“I just want a UK internship at the end of my Masters”

Written by Elizabeth Wilkinson, Careers Consultant at The Careers Service

If you’re an international student coming to the end of your Masters degree – or you’re just at the start and you’re planning your year – a common ambition is to get an internship in the UK, to round off your time in Manchester.

And that’s where it gets tricky – but if you think a bit differently about what you want, and what you’ve got to offer, you could have a better chance of achieving your goal.

Getting work in the UK – what’s the problem?

As an international postgrad, you need the right permission to work in the UK. You can work part-time during your degree, but as you don’t get a “summer vacation” (that’s when you do your project or dissertation!) there isn’t normally time during your Masters to get full-time work, at least until you’ve completed all your course work and handed in your dissertation/project report (more here).

If you want to work full-time after your Masters, you’d normally need to get a different type of work visa, such as the Tier 2 Employer sponsored visa (more here). However, the University of Manchester is part of a pilot programme allowing most of our international Masters postgrads to work in the UK for up to 6 months after the end date of their course.

So why might getting a 6 month internship be a problem, if your visa allows you to work?

It may not be a problem – if you focus on what you can offer an employer rather than what you want from them.

An employer is more likely to be interested in you if:

  • You have skills and experience to offer which the employer needs – if your skills and experience are current and in short supply, they’re most likely to be useful to an employer.
  • You don’t restrict yourself to looking for “an internship”. In the UK, this term is more commonly used for a short piece of work undertaken during an undergraduate degree, and implies that someone needs quite a lot of training. You may find a few “graduate internships” advertised but they’re not that common (we advertised about 170 graduate internships on CareersLink last year between September and December, but many of these were for 12 months).
  • Your approach to an employer shows how you could help solve a problem for them. For example, you’re familiar with databases or your language skills and experience could help with their customer base back in your home country. This is more likely to attract an employer than an approach asking for 6 months training, after which you’re likely to have to leave.
  • You contact them 2 or 3 months in advance. Make it clear that you’re looking for 6 months temporary work, and that your student visa will give you permission to work for a UK employer for 6 months (direct them here to reassure them it’s legit). If you present yourself as a solution to a short term staffing problem, that’s a much easier sell than presenting yourself as someone who’s just desperate for 6 months work.
How else can you improve your chances?
  • First and foremost, focus on your English language skills (written and verbal) throughout your time in Manchester. You will need to get these up to business level standard, where you would be confident speaking in a meeting with colleagues. That also includes understanding local accents. Get to know the locals round here and you can show off your Manchester accent back home.
  • Learn how people operate in a UK workplace, including workplace etiquette. This can differ from other countries, you can’t assume it’s the same as back home (we’re notorious for not saying what we actually mean in the workplace – we call it “being polite” but sometimes it’s just cover for very strong disagreements).
  • Think about the skills you can offer. For example, if you’ve been doing a technical Masters, think about the lab and project skills you’ve gained and which sort of employers might benefit from those skills. If you’ve worked in teams, whether as part of your course, in work or in your social activities, it shows that you’ve developed an knowledge of how people work well together. An awareness of your skills, backed up by practical evidence, articulated in a well-written CV, can be more persuasive to an employer than the fact that you have a Masters degree as well as an undergraduate degree.
  • If you can’t get part-time work during your Masters, try volunteering. This could help with your language ability, your understanding of a UK workplace and your skills. Moreover, it could make you truly feel part of the community in Manchester. Plus, you might make the sort of contacts who know of hot leads for jobs?
  • Don’t rely on simply searching Google for job ads.
    • Make use of more specialist job sites or those specific to graduate level work (CareersLink has vacancies from employers who are specifically targeting University of Manchester students, and our Graduate JobSearch site can lead you to other specialist sites).
    • Use any contacts you have – temporary work may never be advertised.
    • Make speculative applications to employers who might value your specific skills.
    • Ensure you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile which highlights your skills and is visible to recruiters.
Want more help on finding a job, writing a CV and getting through interviews as a postgrad?

Our postgraduate careers essentials talks are all available as slides and podcasts here.

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