What to Do If You Can't Get an Internship

So, you applied for every possible internship available. You did all your research, got your applications in on time, asked everyone you know if they can help you and yet you still have not managed to secure a coveted internship place this time round. 

And you're panicking. Naturally of course, because every graduate employer tells you just how important work experience is. It’s frustrating we know, but setbacks like this can happen. Being an academically strong student, this might even be the first time you have been rejected from something.

The key thing however is not to despair. How you handle such obstacles is key to your own personal development, and we promise with a bit of lateral thinking, you can get the experience you need to make your CV stand out. 

1. Expand your search

Have you only applied to the big names? Consider that there may be plenty of other companies out there that could also offer you a valuable insight into the sector in which you're interested. Gaining sound work experience at a suitable company, be it big, small or boutique, adds value to your CV at this stage, so do not dismiss this.  

Smaller firms may just be realising that they need an intern for the summer – so sending in a speculative application asking if they need help, may ensure you have first chance to apply. If you are not sure if the company offers internships – pick up the phone and ask if there is an opportunity you can apply to. Don't be afraid of the telephone. It's still a powerful communication tool. 

If they do not offer internships, there may be an opportunity for you to work shadow or do some alternative work experience. Offer to do anything from making the team, compiling research and always suggest that you can help with any administration. Once you get your foot in somewhere, you'll be amazed at how much you learn - both in terms of hard skills and those softer ones, that can make all the difference in the workplace.  

And as a final tip – don’t be afraid to look for overseas opportunities (there are plenty of opportunities available worldwide).

2. Volunteer

Volunteering looks great on your CV. Often you can find volunteering opportunities in something that is relevant or appropriate to you. From volunteering you will gain great transferrable skills and experience. It also demonstrates that your time is spent productively and that you have a humanitarian side to you. What’s more – it gives you a chance to make a difference and give back to a community. Find a charity that inspires you.

Again, it could be big or it could be a local one. Both are valuable and the latter might even give you more hands on experience. Offer your services and you could be amazed at what skils you build up... and how good it feels to be working on something you care about.

3. Complete a short course or qualification

As another option, you could consider doing a short course or extra educational qualification. Learning a language, learning to code or learning to drive are all extra skills you can put down on your CV.

Extra skills and pursued interests are always great for employers to see and are all things that will benefit you in the long run. Future employers will love the initiative you take to improve your skillset. Often you will be able to find a course that will be relevant to your future career.

4. Side projects

Have you always wanted to write a novel or screenplay, create a blog, run an event or build an app? If you are at a loose end – get a move on and get going! This will demonstrate a personal ambition, creativity and resourcefulness. It will be a good talking point and will assist your personal development. 

Best of luck with your next steps! And remember, the key is to just get started. Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.