The Complete Internships Guide

Posted by Andrew Purchas

We’re here to breakdown why you should do an internship to set you up for success, all the different kinds of internships available to you and how they benefit your graduate job hunt. Only a minority of university students secure an internship in the earlier years of their studies which helps them stand out to graduate employers due to several beneficial factors. In fact, there was a 47% increase of employers prioritising hiring their interns for their full-time graduate jobs and programs.

What kind of internships are available to students and graduates?

Paid Internships

In many cases, paid internships can behave in a similar way to a part time job where the intern will work in an ongoing part time capacity. This might be a few hours a day, or a few full day's work at a time but generally designed to fit around your schedule whilst you are at university

Summer Vacation Programs

Offered by many of the large employers who offer formal graduate programs, summer vacation programs are generally held over the end of year holiday period allowing students to work for 6 – 12 weeks full time to get a large amount of hands on experience and tackle longer term projects. Summer Vacation programs are used by employers to identify graduates they would like to hire full time at the end of their studies so completing a vacation program can go a very long way to securing a grad position on a large graduate program. Summer Vacation programs generally pay a prorated graduate salary so can go a long way to setting you up financially for your next year of studies.

Virtual Internships

This is a new option for students which has seen a dramatic rise especially due to COVID-19 with more experiential opportunities moving online. Whilst still allowing you direct access to employers you get to work on a virtual case study or project that reflect real world problems the business is facing. Employers work with a number of providers such as Inside Sherpa to build these to not only benefit the business but as a learning experience offering feedback and other inputs. Virtual internships generally do not pay but are free to participate in as a student.

Unpaid Internships

Many students will take an unpaid internship realising that getting relevant experience is the most valuable thing they can get. In most cases and according to the fair work ombudsman, unpaid internships should be focused around being a short term, work experience placement rather than being part of a business's core operations which is where these can fall on the wrong side of the law. Many students will turn towards WIL placements or paid internship providers like Premium Graduate Placements or ReadyGrad to make sure this is not only structured correctly but beneficial as well.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placements through your university

Work Integrated Learning is a common program run by universities where a placement is structured to be part of a university course or paper to supplement theoretical learnings with real world experience. These can include paid placements but many times it is unpaid, regardless it still contributes towards your university degree whilst gaining experience. This is generally the most preferred way recommended by universities to undertake unpaid work experience. In most cases, the university will be able to connect you with employers but you are also welcome to find your own positions that the universities can help assess to make sure you are not being taken advantage of and it counts towards your degree.

Paid Internship providers

Often a source of contention, these opportunities are unpaid work that you pay a provider to find for you and can range from $1,000 - $2,000

Luckily, we have all these kinds of vetted opportunities for you on GradConnection in our internships section! Even if you aren’t quite sure on what is best for you, register an account and we can keep you across all the above internship opportunities as they pop up.

Why should you do an internship?

Work Experience

Even though not required, work experience is something that stands out to graduate employers as not all students have this to draw on when applying for jobs. It will allow you to demonstrate that you can operate in a professional environment and have had some success in turning your degree in to practical results alongside a team or company. Remember to make sure you have concrete examples of what you achieved and the outcome to efficiently communicate your work experience

Build your professional network and references

Many successful graduates who have entered the workforce have stated they made valuable connections that helped them secure their graduate position through an internship. Working for others within a business gives you a chance to impress and prove to team members you’re a valuable asset to a company and great to work with. Even though this might not directly pay off, you’d be surprised when many people who you worked with during an internship have a direct influence over the hiring decision of that grad job you are applying for or would happily recommend you for a different position which is another strong way to stand out from the crowd.

Build your soft skills

University teaches very theoretical and discipline specific knowledge which can leave other more personable skill development lacking whilst you pick up that vital industry knowledge. Beginning to understand how to get things done with other people in high pressure environments, what motivates team members and how to accurately and efficiently convey information / work will go a long way in an interview setting as well.

If you’re unable to undertake a formal internship for whatever reason, don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world as there are number of other things you can leverage like causal employment which you can read about here.


Enter an employer or university you want to find in our search bar.