How to find an internship abroad – my top 5 tips!
I’m sure you are all knee-deep in revision for term 3 exams (or A-levels if you’re a prospective student) – something I’ll unfortunately have to experience next year as a finalist at Warwick. Thankfully for now I don’t even have to think about revision, as I am one third of the way through my internship in Cologne! While the 9:30 – 6pm lifestyle is challenging to say the least, I’m particularly grateful that (for once in my life) I don’t have any exams or assessments looming over me.
Alas, as promised within my previous blog, I would like to offer my advice for finding an internship abroad. This was undoubtedly the most difficult task I had to go through whilst in Germany, and I would have cherished the advice from someone who had done it all before. I have thus put together my 5 best tips for finding an international work placement and I hope you find them useful.
Start early… but not too early!
Similar to finding an internship in the UK, the earlier you start, the more time you have to find a placement that’s right for you. However, this isn’t strictly true for job-hunting abroad, particularly in Europe. From my experience, most internship opportunities were advertised 1-2 months before the placement’s start-date began, which was a very small timeframe when compared to the normal application time for UK companies. To give an example, if you’re looking for an internship to start in february, my best advice would be to begin searching in November/December, as this is when most of the opportunities will become available. I wouldn’t get stressed over applications 6 months in advance, when you could be allocating your time far more effectively!
Network as much as possible
It was through networking that I found my internship here in Cologne. Contacts are your greatest friend when searching for any kind of job, but this was especially the case when I was looking for my placement abroad. It is hard enough already being in a foreign country and trying to find somewhere to work, so you’re going to need all the help you can get. Just by simply mentioning to everyone you meet – "I am looking for an internship here" – you’ll be surprised by how much help they’ll be able to offer you. It was through contacts that a lot of my friends acquired their placements as well, so make sure you broadcast to as many people as possible what you’re looking for, who knows what might come of it!
Use the university careers office
If you’re undertaking a year abroad in the same format as mine – study for one half, work the other – then be sure to check out your university’s career office as soon as you arrive. Not only will they check your CV and cover letters, but they are sure to have a wealth of contacts and advice which will help you in your search. I made it my number one priority to seek out my uni’s career office when I arrived, and they helped me out hugely with finding a placement. Without their careers workshops, I would never had met my contact who eventually secured me my internship – so use them as much as possible.
To quote one of my favourite actors of all time, Will Smith once said "Being realistic is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity". As much as I love this quote, you do sometimes have to be realistic at certain points in your lifetime – looking for a placement abroad is definitely one of them. As much as I believed in my own ability to speak German in a variety of settings, I was nowhere near good enough to be competing with other German students for positions which required complete fluency in the language. It was after I asked myself "Why on earth would this company hire me?" that I realised I needed to set my sights a bit lower. Small to medium sized companies are far more likely to take interest in you and offer internship opportunities which only require a ‘good’ understanding of the foreign language. So don’t waste your time applying for overly competitive positions at huge corporations, when you’ll find you are far better off applying elsewhere. By all means be ambitious, but smaller companies are likely going to be your best bet.
Make a CV in both languages before going abroad
Having your CV already printed out and saved in two different languages will help you out immensely before you begin searching for a placement abroad. You can immediately take it to the careers office upon your arrival (if you’re studying at a uni) and the earlier you do your CV, the earlier you can begin looking/applying for everything. It saved me a huge amount of time having my CV’s already made before I arrived in Germany, and it will only benefit you too.
So there we have it! Those are my 5 best tips and tricks for finding a work placement abroad and I hope this helps you if you are looking to do the same as what I have done. While it is a stressful and challenging task, it is also extremely rewarding and looks outstanding to all future employers. I’ll see you in my next blog where I hope to document my time at Schloss Dhaun.