6 questions to help you nail your internship

If you're wondering how to get a new job, you might be thinking of doing an internship. But before you jump in, ask yourself these questions.

This can help if:

  • you're thinking about doing an internship

  • you've decided to do an internship

  • you want to know how to help your internship be successful

1. Why am I interested in doing an internship?

An internship is a short-term arrangement to get experience and on-the-job training within a business. There are both paid and unpaid internships. Some reasons for doing an internship include:

  • You're studying and want to get some experience before you move into employment.

  • You'd like to get into a different industry, but want to try it out before you commit.

  • You're struggling to get a job and think it will help to have skills from an internship included on your resume.

2. What do I want to get out of it?

That’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself, but here are some possible answers:

  • I could learn things like how to use a particular piece of software.

  • I could make contacts in the industry.

  • The work history will look good on my resume.

Be clear in yourself about what you want, and then share your goals with your supervisor.

"I wanted to get some hands-on experience and to make sure I was going down the right career path. We had a family friend who worked in local government and he was able to arrange for me to spend two weeks getting hands-on experience in the customer service and IT departments." – Erin, 23

3. Can I afford it?

Doing a budget before you start is a good way of sussing out your finances before you start. Consider your schedule and get specific about the details, such as the amount of time you want to spend there (e.g.one day a week for two months).

4. How do I get an internship?

Some ways to get an internship include:

  • Check out the websites of organisations you’re interested in to see if they run internships. If there’s nothing on their website, send them an email expressing your interest, and attach your resume.

  • Talk to your uni or TAFE if you’re studying. Some unis have pages on their website to help students find internships.

  • Go on to job search websites (such as SEEK or Pedestrian TV) and search by internships.

‘My advice would be to reach out to the company you might like to do an internship with to get a better sense of what they do to see if it fits with what interests you. And at the end of the day, go into it with an open mind; whether you like or dislike the experience, it's still helping you to learn about yourself and is therefore guiding you towards things that do interest you.’ – Sophie, 25

5. What are my rights?

In a paid internship, you must be paid the national minimum wage or the correct Award rate. It’s also a good idea to get a contract of employment outlining your roles and responsibilities, expectations and other obligations. It can get a bit tricky figuring out whether an unpaid internship is lawful or not. The Fair Work Ombudsman has more information on your rights in relation to doing unpaid work.

"One bad experience was through a law firm that offered 25 hours a week of unpaid experience for a few months. It’s important to be wary of internships of a long duration and a high amount of hours, as they might border on exploitation." – Beau, 22

6. How can I get the most out of my internship?

Some things that you can do include:

  • Ask your supervisor to give you regular feedback.

  • Ask your supervisor for a written reference, and for permission to be called by a potential employer.

  • Check in regularly with the goals you’ve set for yourself, to see if you’re on the right track.

What can I do now?

  • Read about getting a job.

  • Learn about your rights at work.