When it comes to searching for a job, most employers are looking for candidates with some level of experience. But without that first step on the career ladder, it can be difficult to demonstrate this. Internships often bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be, allowing you to showcase your skills and give you plenty to talk about in interviews.
Internships can also open doors and help you to create valuable introductions. There are many ways to search for an engineering internship, and these might not always happen through the usual routes. Some companies actively advertise internships, but others may still be open to informal internships.
Here are 6 ways you can gain experience for your CV by securing an internship in the relevant sector.
The first thing you need to do is determine what companies are hiring interns and what types of positions they have available. Applying directly to an internship programme is the easiest way to find opportunities, but it also has the highest competition.
Openly advertised roles will attract more interest than the opportunities that you create for yourself. There may be a waiting list for internships, so be prepared to be flexible in your approach. Start applications early in your university life so that you have time to be accepted before the end of your studies.
Internships may be advertised online, or you might need to do some digging. Look online to see where other students have completed internships. You could try searching LinkedIn to see which companies other graduates have listed in their experience.
This will allow you to apply directly to companies that have accepted interns in the past. They might not have a formal programme, but they will be more likely to consider your application.
While most people think of internships as being with large businesses, this doesn’t have to be the case. Smaller companies often take on interns to help with specific projects
This can be a great way to broaden your experience, as a small company is more likely to let you see what happens across the whole company. In a large company with a formal internship programme, you're more likely to be stuck in a specific role with a narrow focus.
Your university should have a career services department that can help you to find an internship. They will work with local companies to identify opportunities and may even have exclusive roles that are only advertised through the university.
Your professors and tutors may also know about opportunities that might not be advertised to the wider public. Remember that your tutors will have also worked in the sector in the past and may have connections they can use to secure an internship. They may also be in touch with graduates who have gone on to work for companies that are looking for interns, and they will be more likely to accept an application from someone from their own university.
If an internship is a required part of your course, it will likely be organised for you. But if it is optional, you'll have to take the initiative and ask around.
If you have any family or friends who work in engineering, they may be able to open some doors for you. Remember that your internship doesn't have to be working directly with an engineering firm. There are many ways to get experience in engineering. You could work with an architecture company, a construction company, the local council or even a hospital.
There are many different types of engineering, so make sure you know what area you want to work in before you start your search. Your family and friends may be able to help you to find an internship that is a good fit for your skills and interests.
Your personal network can be a great way to find opportunities. Talk to your friends and family, and let them know you're looking for an internship. Ask them to keep their ears open and let you know if they hear of anything.
You can also use social media to reach out to your network. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people in your industry, even if you don't know them personally. It's possible to search for people who are open to mentorship opportunities, and this could pave the way for you to enquire about an internship in their organisation.
Some companies are hesitant to take on interns because they are worried about having enough for you to do every single day. By taking a flexible approach to internships, you can open more doors. For example, instead of asking for a two-week-long internship where you are in the office every day, you could request one or two days a week for a longer period.
This can be more manageable for companies, and it will give you the chance to show that you are reliable and motivated. It's also a great way to get your foot in the door if you're not sure about committing to a full-time role. You could take on this type of role through the summer holidays and work part-time around your internship. The part-time work might not be relevant to your field of expertise, but it will demonstrate tenacity and determination.
If you are creative and flexible in your approach, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to secure an engineering internship. These opportunities can be hard to come by, but if you make the most of your network and resources, you should be able to find one that is a good fit for you. You might not secure a tidy two-week placement in a well-known engineering company, but taking a creative and flexible approach could help you to piece together some far more valuable experience in the sector.