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How to get an internship in New Zealand

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Completing an internship can give you a sizable advantage when applying for graduate jobs and programmes. We’ll help you get a foot in the door.

Our articles on getting a graduate job in New Zealand and job interview tips should put you in good stead when it comes to any application or interview scenario. Internships benefit from these too, but you’d be surprised at just how many ways you can secure one. Often they can be obtained through unofficial sources, like a favourable contact, cold call or chance meeting. In this article, we’ll run through some of the lesser-known methods of securing internships inside and outside conventional channels like jobs boards.

Yeah, you heard us. Cold calling works.

It’s a lot easier for companies to organise internships than grad positions. After all, shadowing someone and offering to do coffee runs over a few weeks is a far less risky proposition than hiring someone full time. For this reason, just getting on the phone can be a viable way to secure an internship.

So who do you call? Generally, the best thing to do if you don’t have contacts is jumping on LinkedIn and look for specific people, like HR reps. Calling a company’s general inquiry number can lead to a lot of dead ends. Just that little bit of prowling is powerful because the obligation to speak with you isn’t dispersed across an organisation’s worth of communications people. You’re putting the accountability on one person in particular. Of course, there’s another thing you can do to make this strategy even better.

Look for university-held networking events.

Student clubs and societies hold these to boost their own profile. People attend them because they’re useful. You’ll find employers and panellists from all manner of industries and disciplines, so pick and choose to your liking. The general process for finding when these happen is quite straightforward.

  1. Join the Facebook groups of any and all student societies relevant to your interest.
  2. Make sure you’re following their pages.
  3. Markdown events of interest in your calendar.
    • Check to see if panellists or guests are from industries relevant to your interests and do your homework on them.
    • Find out if there’s a networking component to the event. Some of these are strictly a panel.
    • Check out the likely ratio of students to speakers. Knock off about one-third of those who’ve indicated “going” to get a better estimate of numbers if it’s a free event. You don’t want it to be impossible to speak with them.
  4. Attend at your discretion (assignments and obligations willing).

When you’re there, at the very least you’ll want to trade business cards, so bring some of your own if you have them. If you don’t, that’s fine too. The goal is collecting information. When you get home, feel free to follow up with them then and there over email. Just say it was a pleasure meeting them and ask if it’s OK to send them your resume/ express your interest in an internship should a place open. They’ll likely say yes. Just remember: promptness is good. Many students believe they must wait some arbitrary period of time before making contact like it’s a Tinder match. Don’t worry about that. If you get someone’s contact information in the evening and send off your resume in the morning, it shows you’re serious and enthusiastic.

It’s also a great idea to make use of online resources like LinkedIn Graduate Recruiters. If you don’t have any networking events in the area, this lets you connect with employers and learn more about job openings of interest. It goes without saying: if you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, you’ve got a new first priority!

Ask peers for recommendations.

You’re in an environment where others in your cohort are likely scrambling for internships. Just asking those who’ve recently completed one is a great way to get insight. Who’d they contact? What did they do? Could you walk me through the process? Afterwards, be a good Samaritan and pay it forward when you get the chance. There’s never a shortage of other students who need help.

Now you’ve got better of how much more “free jazz” this can be than grad jobs or something more formal, why not give it a go? Sometimes, it just pays to be bold, get out there and make some connections. You never know what’ll happen.