An internship is a much-coveted, experience-gathering, employability-boosting, and CV-enhancing work placement which can hold equal appeal for participants and recruiters alike.

They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a few weeks to a year or more, with some paid and some unpaid.  Regardless of format and remuneration, one thing is for sure:  internships are hot currency in today’s graduate job market.

Read our 15 top internship tips on how to make the most of this experience and optimise the impact it has on your professional development and future career.


#1 Show up, physically and mentally. 

Dressed well, on time, with a smile, and a trunk full of work ethic. As an intern, you must be ready and prepared to learn.


#2 Be prepared to take baby steps.

Accept that you WILL be asked to do tasks that you feel overqualified for and realise that, in doing them, you will gain a valuable insight into what makes your placement company tick, from the ground up. Carry out these tasks well and with a smile and, before you know it, you will be asked to perform tasks which have a little more meat on their bones.


#3 Stop, collaborate and listen.

Channel Spongebob and soak up everything you can. Open your ears and try to hear what is really going on all around you. You may not see the value in what you hear immediately, but there will indubitably be some golden nuggets to pick up which you can mull over and learn from.


#4 Read up.

Complement your real time insight gained on the job with research into the company’s vision, mission, press releases, collaborations, industry challenges etc. This will give you a better handle on what is going on and enable you to understand day-to-day office life in a wider context.


#5 Ask.

If you are unsure on a system, process, or task then ask those around you for practical advice. Pick an appropriate time (i.e. not an hour before a client presentation or when a proposal is due to fly out the door) and ask for the information you need. This demonstrates willingness to learn and can appeal to and flatter the ‘inner expert’ in the person you consult.


#6 Be proactive.

Step up and show willingness to assist before being asked to help.


#7 Take advantage of what is on offer.

I don’t mean empty the office fridge or take advantage of your work colleagues’ kindness, just make the absolute most of the learning opportunity you have been given.


#8 Reach out but don’t kiss ass.

Don’t assume the person you need to impress is at the top. Impress at all levels, connect with colleagues, and build a network. If it feels right, you could invite your new contacts to connect with you on LinkedIn.


#9 Only compete with yourself.

Internships should be considered as a personal learning experience, not a competition or continuous battle for one-upmanship with fellow interns. Remember that we are all on our own journey, so rather than trying to compete with your peers, compete with yourself. Ask yourself what YOU could do better, how YOU can be getting more out of the opportunity, and go for it.


#10 Be yourself.

You are the only you and whilst you are there to learn, realise the value of what you personally can bring to your own experience and those around you. Whether it’s a positive mental attitude, bags of energy, or an ability to see problems differently, bring it to your internship and make it work for you and the team.


#11 Take your passion and make it happen.

Your internship might be hard work at times, but remember why you are doing it, keep your end goal in mind, and see it through. Envisage your bright and beautiful future. It is waiting for you.


#12 Give something back.

Consider making your internship more of a two-way street by meeting with the company’s social media or marketing team. Offer to guest blog on your internship experience for the company website, feature as an interviewee in the company newsletter, or tweet on the progress of your internship. This can be good PR for your placement company and boost your chances of getting your name known and remembered for the right reasons.


#13 Don’t burn out.

As an intern, you should be prepared to work hard, but remember that work should ultimately be something you enjoy. It’s not worth winning at any cost.


#14 Show gratitude.

Whilst you are there, show you are thankful for the opportunity by making the most of it. When your internship has finished, say thank you to those who hired you and those who helped you. Manners cost nothing.


#15 Take time to reflect.

How you present your internship on your CV is as important as how you perform during the internship. Every few days, take some time to reflect and recap on what you have learned and how you have contributed, then note it down to build your CV.


Giraffe CVs help would-be interns to secure a coveted internship by delivering compelling, interview-winning CVs.  We also help those with an internship under their belts to present it on their CV for maximum effect.

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire

Lis McGuire is a professional CV writer at Giraffe CVs. She has 15 years of experience gained delivering interview-winning CVs and cover letters for professionals at all levels, helping individuals to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive job market.
Lis McGuire
Lis McGuire