4 ways a creative internship can benefit your career

by Sep 20, 2021

Everyone, no matter your degree, can benefit from the valuable experience of an internship.

For those of us in creative fields, internships can provide more than just the normal first job stuff or foray into our industry; they can show us what’s possible in ever-changing sectors, how we fit into a broader team, and give us valuable connections that are imperative for creatives.

Before you land your first creative internship, though, you should be aware of your rights as a worker.


The ins and outs of internships

One of the biggest problems with internships is the financial barrier it poses to some applicants. According to the Federal Department of Employment, over half of 18-29 year olds surveyed have undertaken unpaid work experience.

But when is an internship beneficial and legal, and when is it exploitative?

The Fair Work Ombudsman has extensive guidelines to help you figure out whether an internship is ok or not, the most important of which is “whether the arrangement involves creating an employment contract.” Basically, if you’re doing work that a paid employee would usually do, you should probably be getting paid too.

Unpaid internships are best undertaken when they’re part of a student or vocational placement (usually for course credit). They should offer:

  • Training
  • Mentorship and supervision
  • Flexible hours

For more advice on whether or not to take an internship, check out our dedicated internships page.


What makes internships so great for creatives?

Expanding your skillset

Gaining career-related skills is the key to a successful internship. When you’re in a creative role, you don’t only expand your soft skills, like communication, collaboration, and decision-making. Creative sectors are constantly changing, implementing new techniques and technologies that you may not have learned at uni.

When you take part in a creative internship, you could be exposed to valuable skills that might make you stand out from your peers.

Plus, since you get the chance to learn new skills and technologies in an internship, you might even find your specialty! And equally as important, you might find out what you definitely don’t want to do.


Becoming intrapreneurial

The Harvard Business Review defines intrapreneurship as:

“…acting like an innovative entrepreneur, but within the ecosystem of a larger, more traditional, organisation.”

This is something that is vital for anyone looking to start a career in the design or communications industries. More often than not, people in creative roles are embedded in a non-creative organisation, with some exceptions like design agencies. For example, graphic designers can be found in most organisations, as can copywriters.

One of the benefits of creative internships then, is the ability to learn how you fit into the big picture via intrapreneurship. You’ll be able to learn how a creative project comes to life, with all the timelines and planning, cross-collaboration, direction, and execution that you don’t get at university.


Building connections

It’s important no matter what industry you’re in, but it can give creatives an even bigger step up. Yep, we’re talking about the word that can send shivers down a student’s spine: networking.

We’ve written a lot about networking in the past, and that’s precisely because so many people find it so tricky.

The best thing about internships, though, is that the networking is basically built into the programme itself. You’re given the chance to make a good impression on employees in your industry straight from day dot!

You never know when a connection might come in handy, provide you with an unexpected opportunity, or even lead to a mentorship.


Boosting employability

There’s nothing that looks better on a resume than real-world experience.

Undertaking an internship will show your future employer that you’re a go-getter, someone who isn’t just sitting by waiting for the magic happen, but actively going out there seeking experiences and new skills.

Sometimes internships can serve as ‘test runs’, leading to a full-time position at completion. And even if there isn’t a dedicated pathway to employment after your time as intern with an organisation ends, if a spot opens up that’s suited to your skill-set, you’ll want to be first in line.

That’s exactly what happened to me! I started with UTS Careers as Social Media Intern in 2019, but when the pandemic hit in 2020 and a spot for Communications Assistant opened up, I was lucky enough to be considered and eventually landed the role.

That’s why it’s so important to treat an internship like a real job, replete with all the professionalism you’d expect.


For more internship tips and tricks, head to our Resources page. And if you’re interested in landing a creative internship of your own, come along to our How to get an internship: Creatives & design event to hear from students who did just that – undertook a creative internship while studying.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels

Lily Cameron

Lily Cameron

Communications Assistant

Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.