In our previous post, we outlined the things you must consider when taking on unpaid work experience. But how do you go about sourcing your own internship? Luckily, we’ve rounded up our expert careers counsellors to give you their best thinking-outside-the-box tips so you can make the most of your Uni holidays and get some real life industry experience.
Margo Baas, Manager Careers and Employment Service
Know yourself and understand what your skills and passion can bring to an organisation before you reach out. The same concepts apply to finding a job, an internship, a volunteering role or even a partner in life! Knowing what you are looking for and what you can bring to the (working) relationship will dramatically increase your success rate in getting that informational interview secured, then talking to people who get you and finally securing that interview and the role.
Paul Fitzmaurice, Career Development Officer
Your parents are a database: Seriously! They really won’t mind especially if you’re polite! Your parents probably know plenty of professional people, based on years of living in the same location. Making contact is simple just by mentioning Mum’s or Dad’s name on the phone. Initially I would recommend asking for a face-to-face meeting to find out more about what they do. They will be impressed if you dress nicely and have a few good questions ready, and might even offer you some work experience on the spot. When it comes time to apply for a graduate job, those with the experience (paid or unpaid) will have the jump on those who don’t.
Vicki Tolstoff, Careers Counsellor
I always tell students that finding work experience or an internship is exactly the same as finding a job. The techniques are the same. Utilise the three most effective methods:
- Networking (including joining your professional association- it is never too early to join)
- Have a professional profile on LinkedIn and learn how to use it effectively to find and touch base with relevant contacts
- Conduct informational interviews
However, prior to embarking on the above 3 methods, you need to have a very professional resume and cover letter, as well as know the art of interview techniques. This will help to impress the prospective employers at the outset and they will come across as professional people who are savvy and tuned to the labour market and employer expectations.
Lauren Caramella, Careers Counsellor
One quick tip is to conduct informational interviews with people in industry to explore opportunities to undertake a mutually beneficial project. Often people in industry do not have a work experience program or know what they could do with one and would say no if you asked for one, but if you can propose a specific project- this makes it much easier for them to see the mutual benefits.
Maja Rauchle, Career Leaders Project Coordinator
Students need to approach the informational interview with curiosity about the role and organisation, and to ask about projects or tasks the employee has on the back burner as they never have time to get to, to explore these opportunities. They might then need to go away and consider possibilities and come up with a proposal that they could then present back to the employee.
Don’t forget the little guys. If you are considering ‘building’ your own internship, approach small to medium-sized employers (SMEs). They are less likely to have large numbers of students knocking at their doors = less competition! SMEs are also less likely to have a formalised internship program which allows you to develop a project to suit you.
Approaching smaller organisations for internships takes a bit more effort, however it is well worth it. The main challenge after researching which SMEs to target, is to create a project which will be of value. (Don’t tell the employer you’ll “do anything”. It’s vague and doesn’t help them.)
Your proposal should: be clear and concise and demonstrate enthusiasm, be tailored to show how your skills can be used to benefit the company eg. researching, writing, analyzing, problem-solving, report preparing, display your understanding of the SME’s business and current challenges / projects (gained from your previous research), achieve personal goals e.g. to get exposure to the business; put theory into practice; develop new skills, not concentrate on what you want out of the experience.
Dina Fyffe, Career Development Officer
Make sure you have insurance before commencing unpaid work experience, whether that be through the University or organised on your own. The University will cover you if you are a currently enrolled student and the if the placement is of benefit to your coursework – find out more about this here. If you are a graduate, you can purchase your own insurance – one firm that provides cover is IC Frith and Associates. Where work experience is paid, the employer is required to provide the insurance cover.
For more info on your and the employer’s rights, see https://griffithcareers.com/2015/11/05/five-things-you-need-to-consider-before-taking-on-an-internship-in-australia/