Internships are a good opportunity to gain insight into a job area and are a vital part of your career orientation. What could be better than a first-hand experience to check whether the daily reality of a job meets your expectations?
Furthermore, employers in Germany expect work experience when you apply for a job. "Only" graduating is unfortunately not enough. Internships help you to improve your skills and let you transfer your theoretical knowledge to practical use.
Before you apply for an internship, we recommend that you take some time to plan it.
The first step is of course to think about your opportunities. Where could you theoretically spend your internship? Maybe, there are fields at which you have always wanted to have a closer look but maybe there are fields that you have not thought about, yet. Online, you can find many helpful ressources such as this database that list the most common sectors and occupations.
The next step is to think about your profile.
What skills do you already have? Which ones do you want to improve? And what are tasks that you would like to do at work? Your internship should match your needs.
Interships can have two goals: orientation and qualification.
Knowing what you want to achieve helps you find a matching employer. You might ask yourself:
- How specific are my ideas for a future career?
- When do I want to do my internship?
- How does the internship fit into my course of studies?
When the goal of your internship is mainly to gain insight into a certain field, a shorter internship in which you can have a look at different departments might be appropriate. If you want to gain a deeper insight into a specific department, it might be a good idea to spend more time in one department. This allows you to trace work projects in the company more thouroughly. You should make sure that you have certain responsibilities and that your superiors delegate tasks to you that you have to manage on your own.
This becomes more and more important the further you are in your course of studies. If you graduate soon, make sure that the internships allows you to show and practice your skills. Use the internship to build a network for yourself and keep in touch. After you graduate, let your former co-workers know that you are looking for a job.
Some courses of study ask for mandatory internships. In this case make sure that the internship meets the formal requirements.
Once you have decided for a field and know what you want, it time to look for specific jobs. JGU offers a career portal that contains many internship opportunities: www.karriere-campus-mainz.de (in German) and there are many other online ressources.
If you have a specific company in mind and they havn't any published job ads, you can try to send an unsolicited applications (especially if it is a smaller company).
You can find information about how to apply in Germany here.
What is a good internship? – Quality criterias
We have already talked about the importance of goals for your internship and of course, the quality of an internship depends on your commitment to the work you do. However, the employer also has some responsibilites.
If your contract doesn't state the following points already, you should clarify them:
- structure and course of the internship (How long does the internship take, how long is your workday, which departments will you be part of?)
- name and position of mentor (who is responsible for you?)
- your workspace (do you have a desk? And where is it located?)
- Delegation of challenging tasks (you don't want to make coffee and copies all day, do you?)
- payment (Payment is not mandatory for internships that last less than three months. Information about minimum wage regulations can be found in German in this broschure by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
- after finishing the internship, you have the legal right to an reference letter that contains your projects, tasks and responsibilites during the internship as well as an evaluation.
What if the company does not abide by their promise?
Try to talk to your mentor or superior first. If nothing changes, quit! Your time is valuables and best not wasted in a boring internship that does not further your career.