Finding an internship whilst doing a PhD

by | Mar 9, 2020 | Blogposts | 0 comments

In this blog, our research communicator and PhD student Gemma Bridge shares her experience of finding an internship whilst doing a PhD. Gemma previously contributed to our blog talking about the juggling act of a PhD student, managing personal and professional commitments.

This is the first of three posts about Gemma’s experience of doing an internship alongside her PhD.

Together the three posts will cover:

  • the process of finding an internship whilst doing a PhD
  • the challenges of doing an internship whilst completing a PhD
  • the key reasons why you should consider doing an internship as a doctoral student


Part 1: Finding an internship whilst doing a PhD

My internship with the WFPHA

I am in the final year of my PhD at Leeds Beckett University. My PhD journey has been a good one, but not without challenges. Two of my biggest challenges have been feeling isolated and having a lack of motivation. Thankfully, when I started an internship with the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) in my second year, I was provided with connections and a renewed sense of purpose.

The WFPHA is an international NGO composed of national public health associations. It is based in Geneva but works with organisations all over the world. The WFPHA hosts a number of interns who work on a range of different projects. Some of these interns are based in Geneva whilst others, like me, are based remotely.

My internship has predominantly been with the oral health working group. The focus of this group, as the name may suggest, is to promote oral health globally. My role has been to advocate for sugar and sugar-sweetened beverage taxes globally. I have worked alongside other researchers to develop webinars and teleconferences, writing reports, commentaries and viewpoints and conducting original research.

How I found my internship

I have always been keen to get involved in ‘side projects’, and throughout my PhD, I have been involved with lots of extra-curricular activities (as I discussed in a previous post). Yet doing an internship during my PhD was not something I had planned, and it was not necessarily something I had time for.

Instead, I came across the internship at the WFPHA by accident. I often scroll through Twitter in the evening to catch up on the day’s events and see what research has been published. And it was on one of these evening scrolls that I came across the internship at the WFPHA.

Shortly after finding the internship call, I sent over my CV and a letter to express my interest. To my surprise, I was invited to interview the next week, and within three days I found out that I had been successful in securing the internship.

I realise that this approach is not conventional. Twitter and other social media platforms are good for those just starting out their internship search who want to see what internships may be available. Yet, I wouldn’t recommend social media as the starting place when looking for internship opportunities. Instead, I would recommend you take a more strategic approach.

Assess what you are looking for

The first step is to consider what you are looking for:

  • Identify your broad career interests. Don’t worry about being too specific. Consider things like what area you would like to work in, what you would like your working day to look like, and where you would like to be based.
  • Next, consider what skills you already have and what skills you would like to develop. Internships are an ideal opportunity to push you to improve and develop the skills needed to move forward in your career.
  • Finally, decide whether you could handle an unpaid internship. Although money is not often on the top of the list, this is a key question as a lack of funding can make it hard, if not impossible, to complete an internship whilst doing a PhD.


Gemma Bridge Finding an internship whilst doing a PhD Search

Steps to finding your internship

The next step is to find an internship that fits what you are looking for. This may seem like a daunting task, but thankfully there are numerous ways to go about it.

  • For starters, create a well-crafted CV and cover letter ready to go so that when you find the ideal internship you don’t have to spend hours getting ready to apply. Remember to tailor these for the organisation and position to which you are applying.
  • Then, if you know what company you would like to intern with then you can go straight to them. Check out their website and see if they have any information about internships. If not, you could send them a speculative letter with your CV, or even be brave and give the company a call.
  • Alternatively, you could also ask around. Friends or family members may have links to companies that you may be interested in. Also, don’t forget your supervisors. They also likely have connections that could offer great internship opportunities.
  • There are also numerous internships posted on job boards throughout the year. These include: Milkround, which is the UK’s most used student and graduate job website; All About Careers, which offers loads of UK internships across different fields; and Target Jobs, which lists lots of internship opportunities alongside tips pages to help applicants develop the skills needed to succeed at interview.

(to be continued)

We hope you enjoyed Gemma’s post about finding an internship whilst doing a PhD. In the following weeks, look out for part 2 and 3 of this series.

You’ll find out about the challenges and opportunities that Gemma faced whilst doing an internship alongside her PhD, and how this can help your own journey.


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