How to find an Internship


This internship guide explains how to find an internship that will assist an undergraduate’s career development.


The guide is designed to help undergraduates who need to plan and secure their own internships, as opposed to those internships that are organised by their university or college.

The prime purpose of an internship is to gain one or more of the following benefits:

  • exposure to a particular type of work
  • exposure to one or more types of employer or industry sectors
  • opportunity to learn and develop a range of skills, behaviours and knowledge
  • opportunity to gain experience of employment practices and business requirements
  • utilise the value from the experience to provide answers to an interviewer’s questions
  • Confirm one or more of the above in their CV or resume


1. Timing your application enquiries

Good value can normally be obtained from an internship undertaken during any holiday period. However, in order to avoid negative impact on exam preparation or other study requirements, this guide focuses on gaining the benefits from an internship undertaken during a summer vacation.

Given an academic year of October to June, then it’s recommended that you commence internship application enquiries with potential employers prior to Christmas. There is normally value to be gained by making your enquiries earlier rather than later.

2. Identifying & selecting potential employers

Normally potential employers can be identified from one of more of the following options:

  • University web sites and career advice services
  • Family, friends, fellow students or tutors
  • Networking
  • Organisation websites

Try and select potential employers on the basis of:

  • Alignment with the type of career you are planning and / or
  • The reputation, credibility or profile of the employer

Each of these will normally offer good payback to your requirements – however, there is an alternative option.

The alternative option is to focus on the potential ‘intrigue or curiosity’ value of an employer. So securing an internship at ‘The White House’ or ‘Number 10 Downing Street”, or with your local Member of Parliament or government representative may not offer significant value for your chosen career, but it can offer positive value for your CV and provide a significant focus of interest and curiosity at job interviews.

i.e. Talking about an internship working in the office of a member of government will normally provide more raw material for your answer to interview questions than possibly working in a fast food outlet.

Contact details for most employers can either be obtained from your original source such as family, friend, or university, or direct from the organisation’s website. Finally, identify the email details for the most suitable person for your enquiry, and if in any doubt, telephone the organisation to obtain this information.

3. Your applications

Draft an email or covering letter briefly specifying your request for an internship, your availability for an interview and send this with your undergraduate CV. At this stage it may helpful to be quite specific or quite open as to the type of work or department you actually work or whether or not you expect to be paid.

Keep an up-to-date log of all your communications, employers’ responses and your follow up actions. The actual quantity of applications required should be sufficient to generate the result you are seeking, bearing in mind the need to be flexible if your top choice cannot help.

4. Your undergraduate CV

There’s no need to duplicate in your covering letter all the content of your CV, as this should be attached to your email cover letter. See our undergraduate CV guide for additional guidance on how to produce a good quality Undergraduate CV.

5. Interviews

Normally employers do not conduct structured face-to-face interviews with applicants for an internship. However, short telephone discussions, informal face-to-face meetings or exchange of emails are quite usual in order to exchange basic information.

However, when such meetings are arranged then the individual should attend as requested and be prepared to be very clear on their dates of availability and for a few questions about their ability to perform the potential duties outlined by the employer. This should include reference to any specific requirements aligned to a disability that may affect performance of certain duties.

6. Term of employment

It is not unusual for a summer internship to be confirmed by little more than an email confirmation of the offer together with start and finish dates. Alternatively, an internship offer can be made along similar lines to a normal offer of employment, complete with contract and request for references. So be prepared for either of these two extremes – or anything in between.

7. Follow up

Once the offer of an internship has been confirmed, ensure you respond promptly by thanking them and confirming all the details requested by the employer. Given that the Internship may not commence for some months then it is advisable to double check with the employer a couple of weeks ahead of the actual start date to ensure no misunderstanding.

We hope this guide on how to find an internship will assist your career development.



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Written by Stephen A Isherwood