Careers Advice Blog

Good internships, bad internships and some tips for spotting them

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Internships are an inevitability in the life of most university students’ lives. From internationally renowned companies to local firms, more and more businesses are offering internships as a chance for young people to develop workplace skills… and to make the most of cheap labour.

Unfortunately, as prestigious as an internship at a multi-national company may appear, often the work you will be undertaking will be tedious, seemingly useless, and low-paid, if paid at all. So how to do you decide what’s good and bad? Make sure you always ask yourself these key questions.

  1. Is it paid and if not, why not?

Often the legal obligations for a company hiring an intern can seem cloudy and difficult to understand. Fundamentally, if you are working for the company, you must be paid minimum wage. This changes if you are working for an organisation with charitable status, as you may be classed as a volunteer. If so, then you may get expenses covered. Steer clear of long-term internships (i.e. lasting over a couple of weeks) which do not offer payment.

  1. What type of work are you doing?

An internship is not just about a name on a CV. There is absolutely no benefit to spending weeks of your life photocopying in an office, no matter how big the company is. Internships are supposed to offer you skills development, and so make sure you know exactly what you will be doing, and think about how that might help your future career. As somebody who spent an internship photocopying, I can tell you… It’s really not worth it!

  1. Does the work offer you responsibilities and opportunities to develop your own skills?

One of the best things about doing an internship is that many of them offer you the chance to work on your own individual project, which will bring with it responsibility and all of the skills that go with it. This is a fantastic way of building your confidence in leading independent projects, and is exactly the kind of experience that will help in future job interviews!

  1. And finally… Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

At the end of the day, sometimes it is worth suffering though a couple of week’s worth of boring work in order to get your foot in the door at a particular company. However, if you’re not being paid to do it, and it’s going to provide you with little opportunity to develop your skills, maybe it’s a good time to say no. Internships should help you as much as you help your employer!

Do you know of any good internships, bad internships and everything in between? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Samuel Mann / Flickr

Harley RyleyGood internships, bad internships and some tips for spotting them

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  • Dan S. - February 17, 2015 reply

    Great article Harley. Glad to see that you stressed out that “Internships should help you as much as you help your employer!” This is so true, but often forgotten.

    Dan from

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