Getting an Intership – Me against the World

Posted: August 14, 2011 in English, Kaffeeklatsch
Tags: , , , , ,

by Jan Tzschichhold

During my first year of International Relations I thought it would be a good idea to do an internship. I thought that it would be important to gain some working experience, to learn practical skills and to get an insight on real work. And more than anything I thought that everybody would welcome me with open arms. I mean I was willing to work for several months, without any payment. Somebody surely must want me to work for them. I was so naïve…

In the beginning I wasn’t quite sure where to start. Where could a politics student do an internship? After hours of brainstorming I reached the point that every wannabe Intern will eventually reach: I tiped “Internship International relations” into Google. A whole new world opened up for me. A world so vast and full of information that it was quite difficult to find exactly what I was looking for. A world that was not only full of opportunities but also full of disappointment. Most internships were unavailable for first years. Students that want to start as early as possible to gain crucial experience that could help them on how to specify in their degree are often turned down straight away. Some organisations even only accept Master students, that have favourably already done a couple of years work experience. I tried to apply for some international organisations in Germany, but they did not want to employ Germans. When I applied for international organisations in England they turned me down because I wasn’t English.

Finally I had a interview for a newspaper in Germany. After I talked to them they told me that I was a great match but because I have no previous internships in the journalistic field I could not work for them. How I can gain some experience if no one employs anybody without experience is still a big riddle for me. In the end I turned to a friend, who was working for a news channel. Only through his connection did I manage to get an interview. I thought I had made it. Two days however before I could sign my contract, the channel got sold and informed me that they cannot afford new Interns. Any hope for an internship as a first year student was gone.

In my second year I thought I am going to make everything better, I started my search in advance. I made a list of possible internship opportunities and applied in one week to all of them. Banks, Governments, Institutes, Newspaper and NGO’s. No one was safe from me. The first reply came from banks. They wanted me to take little tests. Personality, psychology, economy, mathematics. For one bank I had to do 4 of these tests…for a lousy internship. Because I am studying politics and not economy I eventually always got kicked out by some tricky maths tests. The Newspapers told me once again that I had not enough experience and Germany’s foreign office send me a mail after 4 months of complete silence stating that they were really sorry but bla bla bla… From 60% of all the other applications I never heard back.

But don’t worry, the story has a happy ending. Finally I got an internship with an international NGO. It is my first step of breaking out of the circle of non-existing experience and a small sign that I am not a hopeless case. I got lucky, but the main situation is still existing. More and more companies require from their future employees a ridiculous amount of practical experience but no one really wants to get their hands dirty. A flood of highly motivated and interested students that often offer their working power completely for free is unable to find any internship because the market is not only highly competitive but also because many companies are underestimating the opportunities that an internship incorporates.

For everybody who wants to apply for an internship I suggest that you: Apply in advance, to a huge amount of diverse organisations. The majority of these organisations will reject you and sometimes you will be accepted from a very unexpected direction. The most important thing you have to keep in mind is: USE YOUR CONNECTIONS. If you know someone somewhere ask them for a favour. This is how the world works…


  1. Carmen says:

    Great article, and I can totally sympathise! I also think it’s somewhat unfair that there are very limited number of internships available for first year. Obviously I understand that we may not be as “qualified” as others for the job, but as I recently finished second year, I don’t feel any more qualified than last year. A little wiser perhaps…but that’s all. If governments want to attain a skilled work force I feel it is in their interest to make more and more internships available to student’s who have recently finished first year. That way, when we do graduate, we will (hopefully) have three summers’ worth of internships under our belt. Thanks for the advice at the end, I could have really done with that last year!

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