How to get an internship in your first year of university

Fourth Year UOW student ~ BCMS (Digital Media and Marketing and Advertising) (Dean’s Scholar) // Marketing Coordinator at @UOWDMS//

Jasmyn has completed two internships and has been working professionally as a Social Media Specialist since the conclusion of those internships in 2019.

I like to think of internships like dipping your toe in the waters of your potential career; testing the water to see if it’s too hot, or too cold and if it’s okay to swim in. For this reason, internships have long-prevailed as the premium method of acquiring hands-on workplace skills. I feel that exposing yourself to new situations is the best way to learn, although, undertaking unpaid work is a tremendous decision, and it’s not one that should be made lightly.

Before even considering an internship, you should ask yourself:

Do I need to undertake unpaid work to gain these skills? And, is an internship the only way that I can gain this sort of experience?

Once you have established that an internship is right for you, start thinking about the logistics of the operation. Keep in mind that you may have to shuffle around existing paid work to fit the internship in, and undertaking an internship during university semesters is going to eat into your study time. Take it from me, who was working part-time, interning twice a week and doing a full-time semester – you may end up as one very tired human being!

So, you’ve recognised that an internship is going to benefit your long term goals, you’ve figured out how it will fit into your life and now it’s time to apply. There’s no real one-size-fits-all approach to securing positions because every company is looking for something different. But, here are some things you can do to greatly improve your chances of landing that dream position:

1. Keep your resume up to date

Your resume is the recruiter’s first impression of you, so make it count. It’s a good idea to include a cover letter addressing why you are interested in the position, what you can offer and telling them a bit about yourself. Don’t be afraid to show your personality (after all, they are probably looking to hire a human being, not a robot who can recite theories they learned in a lecture). If you’re stumped on how to write a cover letter, click here.

Another important element of your resume is the design. This sounds like such a small detail, but putting effort into how your resume looks says a lot about you as a person. For example, which of the resumes below seems more appealing to you?

Note: you do not have to include photos of yourself or your age on your resume. UOW students can contact Careers Central for help with resumes and cover letters.

2. Sell yourself

How do you convince a business that a first-year university student with little to no experience will be a valuable asset to their team? You. Sell. Yourself. I know we like to think that no paid work experience = no experience at all, but the truth is: if you’re doing a BCM degree you have a multitude of skills already that are very attractive to many employers. Always include your portfolio in job applications and let the work speak for itself. And, here’s a list of skills that you might want to include if you’re getting stuck:

  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Exceptional interpersonal communication skills
  • Ability to responsibly handle money
  • Superb cleaning skills
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Excellent technological skills in a range of software including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint…
  • Proficient understanding of the Adobe Suite including Photoshop, Premiere Pro and Lightroom.
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Hard-working and love challenges
  • Project iteration
  • Responsible and reliable
  • Ability to think innovatively
  • Excellent writing skills, both academic and creative
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Leadership skills

3. Know where to search

Actually finding internships is one of the hardest parts of the process. Often, you may not know what you’re searching for, so use these questions as a guide:

What skills am I interested in learning?

What work environments would I like to try (e.g. office, remote, etc.)?

What career do I see myself having?

Some great places to find internships are:

  1. Your university Careers office (UOW students can head to Careers Central)
  2. Job-search engines such as Indeed, Seek and Gumtree Jobs
  3. Social media: join Facebook groups that post jobs and keep an eye out for businesses posting on their pages.
  4. Google!

The best advice I can give for searching for internships is to pay attention to the hours you are required to commit to, the skills they want you to have, and what they say you will learn. On most job search sites, you can narrow your search by geographic area and industry.


You lose 100% of the shots you don’t take. I probably applied for over 30 positions before I received my first call back. And, although I didn’t particularly like the industry I was working in, I gained valuable skills and insights that I keep with me to this day.

5. Nail the interview

You’ve applied for 50 positions and one has finally gotten back to you – hooray! Now it’s time to prepare for your interview.

An internship is a two-way street. You are learning from your job experience, and your employer is receiving value from you. One thing that I like to always bring up in interviews is specifically what I can do for the company. This shows the interviewer that I have taken a vested interest in the company by researching them and demonstrating my ability to work autonomously.

Otherwise, think of an interview as an opportunity to show the interviewer your personality, skillset and expertise. Personally, I used to get very nervous in interviews so I started pretending that I was speaking to a friend, instead of a big scary recruiter who holds the future of my career in their hands. This seemed to help.

For more interview tips check out this comprehensive guide.

There you have it: a comprehensive guide to securing an internship during your first year of university study. As a final note, I would implore you to please, please, please read up on your rights as a worker before undertaking unpaid work, and if you have a feeling something is ‘off’ don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your well being comes before any work opportunities, and nothing is worth adding stress and negativity into your life (even in return for 3 months experience added to your resume) – trust me!