What Is An Internship?

Posted April 15, 2019, by Elesha

Internships are more important than ever for entry-level job candidates. An internship, paid or unpaid, gives you hands-on industry experience and an edge when applying for jobs. For many employers, an internship on your CV may be the deciding factor on whether you land the role or not.

What Exactly Is An Internship?

Essentially, an internship is work experience and training with an employer in a specific industry for a certain period of time.

Internships might be short, with some lasting only a week while others will be long as 12 months.

During this time, the internship candidate (usually a student or graduate), is exposed to the day-to-day work environment and gets hands-on learning experience in the field.

Complimenting the studies the student has or is undertaking, this real-world experience is extremely valuable and viewed as a real asset by employers.

Internships are available in all kinds of sectors including IT, banking and finance, marketing and sales, public relation, government departments, human resources, and environment and sustainability.

This is just naming a few; internships are available (and are highly valued) in a huge range of industries.

Different Types Of Internships

Let’s take a look at the different types of internships and nope, they’re not only for graduates and students. Taking an internship when making a career change is a great way to learn more about a new industry!

Paid Internship

The main difference between a paid and non-paid internship is pretty obvious; the money. In a paid internship, you’ll be paid a wage. 

While it may sound like taking a paid internship over an unpaid one is a no brainer, there are definitely other factors to consider. Unpaid internships may offer more perks in some circumstances. For example, small businesses, and startups might not have the budget for a paid internship but could offer a lot more hands-on experience than a big organisation for their interns. 

Unpaid Internship

If you’re still a student with no work experience at all, taking an unpaid internship may open up future (paid!) opportunities with the organisation. The potential to move from the internship into a full-time role in the organisation is a major incentive to take an unpaid opportunity.

Internships in areas like media (radio, television, print), non-profit organisations, startups and politics don’t usually offer any remuneration.

Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsmen sets out some guidelines around paid vs unpaid internships. 

Student Internship

The earlier you can get insight into how the industry you’re interested in works, the better.

As a student, taking an internship can help you decide if a certain career path really is for you. There’s nothing to say you can’t take a few internships in different industries to explore your options while you’re still studying. As a student, it’s great to try as many things as possible so you don’t feel locked into one thing too early.

Graduate Internship

Graduate internships typically commence straight after completing the final year of study and consist of supervised, hands-on training related to the graduate’s academic background and career goals.

The training could also be quite general to give the graduate a feel for the different roles and areas within an organisation. Graduate internships are usually unpaid.

How To Get An Internship

Want to get an internship but not sure where to start? Here’s how to get the ball rolling.


Time to get your Google on. Spend time researching different organisations in the industry you’d like to land an internship. Find out if they already offer internships, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t. You may become the organisation’s very first intern!

There are also Australian graduate programs for internships that work to place you with a company in an industry of your choice. You’ll usually pay for these services though, so why not reach out to an organisation you’re interested in directly?

Reach Out

Regardless of whether a company has an intern program and open position or not, reach out to them with your interest. Getting in touch with a company who isn’t advertising internships can actually be an advantage. You might be the only one approaching them, rather than competing with others for an advertised position.

Crafting a great cover letter and finding the right person to send it to is a crucial part of this step.  You want to show you’ve researched the company and how their mission aligns with your studies, interests and career goals.

Also, don’t do the whole ‘to whom it may concern’ thing; address your cover letter to an actual person. If you can’t tell from the organisation website or LinkedIn profile who that may be, address it to the CEO or Director.


It’s so important to network when starting your career or taking the next step, whether it be landing an internship, a new job or a whole new career.

The idea of networking might feel a little overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before, but it doesn’t have to be a big, scary deal! Here’s how to get yourself noticed on LinkedIn and some tips on the art of networking.

You never know, that internship you land might open career paths and opportunities you never knew existed!


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