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How to Score an Internship and Kickstart Your Career

If you're looking to land your first job, or make a career change, getting some on-the-job experience through an internship can help to put you a step ahead of your competition and possibly land a paying gig. There are no set rules about when to do an internship – some people do them while studying, some after graduating and, increasingly, people are doing both. Alternatively, some students opt to use their three-month summer holidays to intern and gain valuable on-the-job experience in their chosen field.

Where to look and how to apply for an internship

Whether you‘re studying at uni, a private college or TAFE, there’s almost certainly a person or department devoted to helping you find an internship. Next port of call is an industry organisation. Let’s say, for example, you want to arrange an accounting internship. One approach is to contact an industry body, such as the Institute of Public Accountants, and see if they can help. Alternatively, Australian Internships is an organisation dedicated to providing training, work experience and cultural exchanges to students. It provides over 1000 intern opportunities annually to most leading Australian and international universities across almost all academic disciplines. Last but not least, you can search for suitable internships on employment websites such as Careerone and Seek. Companies post opportunities under the 'internship' category or alternatively, you can search for them by using the keyword 'internship'.

A real-life success story

One often overlooked way of scoring an internship is tapping into your personal network. Industrial engineering student Aloysio Rebello had been trying to land an internship for six months when he shared his story with a casual acquaintance. “I was playing basketball for the University of Melbourne and there was an older guy on the team who I’d occasionally chat with, recounts Rebello". "One day I shared my frustrations. He gave me his personal email and suggested I send him my CV. I thought, ‘Yeah, why not?’ but didn’t expect much. He soon left a message on my phone inviting me to come to his office for a chat. It turned out he had a senior role at Deloitte Australia and arranged for me to intern there as a process analyst.” That internship played a crucial role in launching Rebello's career, which has so far seen him work as a research assistant at the University of Melbourne, a consultant at EloGroup and an operations director at Shock-Sat Rastreamento Veicular in Brazil.

Your rights as an intern

According to Fair Work Australia, as an unpaid intern you:

  • Should not be expected to do ‘productive’ work, that is, the types of tasks that would normally be done by an employee.
  • Should be benefiting more than the organisation from the arrangement .
  • Should receive some training or skill development.
  • Should not be working for an extended period of time. There are no hard-and-fast rules around this, but if you're working full time for more than a few weeks, or working several days a week for months on end, you're effectively and legally an employee rather than intern.

The benefits of internships

Rebekah Salamatou, General Manager at Australian Internships, describes internships as a “catalyst for career success”. “After 14 years in the industry, I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand countless cases of how internships can impact interns’ long-term career growth,"" she says. “Internships offer structured training to young professionals, enabling them to transition classroom knowledge into a real-world environment.” Australian Internships states the benefits of internships include having an opportunity to:

  • Experience a real working environment.
  • Put into practice knowledge gained in the classroom.
  • Learn about workplace culture.
  • Build professional networks.

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