the hiring strategies of large companies, and they can be extremely beneficial to students, even if there isn’t a guarantee of full-time work at the end.
The specifics of an internship vary from one company to another, though you’re more likely to find formal, highly structured versions in large industries such as finance, banking, management, engineering, and law.
The roles that you’ll undertake on an internship will generally vary, as they will have been designed to give you a general overview of the business and the industry – so you’re better able to discover which will be the best for you.
Usually, you’ll also undergo a level of supervised ‘on the job’ training that gives you an insight into how the company works, and what tasks you’ll be expected to do.
In an ideal world, your internship will be aligned with your degree studies, serving as a vital stepping-stone from your course to life in a real workplace.
(It’s a win-win both ways… employers get your enthusiasm, fresh skills, and willingness to learn, and you get valuable experience and epic networking opportunities!)
It all depends on the industry, and the company you want to work for.
Most internship opportunities will state their entry criteria at the application stage, so you can check if you’re eligible.
Larger companies, particularly in the financial and professional services sectors, tend to require a high level of academic ability (such as a 2:1 or above), while others may prize skills and previous experience more.
Think carefully about the skills you can offer, as these will help to give your application a boost. Creativity and problem solving, for example, are great assets to any company!
However, no matter how skilled you are, don’t apply for an internship if it requires a degree classification you haven’t got. Recruiters only have so much time to sift through the hundreds of applications they receive, and will only shortlist those that meet their exact criteria.
If you’ve already started your search for an internship, you’ll know that they appear in a number of forms!
Because each type is suited to different students and different career paths, it’s important to make yourself aware of the whole range… so you can choose your personal best.
Here are some of the main types of internship that you’ll come across.
A seasonal internship typically runs for around eight to twelve weeks, and can be either part or full-time.
Summer is by far the most popular season for these types of internships, as they won’t interrupt your university studies – and you’ll get to dip your toe into life at your chosen company, rather than diving in head-first!
While these are relatively short-term experiences, they can still be very beneficial, and will give you a good insight into what it’s like to work in a particular industry.
You’ll still have time to get into the swing of things and integrate with the team, as well as picking up valuable skills and experience.
Your university may help you with organising a seasonal internship (you might even have to complete one as part of your studies.) But if they don’t, it could still be a good idea to find one that suits you, as this will give your personal career development a leg-up.
As the name implies, a six-month internship takes place over… well, six months.
And if you’re serious about working for a particular industry or employer – and you’ve got the time to do it – this is the big-ticket item of the internship world.
You and the company are signing up to a serious commitment, so they’re likely to offer you more and wider opportunities to learn, and you’ll get more time to show them just how great you are!
Which, of course, will increase your chances of landing a job at the end of the process.
Looking to venture out of your comfort zone and see the world?
An overseas internship could be just the thing.
Not only does working abroad open you up to some of the biggest and best companies in the world, but it also gives you the opportunity to learn new things, experience a new culture, and maybe even learn a new language!
Yes, you’ll be challenged, and no, the internship probably won’t be short (we’ve seen a few that last years, not months.) But learning about cultural differences in business will definitely stand you in good stead in the future, especially when it comes to doing business with clients and partners in other countries.
It’s unlikely you’ll be travelling overseas with a small local company, so if you’re really interested in a foreign placement, it’s the global corporations you’ll need to target.
You may even get the opportunity to work for cutting edge, world-renowned companies like TikTok and Facebook… both of whom are on the search for interns!
(Be warned: these will be coveted placements, so prepare for a rigorous application process.)
If this is an opportunity you’re considering, be sure to have a read of our six things to remember when doing internships abroad as well as some of the best countries to do your internship abroad.
It’s a common concern that many intern roles are still unpaid.
To be honest, it’s something of a contentious legal issue as to whether an employer can ask you to work for free at all (you can read more about the government stance on your employment rights as an internhere).
But essentially, it all boils down to the work you’ll be doing, and for how long.
If you’re an unpaid intern, you’ll be limited in the scope of your work, but as long as the employer sticks to the law, there could still be a lot of positives.
For example, you can see what life is like inside a company you’re interested in, plus many career paths require some evidence of work experience as part of their entry criteria.
If you choose to go for an unpaid internship, do your research and check the details carefully. Are they offering to pay your expenses, for example, or will you have to pay for things like travel and lunch every day? How long is the company going to expect you to work for free?
For more information, you can read our full guide to unpaid internships here or check out this post on the important differences between work experience, internships and volunteering.
Ready to discover what internships are available?
You can start applying straight away to big name employers, including Capgemini, Bloomberg, UBS and Cisco, to name just a few!
Internships are available across many different sectors. Here are some of the most popular.
If the industry or company you’ve got your eye on doesn’t seem to offer internships, why not reach out to them directly, and arrange an informal work placement instead?
Internships are available right around the UK, but most can be found in the country’s major towns and cities.
As you’d probably expect, many of the world’s biggest businesses are based in London, so that’s where you’ll find the most opportunities, but that’s not to say there aren’t plenty wherever you’re based.
In the West Midlands, you’ll find loads of internships in Birmingham, but also in some of the many automotive manufacturers in the wider area, while in theEast Midlands, you’ll find opportunities in cities such as Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.
While you definitely won’t be offered the responsibilities of a full-time employee in that sector (phew!) you’ll be spending time working with professionals in your industry, getting a feel for the job and what it entails.
And that’s all going to give you a better idea if it’s something you want to pursue as a full-time career.
Speaking more generally, an internship gives you some real-life workplace experience, which you might be short on if you’ve spent the last few years as a student.
When it comes to applying for your first full-time job, being able to show that you have relevant experience and know-how in your sector will go a long way with an employer and help you to stand out in a crowded field.
Along with industry-specific know-how, you’ll also get to hone transferable skills which will be valuable no matter what you decide to do next, such as teamwork, organisational skills, time management and communication.
Your employer should be providing you with regular feedback on your progress, and in turn, you should have an opportunity to voice your own feedback on the company and its processes.
We won’t lie, graduate recruitment season can be tricky to navigate.
If you miss your chance, you may have to wait a while before applications open up again… so our advice is, don’t miss it!
No matter what industry you’re applying to, the earlier you can get your application in, the better, although for smaller companies and those that aren’t quite as competitive don’t necessarily stick to these specific dates.
As a general guide, September to December is generally when companies will go on their biggest recruitment drives when it comes to summer internships, and also when they’ll tend to open up their main internship applications.
(That said, internship opportunities can pop up throughout the year, so stay on the lookout!)
If you are lucky enough to get paid for your time on an internship, you may be wondering exactly how much you’ll earn.
Of course, this will vary from one employer, one industry, and one location to another (for example, a finance intern in London will probably earn more than a media intern in Manchester.)
So again, it’ll pay – literally! – to do your research.
And now for the most important question (drum roll please!)
Like most things in life, there are no guarantees.
Your best bet is to make sure you’ve checked all the details of the internship, making sure it’s absolutely right for you.
In other news, know exactly what you want to get out of the internship, work hard, accept feedback, and do your best to be a friendly person to be around! No company wants to hire someone who looks like they don’t want to be there, after all.
Remember, even if you don’t get the job, internships can still offer great experience and be a valuable addition to your CV, so do your best to make yours work for you.
For more tips on how to turn your internship into a full-time job, check out this post.