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3 min read

How does an Internship work?

Geni Carter

As a university student or recent graduate you might be hearing the word ‘Internship’ constantly being thrown around which gets you thinking “I should probably do one of those too”. So you have all the information on how to get one and start to consider applying until you think “What actually is an internship? And how does an internship work?”. That’s where we come in

Here at TalentPool we’ve made a general outline of the workings of an internship to demystify the concept to first timers. You wouldn’t travel to a new place without directions so why would you start an internship without knowing how they work?

The logistics

Work experience vs. Internship

So an internship is very similar to work experience but they’re not quite the same. It should not simply be a position where you’re shadowing someone within a company.You’ll definitely gain work experience but you should expect to have much higher levels of responsibility and more important tasks to do.


An internship will run for a certain period of time, this can be anywhere in the spectrum of 2 weeks to a year. Although year-long positions are better recognised as work placements or years in industry. The standard time for internships is around 3 months so usually fits in well if you are still studying.


A company usually will offer an internship to students in their penultimate or final years. However there are opportunities for first or second years particularly in start-ups or SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). Summer internships are most common but others are also available at Christmas or during Easter (more well-known as Spring Weeks or Insights).

Do I get paid?

Majority of internships are paid. With a recent change in legislation they are attempting to make the line between internships and work-shadowing clearer. This is to prevent you doing unpaid work that another employee might be paid to do.

Make sure to check your legal rights before applying especially if it is advertised as unpaid.

N.B. TalentPool do not advertise any unpaid internships.

What you’ll be doing

The work you can expect to do in an internship will depend on the company. Corporate companies tend to have structured internship schemes. These might include a project you’ll aim to complete with other interns or pre-prepared training and schedules. In start-ups or SMEs it is more likely your role as an intern will feel closer to that of an employee or coworker. You’ll have more responsibility and meaningful work so will expand your skill-set in a shorter space of time.

As an intern, the working you do should benefit both you and the company. The idea of an internship is not for you to be making the coffee runs.

The outcome

As mentioned before, an internship should be more than just shadowing someone. You should complete it having done practical work where you learnt new skills and gained valuable experience.

Despite the recognition a larger company might have, your employability is still highlighted by being hired and completing an internship no matter the company. This will significantly help in your graduate job hunt to impress future employers. In many cases companies will use an internship as a trial period and the most impressive candidates could even be offered a job as a graduate.

Now you’ve got a better idea of how an internship works and have decided that it’s not as terrifying as it sounds, you can start preparing your CV and kick-off the application process. Best of luck!


Match with internships and relevant job opportunities at UK start-ups and SMEs by signing up to TalentPool now.