You’re not there to have fun…
It’s true, you’re not. But, a good company and ambition make it nigh impossible to be bored every moment of every day. It’s not going to be the desk job you’ve seen in the movies; your day should not be filled entirely with tech support, grunt work or making coffee. However, there is going to be some form of mindless labour involved – most of the time anyway. But you’re there to learn something about the technology the company uses or about the atmosphere within the company. So make sure when you’re out hunting for some form of moolah, you make sure to outline what you want from an internship.
What do you want from an internship?
I can only really talk from a tech perspective so this could be entirely different for you. In my personal experience, answering this question will be quite tough at first but when you do, finally, discover the answer, it’s something that will motivate how you act within the company. A lot of what drives the answer, is what drives you. What are you interested in? Are you just interested in being in a larger company/startup/SME? Or do you want to learn more about what you’re working with; what you could be working with; what others work with? For instance, this year, I’m quite interested in learning new technologies but I always want to properly experience what it’s like to work as part of a larger team. I didn’t really get the chance to experience this in previous environments because I was either the main/sole developer of something or the companies weren’t very big so this year I’m leaning more towards an experience-filled internship than a technology-filled one.
That’s all great, but I’ve got bills to pay!
A lot of publicly advertised internships are very very low-paying. Some of them don’t even pay enough to cover transport in to work. It’s a myth that internships don’t pay well because, they can! Well, at least, they can pay well for a student who doesn’t even meet the standard rate cut-off point for tax. Don’t misinterpret this, you’re going to be earning around 9 or 10 euro an hour (this seems to be a standard – especially for good companies) but that’s still quite good. That’s roughly €560 a week that, if your total for the year is under ~16000, you’re going to pay very little tax on. Unless you’ve grown accustomed to the life of Richie Rich, you are going to be earning either quite a lot of discretionary expenditure or a lot of savings money.
Find someone in a company and email them. That’s literally it. You should exploit all of your family contacts, your friends contacts, even that homeless man yelling about the maroon dragonflies controlling our minds’ contacts. I know a lot of this seems a bit more desperate after everything I’ve said above but amassing a ma-hu-ssive list of people who are willing to take you in is key to being able to choose where you want to go. Don’t be small about your circle of interest. You take that thing and lasso everyone and anyone (of any importance in any company) towards you and make introductions. Getting an internship is all about selling yourself and proving your ambition.
Sell myself? You mean working the corners?
Selling yourself is not a literal piece of advice (don’t take off your clothes in an interview – not even for adult films). What it is, though, is something very personal. Outside of looking for work, you should work on projects and things that interest you. Build everything you can imagine; even if no one uses it. The ambition to work on projects and see them through is both a wonderful skill to have and a wonderfully attractive skill to display. Internships are not about what you can contribute to a company (although it can be if you can), they are about displaying what you want to learn and, as a result, what you have learned.
All-in-all, finding an internship that satisfies your craving for knowledge is of utmost importance. Anything monetary can be sacrificed if you think what you’ll learn will be of more value (but don’t be a coffee jockey). It doesn’t matter how young you are (although 14+ is generally desirable), you just need to be able to show someone how you can apply yourself and tackle anything they throw at you. Start small and explore your options. Someone who won’t take you on now, may take you on in a couple years, so don’t discount any contacts you may have. Good luck and have fun out there!