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How to find an internship—5 must-know tips

As a student, internships can be a great opportunity to build up new professional skills. How do you find a worthwhile internship ? Here are 5 tips to help you find the internship of your dreams.

8 min read

As a student, internships can be a great opportunity to utilize the knowledge from your studies and build up new professional skills. But how do you actually find—and land—a worthwhile internship that won’t leave you stuck at the photocopier? Here are 5 tips to help you find the internship of your dreams and kickstart your professional career.

1. Get to know the different types of internships

Before you start looking for internship opportunities, remember that your responsibilities and level of involvement will depend on the type of internship you choose. The length of your internship will also depend on your studies. Internships can vary from 2 months for those studying for a Diploma in Technological Studies, to 6 months for master’s students. There are two types of internships in France, and it’s important to know the difference:

  • “Operational” internships. These are undertaken during the academic year, so you can apply the knowledge you’ve learned in class. This type of internship provides you with your first significant professional experience. This means that the internship you choose should be focused on the skills you want to develop.
  • “Functional” internships. These internships take place at the end of your studies, and can sometimes lead to employment. This means the stakes are higher, because the internship you choose could determine your future employment. When considering your options, think about whether you plan to use your internship as a springboard to getting a job.

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The law in France is very clear when it comes to paid and unpaid internships. You have the right to be paid for any internship that lasts more than 2 consecutive months (or to be precise, 44 days—based on 7 hours of work per day). You’re entitled to receive €3.90 per hour, or around €600 per month for a full-time internship of 35 hours per week.

When your internship is spread out over time, pay is compulsory from the 309th hour of your internship, which is also the equivalent of two months (44 days) at a rate of 7 hours of work per day.

In short, internships must be paid when they last two months of full-time work, or longer.

Curious for more internship options across the pond? Find out all you need to know about how to get a paid internship abroad.

How to secure an internship agreement 

An internship agreement is the equivalent of an employment contract for an intern. Without it, you can’t legally do an internship. The agreement defines your tasks, the duration of the internship, any pay, the names of your tutors, your social protection scheme, terms of absence, terms of terminating the internship, and so on. 

To get this document, you’ll need to contact your educational institution—they’re responsible for writing up your internship agreement. The internship agreement should be signed by you, the company, and your educational organization.

2. Target specific industries and companies for your internship

Once you’ve got all the practical information you need, you can start looking for the internship of your dreams. The first key to finding the right internship is to choose an industry you’re interested in. For example, if you’re studying at a communications school, do you want to get involved with sectors like food, fashion and tech? Or are you more interested in public institutions and associations?

Of course, the only “rule” when making your decision is to pay attention to what makes you tick. What kind of meaning do you want your future job to have? Which companies promote the same values as you? Which sectors of society would you like to contribute to?

Once you’ve got answers to these questions, it’s time to get hunting! Here are some websites where you can find internship opportunities: La Relève, Meteojob, Welcome to the Jungle, Wizbii, and Pôle Emploi.

You can also:

  • Set an internship search alert on LinkedIn
  • Check out the career sections of companies you’re interested in

3. Be selective about your internship opportunities

Found some internship opportunities that seem to match what you’re looking for and your skill set? Not so fast! Before you hit send on your applications, we recommend reading the internship job description carefully, and taking some time to do a little research about the company. To make sure that the internship will provide the experience you’re looking for, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What goal do I want to achieve by the end of my internship?
  • What skills do I want to develop?
  • What can I bring to the company?

Once you’ve checked the internship job description, you’ll probably already have an idea about the tasks you’d be doing and the skills you can develop. Before you apply, it can also be a good idea to look for feedback from former interns. You can do this by reaching out to your school’s alumni network, or by searching “internship + company name + review” online.

Finally, to avoid getting stuck at the photocopier, we recommend that you give preference to SMEs and start-ups. A smaller team will generally mean greater responsibilities during your internship, and give you the chance to understand all the ins and outs of how the company works. And if there’s a particular company you love, don’t be afraid to send a cold email with your application. It may be unclear whether the company needs an intern, but if it turns out they do, they’ll definitely appreciate your proactive interest!

Thinking about looking for a seasonal job after completing your end-of-study internship? Read our tips on how to find a summer job.

4. To find internships, connect with people—not companies

If there’s one takeaway from our advice, it’s this—to get an internship, you should absolutely be talking to people, not departments or companies. This means prioritizing direct contact with people who are likely to hire you. Here’s what you can do:

  • Find people on LinkedIn who work in the department you want to apply for
  • Find the email or phone number of the person in charge of recruiting for the company, rather than sending your application to a generic email address
  • Find people from your school alumni network who have completed an internship or work for the company you want to apply for, and ask them for advice
  • Let people know you’re looking for an internship. It might sound basic, but networking is one of the most effective ways to get an internship or job!
  • Join groups on Facebook, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn for finding internship opportunities

5. How to prepare your CV and cover letter for an internship

It’s time to get down to business and prepare your internship application. Worried about how to prove your talents when you don’t have much professional experience? No stress—we’ve got some expert advice to help you nail your application.

How to write your CV for an internship

Here are some simple tips to help your CV stand out:

  • Make sure your CV looks good by using software like Canva, for example. This will allow you to visually illustrate your expertise in certain skills with infographics, charts, or icons, and communicate your strengths to the recruiter at a glance. 
  • Be specific about your skills and use action verbs. Opt for words that describe your past experiences in detail, like “create”, “produce”, “support” and “organize”.
  • Add a link to your online profile—for instance, LinkedIn.
  • Give as much detail as possible about relevant past experiences, whether professional or not. For example, be sure to specify the number of customers you worked with, the size of your team, or the number of sales you made.

How to write an impressive cover letter for an internship

The purpose of a cover letter is to show the employer that you’re the right person for the internship. To make sure the odds are stacked in your favor, here are our top tips on how to write a successful cover letter for an internship:

  • Avoid repeating what you’ve already written on your CV. Instead, try to make the connection between the responsibilities of the internship with your educational background and previous experience.
  • Describe why you chose the company—after all, you’ve done your research and want to show you didn’t land on this opportunity by chance. This shows that you’re motivated without having to say so explicitly, which is all the more powerful!
  • Highlight your interpersonal skills. Working as a team, handling problems, and your ability to adapt to new environments are some examples of the “soft skills” that employers really value. Be sure to highlight these in your cover letter.

Now you have everything you need to find the internship that will pave the way for your professional career!

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