December 9, 2014, by Joe Ward

First-Year Internships – What, Who and Why?

By Joe Ward, Website Officer

First-year internships, also commonly known as ‘insight days’ can be a great opportunity for you to find out more about the world of work and start to think about your career after university.

Typically, these days are offered to first-year university students who are beginning to think about their career prospects, second-year internships or industrial placements. Purely to give insight into an organisation and the industry, these programmes are unpaid and will usually run from between one half-day to five days.

Insight days will cover topics such as how they operate within their industry and what the career prospects are within that business. You are often given the opportunity to take part in teamwork simulations and business games to gain an understanding of group and project work so you can get a feel of what it’s really like to work in the industry.

Who should apply?

Most opportunities are geared towards first-year undergraduates, however these days may also be open to undergraduates of any year of study or degree discipline depending on the employer.

Most days are free of any further restrictions; however some insight days may also have eligibility criteria around UCAS points or predicted degree award level.

Benefits of insight days

Insight days are a very useful way of making yourself known to recruiters and building a network of contacts, as many students who join a company on an industrial placement or summer internship will have attended an insight day previously.

Team-working and group activities, meeting and talking to business professionals and simply being in a business environment can help develop invaluable skills and knowledge that can service you well in internship, placement or career opportunities for the future.

Who offers insight days?

Insight days are widely available for companies in sectors such as:

  • finance
  • banking
  • law
  • IT and technology

Companies from many other industries, particularly larger organisations, also have formal insight programmes that can applied for as they become available, so don’t be discouraged if there isn’t anything available with an employer or your choice right away. If you are struggling to find a programme in your chosen area, you can make an appointment with one of our careers advisers who will be able to help.

How to apply for an insight day

Companies that offer insight days will be able to provide details of their programme(s) through their website, or by contacting them directly. Ensure you pay attention  to any restrictions on attendance such as year of study, UCAS points or degree discipline. You can also visit Rate My Placement or E4S where you will be able to find listings of companies that have programmes to apply for.

The application process will typically involve completing an online application which may also involve submitting a CV and covering letter detailing why you want to attend. Visit our Making applications advice pages for support with this.

Many smaller companies do not have formal insight programmes; however submitting speculative applications or contacting them directly to express your interest may lead to an offer of further information and shows good initiative.

When to apply for an insight day

Insight programmes are generally offered throughout the year, but with the spring term approaching many employers have opened the application process for the next batch of opportunities. Many are taking place in March or April 2015, with the application deadlines sometime around the end of January 2015, so don’t delay if you are interested in taking part.

If you want to apply for an insight day but need some help with finding opportunities, making an application, or just want some more information then make an appointment with one of our careers advisers for a more in-depth chat.

Posted in Work experience