Applying for an internship with no experience – why you know more than you think

Applying for an internship, but worried about your lack of experience? It’s that age-old problem: you can’t get a job without experience, but gosh be darned if you’re able to get any experience without a job. Time to break the cycle – and we’re happy to show you how.

Applying for an internship with no experience


“So, what relevant experience do you have, exactly?”


It’s a sentence almost all students dread. Suddenly your mind goes blank, your memory is filled only with your valiant attempts at dressing-up as the sexy Thunderbird on that hazy lacrosse social, and you curse yourself for not spending the last few years begging friends of influential friends for an email of recommendation.


But fear not.


For those who have yet to place themselves on the job or internships ladder, do not fret. Although it might seem like all you have to cling to is a 2:1 in ‘Insert Vocationally Irrelevant Subject Your Mum Told You Not To Do’, there are plenty of ways to make yourself seem attractive to prospective employers.


Now take off that costume, Virgil. There’s work to be done.


1. Big Up Your Educational Achievements


And by this, we’re not talking exam percentages. Cast your mind back over the specifics of your degree, times you worked in a team, times you led, times you were put into pressure to perform and how you came out fighting. Note it down as experience, and explain what skills it forced you to put into practice, and how.


It might seem to you like Just Another Module, but employers are looking for specific demonstrations of attractive skills, and no matter what you studied, you will have showed talent and flair at some point along the way.


2. Get fired up about your hobbies


Employers are looking for people with passion. And don’t you worry if that passion didn’t lead you down the road of The Entrepreneur Society or your university equivalent – we promise you, that’s absolutely not the point.


Whether you got your kicks creating music, organizing nights out, treading the boards in a crushingly terrible production of Macbeth, sharing cookery tips with like-minded foodies or sending round a petition to Save That Chip Shop The Health Inspectors Said Was Full Of Worms – if it came from a place of passion, it’s something that employers will be attracted to.


BUT it’s important to bear in mind when putting these experiences down on the page that you don’t just translate WHAT you did (“we had a Save Kebab World Party”), but HOW what you did shows off the skills that make you interesting and employable (“I was the first point of contact for over 200 students, liaised with local small business owners on flash-mob awareness campaign”) – you get the gist.


3. Be Aware That Learning Never Stops


Say you’re perusing some of the marvellous internships on you favourite site – – and you see that that really super-cool tech startup is looking for a fresh-faced intern JUST LIKE YOU.

The only problem?

They want experience in programmes you’ve never even heard of, basic knowledge of things like HTML, CSS and Javascript, as well as on-the-job understanding of outlets like Hootsuite and WordPress. Might as well give up now, right?


Come now. Is that what Virgil would do?


Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Google First, Ask Questions Later?” It’s particularly pertinent when despairing at the dizzying heights of knowledge needed for entry level positions. Don’t ever let yourself think that you are somehow ‘finished’ with the learning section of your life – if anything, it’s never been easier to dive into new worlds of skills, absolutely free. Whatever is needed of you, give it a Google, and see if it’s something you can get to grips with.


Amazing online courses from places like Code Academy and Coursera mean that you have no excuse – a better you is out there, just waiting for you to set aside an hour or so. Get stuck in.


4. Reference? You can get a reference


Surely there was a teacher along the way who thought you were pretty darn smart? A professor will work just as well as a reference as a past employer – they’re perfectly placed to describe your skills, your work ethic and your (no doubt boundless) enthusiasm for learning.


5.  Work a bit harder, dammit.


We work with a lot of employers, and time and again the number one piece of feedback we get when they reject candidates is that “they didn’t seem to know, or care, much about our company.” You’d be surprised by how much employers will forgive a lack of experience, when a passion for their mission statement, product or ethos is made abundantly clear.


What does this mean in practical terms? It means more work.


It means not just firing off a generic CV and Cover Letter to anyone and everyone you think might take you on, but rather carefully considering who you are applying to, what skills they are looking for, and what kind of person you think they’ll want to work with.


It means putting a bit of time into investigating their competitors, into what makes them different, and into how you feel you’re the best possible fit for their team. It means getting interested in their industry, gleaning some knowledge, and DEMONSTRATING that knowledge on your application. You may not have the ‘experience’ of others – but if you can demonstrate research skills, ability to come up with ideas, hard work, passion and a sense of humour within your job application itself, you’re already a cut above the rest.


At the end of the day, applying for an internship with no experience can feel daunting, but by maximizing the life skills you’ve already achieved, drawing focus to your academic achievements and – most importantly – demonstrating attractive skill-sets within the application itself, it should be no barrier to getting a splendid job. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO.


Thanks for reading! If you found this article helpful, please do share it on Twitter, Facebook or Linked In (to the right, to the right), and if you’re all fired up and ready to fight, take a look at the brilliant internships available at enternships


Any questions? Ask us @enternships, or chuck me an email in the direction of [email protected]



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Natasha Hodgson is the Content and Community Manager over at Enternships. She loves writing about inspiring things, and Nicolas Cage. Luckily, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

11 thoughts on “Applying for an internship with no experience – why you know more than you think”

  1. enternships BBCTrainees Why do so many jobs in the media say good interpersonal skills required when it needs other skills too?

  2. Film2240 BBCTrainees both ‘media’ and ‘interpersonal’ are pretty wide remits, can you be any more specific and we’ll try to help?

  3. enternships BBCTrainees What I mean is say I apply for work experience and I have skills thanks to my degree,yet it still says I need…

  4. enternships BBCTrainees …good interpersonal skills even though the job can still be done by those with ASD with reasonable adjustments

  5. enternships Tactic that worked very well for me a few years ago was building a strong ‘Personal Brand’ including my CV + Website + Blog

  6. douglasackerman That sounds ace – would you be interested in writing a blog for us around Building Your Personal Brand?

  7. enternships thanks, we’ll make sure to share next week. Great work on your new-look website and blog by the way.

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