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Why (and how) to get an internship after graduation

16 Apr, 2024
Why (and how) to get an internship after graduation

Choosing to pursue an internship after graduation can significantly influence your career trajectory. It helps you gain relevant experience, clarifies career paths, fosters skill development, expands networks, and opens doors to potential job opportunities.

In this article, we look in more detail at why an internship can be so beneficial, how to go about securing one after graduation, and what to look for in potential internships.

Table of Contents

Why you should consider an internship after graduation

How to find and secure an internship after graduation

What to look for in an internship

Why you should consider an internship after graduation

Many companies and organizations offer internships, which can take the form of a summer internship, or a longer-term offering. Here are just a few of the great reasons to consider undertaking one after you graduate.

Bridge the experience gap

Many graduates find themselves in a catch-22 situation once they finish their university studies; employers seek experienced candidates, but how can you gain experience without first being given a chance? Internships offer a solution:

  • Real-world experience: internships provide practical experience in your field of study, enabling you to apply academic knowledge in a real-world setting.
  • Competitive edge: having an internship on your resume can give you a significant advantage over other candidates who might have the degree but not the experience when you come to enter the job market.

Test the waters of different careers

Career exploration is another critical aspect of internships. They allow you to:

  • Explore various industries: internships can introduce you to different sectors and roles, helping you find what truly interests and motivates you.
  • Gain insight: working in a real-world environment is a form of career coaching in that you gain clarity about your career preferences and aspirations, guiding you toward a more fulfilling career path.

Develop and refine your skills

Skill development cannot be overstated. Through internships, you can:

  • Enhance professional skills: beyond the technical knowledge of your field, internships give you new skills and develop existing ones. In particular they can help advance ‘soft’ skills like communication, teamwork, and time management.
  • Receive feedback: constructive criticism from experienced professionals is invaluable for personal and professional growth.

Build your network

Networking is a powerful tool for career advancement. Internships can expand your professional network by:

  • Connecting with professionals: you will meet individuals who can offer advice, mentorship, and potentially recommend you for future job openings.
  • Building relationships: establishing a good rapport with colleagues and supervisors can lead to long-lasting professional relationships.

Get a chance to transition to a full-time role

Lastly, internships can sometimes lead directly to a full-time position. Employers are often more likely to hire someone familiar with the company’s culture and processes.

  • Prove your worth: excelling in an internship allows you to demonstrate your capabilities and fit with the company.
  • Employment opportunities: a successful internship could result in a job offer, solving the immediate post-graduation employment concern.

How to find and secure an internship after graduation

Internship opportunities are wide-ranging and plentiful, but can also competitive. Here, we look at how to narrow down your options, and set yourself apart from the crowd when it comes to internship applications.

Identify your goals and interests

The first step in your internship search should be a thoughtful assessment of your career aspirations and interests. Understanding what you are passionate about and what skills you wish to develop will help you filter the types of internships you’d be interested in.

  • Clarify your objectives: consider what you hope to gain from an internship. Whether it's gaining industry experience, developing specific skills, or networking with professionals, having clear goals will guide your search.
  • Assess your interests: reflect on the courses and projects you have enjoyed most during your studies. This introspection can provide valuable insights into the fields or roles that may suit you best.

Leverage your network

Networking is a powerful tool in finding internship opportunities. Your personal and professional connections can provide leads, recommendations, and advice that are invaluable in your search.

  • University resources: engage with your university’s career center, alumni network, and professors, and also attend career fairs. These sources often have industry connections and may know of internship opportunities that are not widely advertised.
  • Professional associations: joining professional associations related to your field of interest can be a great way to meet professionals and learn about internship openings.
  • Social media platforms: LinkedIn and other professional social networks are excellent places to connect with industry professionals. Participate in relevant groups and discussions to expand your network.

Make use of online resources

In today’s digital age, there are numerous resources online to help you find internships. Utilizing these platforms can significantly broaden your search.

  • Job boards: websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed post numerous internship opportunities. Specialized sites for specific fields can also be useful.
  • Company websites: many organizations list internship opportunities on their own websites. Identifying companies you admire and actively following their openings can lead to valuable opportunities.

Craft a compelling resume and cover letter

Your resume and cover letter are often the first impression a potential employer will have of you. Making them compelling is crucial.

  • Highlight relevant experience: tailor your resume to the internship by highlighting relevant coursework, extracurriculars, and projects.
  • Personalize your cover letter: show genuine interest in the position and company by personalizing your cover letter. Explain why you’re a good fit and how you can contribute to the organization during your internship experience.

Prepare for the interview process

If your application is successful, the next step will be the interview. Preparation is key to making a good impression.

  • Research the company: understanding the company’s mission, products, and culture will help you answer questions and demonstrate your interest.
  • Practice common interview questions: prepare answers for common interview questions and practice speaking clearly and confidently.
  • Prepare questions: asking insightful questions shows your interest in the role and company. Prepare a few questions about the internship and the organization’s goals.

What to look for in an internship

The variety of internship options can make the selection process seem daunting. Here, we explore key considerations such as paid versus unpaid, full-time versus part-time, virtual versus on-site/hybrid internships. Of course, if you are an international student looking for an internship in your country of study, it’s important to always check what your visa permits you to do.

Paid vs unpaid internship

Pros & Cons:

  • Paid internships: offer financial compensation, which can help manage living expenses, making them particularly appealing to international students. They often indicate a higher level of responsibility and structured training but might be more competitive.
  • Unpaid internships: while not offering financial benefits, unpaid internships can provide valuable industry experience, networking opportunities, and sometimes, academic credit. They might be more accessible and offer flexibility in exploring diverse career paths.

What to Consider:

  • Evaluate your financial needs and long-term career goals.
  • Research the regulations regarding unpaid internships in your host country.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

It’s worth noting, that - whilst considered more employment than an internship - international students who complete a university degree (undergraduate or graduate) can sometimes qualify for Optional Practical Training.

OPT stands for Optional Practical Training, and it allows international students to work in the USA for an initial period of 12 months after their degree.

Students who have graduated from a US college or university with a specific degree in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — can apply to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months, bringing their total post-graduation OPT available time up to 36 months.

Find out more about applying for a STEM Masters with OPT through Kings

Full-time vs part-time internships

Pros & Cons:

  • Full-time internships: typically featured during summer breaks or upon completing coursework, full-time internships offer college students an immersive experience into the industry with intense learning opportunities but may require a significant time commitment.
  • Part-time internships: allow students to balance academic coursework or other jobs. Although they offer a less immersive experience, they provide flexibility and the chance to gain professional experience over a longer period.

What to consider:

  • Assess your academic commitments and availability.
  • Determine which option best suits your learning style and career objectives.

Virtual vs on-site/hybrid internships

Pros & Cons:

  • Virtual internships: offer flexibility and the possibility to work with global teams without geographical constraints. Ideal for digital and communication-related fields, these internships require disciplined time-management skills.
  • On-site/hybrid internships: provide hands-on experience and direct mentoring, essential for fields like engineering and healthcare. They foster a deep understanding of organizational culture and enhance teamwork skills but require physical presence, which may pose logistical challenges.

What to Consider:

  • Reflect on your preferred working style and the field of work.
  • Consider the implications of time zones and remote work infrastructure on your productivity and learning.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about internships.

Is it too late to get an internship after graduation?

As a recent graduate, you may be wondering whether it is too late to secure a place on an internship program. The answer is simply no. While the traditional timeline for internships is during the academic year or over the summer, many companies offer opportunities for recent graduates. In fact, some organizations prefer to hire recent graduates as they bring fresh ideas and are eager to learn. A post-graduate internship can serve as a stepping stone to a full-time job or may help you explore a different career path.

Are internships only for students?

Internships can be undertaken by both students still attending university and recent college graduates. Completing a post graduate internship abroad or domestically makes you more marketable to future employers.

How long do internships typically last?

Internships are an essential component for students and new graduates aiming to acquire hands-on work experience before launching their careers. Typically, internships can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the company's preferences and the intern's availability. In most cases, internships last between 10-12 weeks, allowing enough time for the interns to learn and grow within their company's operating systems.

Your post-grad career awaits

As we have explored in this article, internships are a fantastic way to jump-start your career, grow your network, and build your resume.

At Kings, we offer a range of university pathway and preparation programs in the US. Through our Guaranteed Outcome programs, students can graduate from the country’s top universities, and access a range of great internship opportunities as a result.

We also provide international students with a range of exciting US graduate pathways to get a Master's degree.

We offer a range of innovative, industry-focused STEM programs at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Known as “Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University”, there is a strong emphasis on applied learning, innovation, and professional success.

UW-Stout supports OPT, allowing international students to work in the US for up to 3 years post-graduation, depending on the STEM major.

Additionally, close industry collaborations provide numerous internship and co-operative opportunities for students during their higher education.

Find out more about applying for a STEM Masters with OPT through Kings

If you would like receive more detailed information about the Kings and our programmes, please get in touch with us at us.admissions@kingseducation.com.

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