My Top Ten Tips for a Successful Internship

group of people watching on laptop

I believe that February and March are the ideal months to start searching for a job, especially if you’re considering a total career change, a promotion, or you’re about to graduate. It’s time to plan your next move, but where do you begin? That’s why I’ve decided to write a post about my top ten tips to help you have a successful internship or work experience.

When I turned 30, I decided to continue my education and start my journey towards obtaining a degree. However, I did not anticipate that I would still need to take on unpaid or low-paying work despite having ten years of work experience and a strong CV. Unlike an 18-year-old starting university without any professional background, I had already amassed a considerable amount of experience. For me, pursuing a degree wasn’t a drastic career change but a minor adjustment. Nevertheless, others saw it as a fresh start. During job interviews, I had to explain in detail how my past decade of experience had led me to pursue higher education and where I saw myself in the future.

Like any regular student, I applied for work experience and internships and volunteered to gain practical experience alongside my knowledge.

Finding a Placement

If you are in your 20s, it’s highly probable that you have already had a job or at least been for an interview. This means that you, like me, have probably spent hours scrolling through Indeed, LinkedIn, and other online platforms to find your ideal job. However, when it comes to internships or work experience, the process is no different. You still need to edit your CV, write a cover letter, and then start applying.

Never Underestimate Linkedin

If you are given the opportunity, I recommend attending a LinkedIn course or strategy meeting. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, create one and add your work history; it’s an online CV with built-in networking; find it one of the best sources for contact names and job descriptions, and find links in our chosen industry. Think about it as Facebook for your career.

Close up of linkedin app on phone
Photo by Airam Dato-on

Let’s say you’re currently studying English, but your dream is to work as a journalist in a particular company. To get your foot in the door, try searching for that company and finding people who already work there. If you’re feeling brave, you can reach out and send them a message. But if you’re not comfortable with that, you can always do some research on LinkedIn. It’s essential to find a contact who can help you with your internship request.

Not Everything is Advertised

Most internships and work experience opportunities are not advertised but instead found through networking and personal connections. Occasionally, a few opportunities may be posted on job search websites like Indeed and LinkedIn or mentioned on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

I was able to find two internships in my desired industry by conducting a Google search and browsing through multiple pages of marketing, PR, and advertising agencies. Nowadays, most companies have a ‘career’ or ‘work with us’ page. For those who don’t, sending a friendly and professional email is the best way to begin the application process.

I sent out 30 to 40 emails every week requesting work experience, internships, shadowing opportunities, and volunteer positions for various events and charities.

Be Prepared for Rejection!

No one likes receiving a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email or the classic ‘we don’t have anything available at the moment, but we will keep your details on file.’ However, these responses are part of the job search process. In my first response, I was offered a minimum of four weeks in a London PR office. I was thrilled as I went to the interview, which was extremely relaxed. We had a friendly chat, and I couldn’t wait to start. However, it took six months before I was actually ready to begin the internship.

On my second job offer, I had difficulty locating the building. The interview process felt like an interrogation, even though it was an unpaid internship. It seemed like they were assessing me for a social media manager position. When I received the rejection email stating that I wasn’t the right fit for the company, I wasn’t surprised. They probably wanted a department instead of an intern.

During an interview for a proper job, the interviewer started asking me about my knowledge and salary expectations. I was prepared to interview for an internship, so I felt a bit overwhelmed. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the position, but they told me that a girl with more experience was hired. They suggested that I could apply for a new position that hadn’t been advertised yet. However, it would mean another interview, and I wasn’t sure if it was suitable for me.

That Yes Moment

I have been fortunate enough to intern at several great companies that understood the basic requirements of an intern. However, I have also interned at a couple of companies where I learned very little. During my short time there, I was only taught how to do basic tasks such as photocopying, filing and cleaning cupboards. I am not ungrateful for the experience, but I couldn’t help but feel envious of my university friends who had proper mentors and were able to sit in on meetings to learn more about the industry. On the other hand, I gained no valuable knowledge during my internships and felt like I was wasting my time. I even spent an hour trying every dry cleaner in the area on one such internship as my manager couldn’t remember which one they’d use! Fortunately, I eventually found the right one on my third attempt.

Woman jumping in air with green rucksack
Photo by Sebastian Voortman

Maybe I was unlucky, but I was thinking about what we should get from the experience as an intern. Here are a few tips if you find yourself in a similar situation.

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During Your Internship

  1. Ask Questions – You are there to figure out if it’s the job or the industry you want. Don’t be shy; ask questions.

2. Do everything with a smile and an enthusiastic manner – People are more open if you smile and seem happy to be there.

3. Offer – Ask around if anyone needs help or support. I did a beer run once! It shows keenness, and you learn things along the way.

4. Hit deadlines – If you are given a deadline, try to keep to it. If you struggle, be honest. I was too embarrassed and muddled along to find that someone else did it anyway.

5. People are busy, so if you see a way to help offer, we all come from different backgrounds. Experiencing different things can be a great benefit.

6. Talk to people – have a chat while making a coffee. See someone walking out for lunch, strike up a conversation. Contacts are critical these days, and you could talk to that one person who remembers you.

7. Don’t be afraid to say you are struggling – as mentioned, I suddenly lost my confident self and struggled to hit a deadline. I was more embarrassed when I handed it over to find someone else had done it. (Facepalm)

8. Be on time and don’t be in a rush to leave – not much to say that isn’t obvious.

9. Socialise on a personal level – I was kindly invited out a couple of times but declined, and I later felt that I should have gone to speak to people personally and not just professionally. I’d go for it now, but you live and learn.

10. Make contacts – Add people to LinkedIn. These could be for reference purposes or future job opportunities.

After Your Internship

Sometimes, we are too quick to return to either studies or a proper job that we forget the opportunity we were given.

  1. Follow up – A couple of days or a week after your placement ends, send a courtesy email to your mentor and/or the key manager thanking them for the experience, asking them if it’s okay to use them as a reference and anything you enjoyed that you want to mention. Obviously, if it is part of your study requirement, you will need to do a post-evaluation. Keeping your name in their minds could benefit you in the future, especially during an executive search or when other companies are seeking recommendations for impressive candidates.
  2. Keep in touch – Don’t be afraid to add them on LinkedIn with a personal and direct message attached. Perhaps suggesting that when your studies finish in the summer, you will be in touch.


These are some valuable lessons I’ve learned. Internships are a great addition to a resume as they demonstrate that you have both the degree and the practical experience in the industry. Unfortunately, some companies still do not pay or pay very poorly or consider internships as work experience and refuse to pay. Please keep these things in mind when considering internships. I had a mix of paid, unpaid, and commission-based internships lasting from one month to one year. There have been recent mentions of minimum wage for interns, indicating that things are slowly changing.

Has anyone got anything to share, horror stories or unique experiences? Please drop me a comment, and I would love to hear them.

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*Originally posted 07.02.2021.

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