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Get a handle on internships

Do you need a break from your studies before you write your thesis? Do you want to test out how you can use your education on the other side? Does the labour market seem closed to you?

There's a lot you can get out of an internship, on many levels. Below, we've listed some ideas. Think about what it makes sense for you to be focusing on.

Tasks

In an internship, you typically will perform a task that serves two purposes. First, performing the task will be a part of your course of study; it will support your professional profile, and you'll conclude your internship with a report that will be approved by your institution. Second, the task you perform in your internship will typically be one that you previously did not have the time or opportunity to tackle.

You'll leave with new perspectives, new knowledge, and new methods. The task you perform, combined with your role, will thus be rather similar to consultant work. An internship can be a good occasion for you to test yourself through developmental and analytical tasks.

  • What kind of task would you like to try?
  • Do you want to become more specialised, or would you rather learn something completely new?

Methods

Look back at the methods you've worked with over the course of your studies — what kinds of analyses and data have you worked with? Is it qualitative or quantitative? Do you work mostly with statistics, narratives, behaviour mapping, or something else? An internship can give you the opportunity to apply your methods in a problem-orientated, user-focused manner. You and the place offering the internship will need to agree on how to define the problem and choose the most appropriate analysis.

  • What's missing from your professional toolbox?

Industries and networks

Do you dream of working in a particular industry after completing your education? Do you need to have your idea of business demystified? Would you like to meet adults whose jobs and careers are in full swing, so you can hear how things really are on the other side? An internship is an opportunity for you to expand your network (with people other than those you already study with) and meet people with knowledge and experience in an area that interests you.

  • Who do you want to get to know?
  • What do you want to work with?

Clear agreements

You have a life outside of university. Keep your other activities in mind when preparing an internship contract. Make sure that your internship fits in with your other activities — writing a thesis, working a student job, or maybe volunteering.

Your internship is an investment; you'll spend your time performing a task for the business, and you'll gain experience, industry knowledge, and a network. Be sure to put yourself in a position where you can get the most out of the internship. The idea isn't for you to just make coffee and lay out other people's PowerPoint presentations.

Get a clear agreement with the business in place from the beginning, so you know what it is you'll be doing. Prepare a written agreement and consider setting specific goals for what tasks you will perform for the business during your time there. You may be developing products, writing reports, or managing external partnerships. Make sure that as much as possible is stated clearly in the agreement. Discuss the agreement with your internship counsellor, so you can be sure that the internship fits into your studies as best as possible.

  • If you need inspiration, ask your institution if there are any former interns you can contact to learn about the kinds of tasks they performed.
  • Follow up. If you feel that your internship is deviating from what you agreed on, take that up with your internship counsellor or your boss. Consider arranging check-in meetings once or twice per month with your boss.

Get started

Once you've started at the business, you have a limited number of months to try out as much as possible. Get a running start, so you can maximise what you get out of the arrangement. Look into the possibility of having a mentor or internship counsellor on site; someone you can regularly exchange ideas with, and who can serve as a lifeline.

Know your worth! You might feel a bit like you're in foreign territory. In terms of age and experience, you're closest to student assistants. Formulating an opinion and standing by your professional judgement can be a bit of a challenge. Remind yourself that you're there to learn. The internship is a stepping stone on the path to becoming just as skilled as your colleagues in the workplace you're visiting.

The business is interested in you and your perspective. You're coming to them from outside, and you've been given a specific task to get done. Often, the focal point is for you to bring a new perspective to stale workflows and to suggest improvements or opportunities for development.

In your internship, you'll build social capital. You'll learn more about ways to work with others, workplace communities, and professional relationships. You'll also meet an entire, real workplace culture. Notice what you do well with, and what you'd like to avoid in the future.

  • What kinds of teamwork do you feel most comfortable with?
  • What is a good workplace for you? formal/informal, experimental/zero-defect, operations/development

An internship is also ideal for building your understanding of an organisation and an industry. This is valuable knowledge for when you've finished your thesis and are ready to step out and onto the labour market.

Read more about industry knowledge

What will you take away from it?

When you're finished, take a look at where you are and summarise your experiences. As you write your internship report for your studies, you can decide what you want to take away from it.

  • Skills — something to add to your CV
    • What have you learned?
    • What have you discovered that you are capable of?
    • What tasks have you performed?
  • Labour market knowledge — pointers toward future jobs
    • What have you learned about the industry? Is it right for you?
    • What tasks did your colleagues at the business perform? What does it take?
    • What sort of workplace was it? Number of employees, organisational hierarchy (flat / many levels of management), public/private, start-up/well-established
  • Relationships — take charge of your network
    • Who do you have something in common with professionally? Those people can be a starting point for professional or methodological exchanges of ideas and feedback. Ask if you can call/write to them sometime in the future if you should have the need to. See if there's a basis for you to remain in contact
    • Is there someone you could see yourself as in five to ten years? Sometimes, you develop a sort of professional crush. Someone you'd like to be when you've grown and you've finished your education. These kinds of people can be role models or mentors to you. Try asking them about their careers. Most would be happy to share their experiences and the things they considered before taking the job they have now.
    • Who can give you access to knowledge? Take advantage of the fact that you've spent an extended period at this workplace. Your colleagues know about much more than what you've worked on together. Be curious and listen to their experiences from other previous workplaces. For example, ask them about the types of tasks they performed, the culture in those workplaces, value chains, expectations, different types of employees, etc.

Read more about how to build and use your network

Don't be afraid of the distance — apply to DM's travel fund

If you're studying in the city, there's no need to be scared off by the need to commute to your cool, new internship. At DM, we want to support everyone in getting the most out of their education — and that means internships, too.

For this reason, you can apply to DM for coverage for your transportation and travel expenses.

Read more about DM's travel fund

Do you get paid as an intern?

As a university student, you aren't the same kind of intern as, say, a journalist or nurse. Most courses of study use the word "internship" to refer to a so-called "project-orientated course" that can be developed together with a business and concluded with a particular task. For that reason, you also won't be paid during your internship the way someone reading for a professional bachelor's degree (professionsbachelor) would be.

Instead of ordinary pay, interns can receive a payment called an erkendtlighed (roughly "gratuity" or "token payment") during an internship. An erkendtlighed is no more than 3000 DKK per month. Because, in principle, DM believes that you should not work for free, we encourage everyone considering an internship to look into the possibility of receiving an erkendtlighed,

Read more about erkendtligheder and minimum wage requirements for project-orientated courses in Denmark and abroad