Work experience

Finding internships with SMEs

Graduates who have had work experience or internships are much more likely to find graduate-entry jobs when they leave university. Work experience is no longer an optional extra; employers are looking for graduates who are ‘work ready’ and can step into the professional workplace.  If you’ve missed the boat with the big graduate recruiters, don’t worry – there are still plenty of opportunities to get high-quality, relevant experience in the SME sector. Alex Townley, Digital Marketing Executive with Inspiring Interns, offers his insights and tips to get you started….

According to a recent Guardian article, graduate job vacancies at SMEs ( businesses with under 250 employees) account for 73% of the graduate opportunities available. So why do so many graduates end up fixated on the idea landing a position on a graduate scheme? Inspiring Interns is here to tell you that an internship with an SME can broaden your horizons, educate you about how a business operates and eventually help you grow to take on a variety of responsibilities. The reality is that many of you will have graduated without a clear career path in mind, so interning with an SME may give you the opportunity to try out different career options and gain experience across different departments within a business.

While SMEs employ more graduates than larger, corporate organisations, they often do not have the budget to spend on large recruitment campaigns. If you feel that an internship with an SME could be for you, you should be prepared to work a little harder to find your ideal opportunity. This is exactly why we’re here: to help you navigate the internet and be successful in your search!

Before you start…

What sort of internships are you interested in? Consider your existing skillset and think about what you would like to develop or learn about. If you enjoy starting projects, making things and coming up with new ideas, then an entrepreneurial role with a start-up might be a good place to start. If you are more creative then a marketing function might be for you. Think about laying out your ideal career path: selecting the right internship at this stage in your career will put you on firm footing for your first job and beyond. It’s also worth bearing in mind that SMEs look for interns all year round – not just over the summer.

Search online

Seems obvious, but not everyone does it properly. Visit Google and try a selection of keywords. Be specific with your searches. Consider which skills you’d like to develop and avoid the generic results by being precise. Try ‘start-up internship London’, for example, rather than ‘internship London’. Check out job sites like Gumtree and Graduate Talent Pool where companies are able to list vacancies for free. Check out websites like Silicon Milkroundabout – you might have missed their start-up jobs fair this time round, but they often list companies online that are searching for interns.

You should also approach companies that haven’t listed vacancies but who you are interested in getting involved with. Find out their HR/hiring manager’s name and email address; drop them a line asking about internship opportunities and stating why you think you would be a brilliant intern for their company. Even if you’ve already applied for a role with their organisation, there is no harm in highlighting your interest and expressing enthusiasm in a role; you might move to the top of their list!

Exploit social media

Businesses, irrespective of size, are embracing social media as part of their marketing and branding efforts, and many SMEs will have in-house social media accounts tweeting about daily office goings-on. So, much like an SME, it’s important that you embrace the (free!) possibilities that social media offers in your internship-hunt. Get started on LinkedIn and Twitter and use these platforms to get in touch with HR/hiring managers. Make sure that you are searchable online – list your technical skills in your online profiles and mention the fact that you are looking for an internship. Leave your ego offline and throw yourself out there!

Consider a recruitment agency

You may not have considered using an agency to find a role with an SME, but recruitment agencies can often act as an SME hub with many opportunities available. There’s a good chance you haven’t yet heard of the SME that might hold your ideal internship, so such hubs are great places to discover more opportunities. Spend some time editing your CV to fit a specific vacancy of interest, write a decent paragraph detailing why you feel you would be a good candidate and send your application to an agency. Companies trust recruitment agencies to dedicate specialist knowledge and resources to finding the right person for their vacancy, so give them a go. Just beware however, that recruitment agencies are working in the interests of companies and organisations, so don’t feel pushed into applying for something that doesn’t suit you.

This article was provided by Inspiring Interns (  Inspiring specialises in finding graduates internships in London and throughout the UK. Of the graduates they find internships, 66% earn themselves a permanent job with their host company. You can also follow Inspiring Interns on Twitter @InspiringIntern

One thought on “Finding internships with SMEs

  1. Pingback: How to find Internships within Small to Medium Sized Businesses | Bournemouth University Placements & Careers Service Employability Blog

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