What you can expect from an internship

No matter what career path you have in mind, a good quality internship can give your CV a massive boost. 

But how much you get out of your internship is just as important as the high-profile company name you get to add to your list of work experience.

A good quality internship will help you gain new skills in the workplace, network with knowledgeable people and - crucially - get real-life experience of what your future working life might be like.

We asked two major providers of internships - Ernst & Young and RBS - to give us an insight into what potential interns can expect from their time at the company. Here's what they had to say.

Ernst & Young

What kind of work do your interns typically do and how much responsibility might they have? 

Our interns can expect to be given the same type of work as our graduates. While the specific nature of this work varies across our different service lines, we want to give interns an inside view of what it would be like to work as a graduate at EY. 

Interns are given genuine responsibility, this could involve preparing calculations or reports as part of a piece of client work, researching prospects and drafting presentations as part of a pitch for new work or conducting one-to-one meetings with employees at our client offices.

How do you choose your interns? What can people do to make themselves stand out? 

We want as many of our interns as possible to go on to secure full-time graduate jobs with us. For that reason we put all our interns through the same selection process as our graduate applicants. 

One area where internship candidates often fall down is around their career motivation. It's really important to spend time researching the industry you are interested in, the company you are applying for and the role that you would be undertaking if successful. Our careers website is a great starting point, but shouldn't be the only source you use when preparing for an interview. 

Candidates who stand out are those that are able to clearly articulate specific reasons for applying to a particular role and respond well to questions which probe their understanding of the industry.

How much prior experience do you need from potential interns? 

The vast majority of our summer internship positions require no prior work experience or technical knowledge - they are all entry-level roles. 

While it is useful to have some relevant work experience under your belt before doing an internship, it is by no means a prerequisite. What's more important is the ability to demonstrate transferable skills which may have been developed through academic study, extra-curricular activities or non-relevant part-time work.

Is it realistic for interns to expect training or mentorship during their time with the company? 

Our internship programme begins with a comprehensive three-day induction which provides interns with an introduction to the firm, but most importantly prepares interns for their time on placement with us. 

Interns hone core technical and interpersonal skills through a series of workshops, practical sessions and team building exercises. Every intern at EY is allocated a mentor, someone more senior with experience to coach and discuss personal objectives with. Interns also get a one-to-one career coaching session to discuss their strengths and explore careers options at EY.

What is the biggest 'do' and the biggest 'don't' for any intern? 

The most important thing you can do as an intern is own your internship experience and take responsibility for your career from day one. We provide our interns with first-class training and development and great responsibility while on placement with us, but to make the most out of the experience interns should be pro-active and identify opportunities that will accelerate their careers. 

The worst thing you can do is sit back and wait for someone else to tell you what to do. Demonstrate energy and enthusiasm for all tasks - even those that might seem menial to you - think about how they fit into the bigger picture, use it as an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the overall objectives of the department/function.

How common is it for your interns to gain full-time employment with the company? 

The summer internship programme is a key pillar of our strategy to attract the brightest and most ambitious graduates into the firm. This is reflected by the fact that each year 90% of our summer interns are made full-time graduate offers.

RBS

What kind of work do your interns typically do and how much responsibility might they have?

The work interns carry out is varied depending on which division they are placed in. This could include group work, project work and presentations. To prove their abilities, our interns are aware of accountability and a sense of responsibility early in the programme.

How do you choose your interns? What can people do to make themselves stand out?

We have a thorough recruitment and assessment process for all our divisions in order to make sure we select the right people for the role. Researching the company and the wider industry context and attending events, prior networking with employees can all help to make you stand out.

How much prior experience do you need from potential interns?

Not much prior experience is required. The internship is a chance to find out more about the company and the division.

Is it realistic for interns to expect training or mentorship during their time with the company? 

Yes, at RBS all interns receive a full week of training in their first week as well as on-the-desk training when they join the business. All interns are assigned a buddy and mentor to ensure they feel supported.

What is the biggest 'do' and the biggest 'don't' for any intern?

Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. Everyone is learning at the same time. Always arrive on time and show enthusiasm. Ask to help on projects or ask to observe meetings. You will be amazed at how much you can learn and absorb by listerning and watching how the professionals around you manage a task or a project.

How common is it for your interns to gain full-time employment with the company?

Very.