I have been extremely lucky to have experienced a large range of internships, some more stressful than others. Some days you learn so much and other days its just a mess. Whilst at University I worked in two retail stores and saved money where I could to pay my way whilst doing internships. Luckily I lived at home the whole time and lived rent free otherwise this wouldn’t have been possible.
I have never experienced an internship where I have been expected to make the coffee and I would be shocked if I heard of anyone that did. The trick is the employers want to get as much done for free as possible. Although it sounds terrible it actually makes the internship a lot better. I have been given the responsibility of beading a dress for Lady GaGa, Watched some of my favourite British designers at London fashion week and created my very own collection for a brand new childrens company. However working for free is difficult, I did this for 6 months after completing my degree. You will also figure out very quickly if that’s what industry you want to work for.
I questioned about working many hours unpaid as I looked at others in my work place, I was just as qualified and doing the same job as those who were being paid. What set me apart from other interns was that I treated it like a paid job; I never called in sick, I was always on time and I did any job that was given to me.
My tips to finding the perfect internships is….
Go for companies that are better known (rather than independent) as you will gain more experience as they tend to have a set internship program and therefore you’ll have structure and will learn what the employer thinks are the most important things you need to learn.
I would also recommend going for smaller-well-known companies as well, I know this sounds a bit of a contradiction to the first point but you will get larger opportunities working in a smaller team, rather than being just a dot in a herd of employees!
Don’t be a push over. Work standard hours, even if you are asked to be doing overtime I would really recommend not to. The likeliness is that you are not going to be taken on for a paid position once this internship comes to an end, so make sure you enjoy it and you are treated like every other employee!
Don’t be afraid to make contacts. Get to know the people you are working for if you are invited to parties or events as the intern use this as a perfect opportunity not to drink and to make contacts. From staying friendly with people that I have networked with I have managed to get paid temp work here and there. It will also help when you are looking for a full time job. It really is a small world, everybody knows somebody!! It is also important to remember not to EVER slag of a previous internship or colleague because the likelihood is that you will just be making yourself look bad wasting your time being childish!!!