What is an internship? Your complete guide to success

Internships can provide students or career changers with deeper knowledge of their field of interest.

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Internships are a direct route into a new career, providing excellent access to practical work experience. Students may choose to enter an internship following their studies, or a professional wishing for a career change can apply too.

Businesses in Ireland offer internships to support individuals’ career development while encouraging new and diverse voices to join their ranks.

This article aims to help you prepare and show you how to get an internship at one of Ireland’s many top-tier companies and organisations. 

Understanding internships: what are they?

Internships are structured work experiences that provide students and career changers with practical work alongside deeper knowledge of their field of study or career interest. Unlike apprenticeships, which involve work and classroom-based studies, internships typically focus more on providing real-world experience in a professional setting.

How long is an internship?

Internships can vary in duration, typically requiring a minimum of 120 hours. They can be part-time or full-time, often lasting 6 months or longer. They are a significant commitment, just like holding a regular job, and some may even lead to offers at the end.

Some internships may be a mandatory requirement as part of a co-op program offered at university. These internships last between 6 months and one year, consisting of alternative periods between work and academic study.

Benefits of internships for entry-level jobseekers

For those embarking on their career journeys, internships are an attractive prospect. Most are paid and can fast-track individuals to management positions.

If you’re considering applying for an internship, here are some of the benefits you might expect:

  • Real work experience: Internships provide hands-on experience in a professional setting, allowing interns to apply academic knowledge in real-world scenarios.
  • Professional contacts: Interns have the opportunity to build a network of professional contacts, which can be invaluable for future job searches and career advancement.
  • Career clarity: Internships offer valuable experience to those still deciding about their careers. They provide a safe learning experience to engage in real-life projects, clarifying whether it’s the right decision.
  • Skill development: Internships allow individuals to develop and refine essential skills in their chosen field, enhancing their employability.
  • CV enhancement: Completing an internship adds valuable experience to a CV, making candidates more attractive to future employers.

Once an internship ends, the company may extend a full-time job offer. Otherwise, those who undertake an internship have demonstrable experience to help them secure a new job in the future.

Julie Farrelly, who manages the new Support Scheme for Energy Audits for SEAI, is a clear example of how a successful internship can completely change your life and propel your career to great heights. 

“Working alongside SEAI during my internship in the department, I was really impressed with their breadth of knowledge and their passion for their work. Those nine months completely changed my life. The Authority’s mission is something that motivates me. This made me choose SEAI. This is important to me, this is what excites me, this is my passion.”

Navigating the internship landscape in Ireland

Ireland is home to many of the world’s most successful companies across various industries. Here are the kinds of internship opportunities you may find:

Paid internships

Paid internships may range in length but are typically structured to provide a comprehensive learning experience. 

  • Pros: Offer financial compensation, providing support while gaining experience. They can also lead to future employment opportunities.
  • Cons: Often more competitive and may have demanding workloads.

Unpaid internships

Although these internships are not paid, they can still be a great stepping stone for gaining valuable industry experience, developing professional skills, and building a network of contacts.

  • Pros: Provide valuable work experience networking opportunities, and can be a stepping stone to paid positions.
  • Cons: Lack of financial compensation can be a barrier for some, potentially limiting accessibility.

Volunteer internships

Volunteer internships are offered by charities and nonprofits, providing unique opportunities to contribute to meaningful causes while gaining practical experience. 

  • Pros: Focus on nonprofit work, offering personal growth and the satisfaction of contributing to a cause.
  • Cons: Like unpaid internships, they don’t provide financial support, which can be challenging for those needing income.

Summer internships

Summer internships are shorter and perfect for those still at university or recent graduates, offering an intensive, focused experience during the summer months. These may also lead to graduate programmes for select candidates.

  • Pros: Typically last for the summer months, providing intensive experience that fits well with academic schedules.
  • Cons: Short duration might not provide as comprehensive an experience as longer internships.

Many businesses across Ireland offer a range of summer internships, including:

For more internship opportunities, head to the Recruit Ireland job board and add the internship job type filter to find a range of positions.

Locating internships: Where to find opportunities?

Finding the right internship for you may take some time, but there are plenty of ways to find opportunities:

  • University career services: Many universities offer resources and connections to help students and graduates find internships related to their field of study.
  • Online job portals: Recruit Ireland lists internship opportunities from firms in technology, pharmaceuticals, finance, and much more.
  • Company websites: Directly visiting the websites of companies of interest can reveal internship opportunities not listed elsewhere.
  • Networking: Leveraging professional networks and attending industry events can lead to internship opportunities through personal connections.

Opportunities are typically posted throughout the year. For university graduates, it’s advised to start looking around two to three months before graduation.

Identifying the most desired intern benefits

When looking for an internship, consider what benefits you might like alongside the job. Here are some of the most desired benefits for interns:

  • Flexible work arrangements: Hybrid working can allow interns to effectively balance their work with academic studies or other personal commitments, making the internship more manageable and productive.
  • Health and Wellness programs: Physical and mental health support is crucial, especially in high-pressure environments.
  • Professional development opportunities: Interns value training, workshops, and mentorship that help them upskill their chosen careers
  • Employer benefits packages: In Ireland, many employers offer a variety of benefits such as cycle to work scheme, flexible working arrangements. Understanding these potential employee benefits can help you find a job that meets your personal and professional needs.

Benefits are often listed within the job spec, so read the description carefully.

How to succeed in your internship? Top tips

Internships provide an excellent opportunity to make yourself known to key decision-makers at the company. Follow these tips to stand out and create a good impression:

Establishing clear goals

Success in an internship starts with setting specific, achievable goals. Determine what skills you want to develop, the experience you wish to gain, and how this internship can contribute to your long-term career objectives. 

Networking & building relationships

Internships offer a unique opportunity to build professional relationships and expand your network. Engage with colleagues, supervisors, and other interns. Attend company events, workshops, and meetings whenever possible. 

Demonstrating proactiveness and initiative

Show your eagerness to learn and contribute by taking on tasks and responsibilities. Demonstrating initiative can set you apart as a proactive and valuable team member. Ask questions, seek feedback, and volunteer for projects that align with your goals. 

Nailing your internship interview: Key tips

An internship interview is your opportunity to showcase how your skills, experiences, and aspirations align with the role you’re applying for. Here are some key tips to help you excel in your internship interview:

  • Research the company: Understand the company’s mission, values, and recent achievements. Demonstrating knowledge about the company shows your genuine interest and preparation.
  • Prepare a strong cover letter: Your cover letter should complement your resume by providing insights into your personality and explaining why you’re interested in the internship. Tailor it to the specific company and role, showing how you can contribute.
  • Anticipate common interview questions: Prepare for questions like “Why do you want this internship?”, “What are your career goals?”, and “How do you handle challenging situations?”. 
  • Ask insightful questions: Prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer about the company culture, specific duties of the internship, or opportunities for learning and growth.
  • Follow up: After the interview, send a thank-you email to express your appreciation for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the role.

Finally, it’s important to know this is a two-way conversation. The interview is as much about assessing if the company is the right fit for you as it is about proving you’re the right candidate for them.

Find the perfect internship with Recruit Ireland

When you’re ready to start looking at internship opportunities across Ireland, Recruit Ireland stands ready to help. Our job board showcases many internships from companies like Amazon, Aldi, and Citi. 

Explore the options open to students, graduates, and those seeking a career change. For help in your job search, head to our advice centre to help prepare you for exciting new challenges.


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