Five things to look out for before applying for internships

Avoid common mistakes and learn how you can prepare to ace your internship application.

Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 25 May 2021, 12:53 PM

Internships are valuable work opportunities to hone your skills and experience the professional working world.

For students, internships are handy for real-world application of your learnings in school. For the undecided, these could even help you figure out your interests while earning some extra cash.

From summer programmes to part-time internships, there are a variety of programmes available out there. While the application process may seem daunting at first, here are five things that you should look for to ace your internship application.

1. Know your purpose of applying for the internship

There are many reasons to apply for an internship – to gain work experience, build your resume or even to network with other industry professionals. Regardless, acknowledging your goals is important to help you make the most out of your experience.

Consider these factors when searching: Are you looking for a paid or unpaid internship? Would you like to work on location or remotely? What type of internship are you looking for and what roles do you hope to experience? What do you hope to take away at the end of your internship?

The list is non exhaustive – but you get the idea. Every internship will entail a different experience. Being aware of what you want will help to narrow your search for an internship that fulfils your needs specifically.

2. Understanding the costs of your internship

Internships are coveted opportunities to broaden your perspectives of the working world and gain valuable work experience. However, not all internships are paid, and some are even conducted abroad.

It is important to first understand and assess your financial situation before committing to one. While some companies may provide accommodation or a monthly allowance to cover your living expenses, others may provide an unpaid internship with certain conditions.


Look out for the financial provisions and conditions required under the internship programme. PHOTO CREDIT: CAMPAIGN CREATORS VIA UNSPLASH


For students, you can apply for financial aid through grants or scholarships made available through your educational institutions or organisation.

When applying for an international internship, work out a budget and consider the following costs: Monthly allowance, housing, living expenses, insurance, existing savings, travel fare, exchange rates, transportation and Visa application fees, just to name a few.

3. Familiarise yourself with the company and industry

Aside from assessing your grades and technical skills, your passion for the job is important to form a good impression on your potential employers during an interview.

Before sending in your application, look up past reviews about a company and turn to your peers or lecturers to find out more about the field you are interested in.

Begin by familiarising yourself with the company you are applying for as some employers may expect questions from candidates at the end of an interview to gauge your curiosity towards the job.

Find out your responsibilities as an intern, the company’s background, mission and values. Avoid asking questions that are already answered on the company’s website as that could potentially leave a negative impression of you being unprepared.

Commit to an internship only when you are fully aware of what your role entails. Your internship experience will differ based on the size of your company, the way it operates and the existing company culture present, so remember to do your research beforehand!

4. Personalise your portfolio and resume

Internship applications usually require a resume, cover letter and in certain fields, a portfolio. It is important to start preparing these documents early and keep the materials up-to-date for your application.

Your resume is an important summary of your background to help form your employer’s first impressions of you when considering your internship application.

Ensure that the document is concise and kept to a maximum of two pages, yet substantial enough to convey your fit for the job.


Ensure your cover letter and resume are error-free and include only the most relevant information for the job. PHOTO CREDIT: LUKAS VIA PEXELS


If your application requires a digital portfolio, prepare one on websites such as Wix or Behance to showcase your past works that can include article samples, video reels, design pieces and more.

The portfolio represents your personal branding. Channel this personality through your portfolio design and supplement your pieces with design rationales or descriptions to highlight your skills.

5. Deadlines and follow ups

Don’t stop after applying for a small handful of internships, and don’t give up on your internship hunt should you receive a rejection letter.

Sign up for newsletters on job portals and look out for the relevant dates or opening periods for your best chances at landing an internship early.


An employer may deem an applicant unsuitable for the internship if simple application instructions, such as deadlines, are not adhered to. PHOTO CREDIT: BRETT JORDAN VIA UNSPLASH


Follow the application instructions carefully as they differ between each organisation. Some may require additional documents while others may request that you send your application to different departments.

When sending out multiple applications, keep track of the applications sent, their status and actions required. After a week or two, remember to follow up your emails to confirm that your application has been received.

Often, applicants miss out on their interviews just because of an overlooked email or a missed call from the company. It is crucial that you check your emails and phone regularly during this period and reply to messages and calls promptly.

Internships are more than just a work placement but also the opportunities to learn and grow from. Make the most out of your journey and have fun. Good luck with your applications!

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