Vacation schemes and work experience

What is a spring week, insight day or insight programme?

13 Sept 2023, 18:57

We answer your FAQs on insight days, spring weeks and the other types of introductory work experience that provide a glimpse into working life for first-year university students among others.

A telescope looking out over a city scape, symbolising the glimpse you get into working life when doing an insight programme

If you’re just starting to think about your career, you may be coming across terms such as employer spring weeks, insight weeks, open days, bootcamps, first-year internships and first-year work experience programmes. You can search for all of these types of schemes on targetjobs , if you are ready to dive straight in and apply for them.

But you may be wondering what they are, whether you should do them and even if it is already too late for you to do them. In this article, we answer all those questions and more. Jump to:

  1. What is a spring week or other type of insight programme?
  2. Which employers run insight programmes?
  3. Who can attend insight programmes? Are they only for first years?
  4. Why should you do a spring week or insight programme?
  5. Are insight programmes and spring weeks paid?
  6. When are they and when do you apply?
  7. How do you apply?
  8. Is it hard to ‘get’ a spring week or insight programme?
  9. How many insight programmes should you do?
  10. How do you prepare for an insight programme?
  11. Do you include an insight programme on your CV and LinkedIn profile?
  12. Do you need an insight day to get a graduate job?
  13. What are the alternatives to insight programmes?

What is an open day, insight day, spring week or insight week?

Open days, insight days, spring weeks and insight weeks are short periods of structured work experience that introduce university students to an employer and/or a profession.

‘Insight programme’ is the umbrella term for this kind of ‘taster’ scheme. But they can also be known as skills bootcamps, first-year internships, first-year work experience or open evenings, in addition to employer-branded names such as Clifford Chance’s SPARK scheme, Bloomberg’s Launch or Spring into Deloitte. Note that the term ‘spring week’ is particularly associated with investment banking, where it is typically recognised as a first step into the profession.

Whatever the name, insight programmes typically last between one day and a week. Depending on the length of the programme, you will get to do some or all of the following:

  • attend formal talks on the profession, its specialisms and the employer.
  • chat informally to graduate employees and senior professionals, asking any questions you have around the career and gaining their advice on how to be a strong candidate.
  • undertake a case study and/or be talked through a recent piece of work to better understand the sector and get a sense of working life.
  • take part in interactive skills workshops to develop your skills or knowledge: for example, sessions focused on developing commercial awareness.
  • discover from recruiters how to make good applications .
  • shadow professionals (observe them doing their job) and/or undertake simple tasks. On longer programmes, such as weeks, you are likely to rotate around different divisions and specialisms.

Most programmes are held in person, but a few are held virtually. In fact, some employers run online skills development programmes over a longer period of time (where you join, for example, sessions once a week for six weeks), and some provide short e-learning courses that introduce the employer while helping you develop skills.

Which employers have insight programmes and spring weeks?

Insight programmes are mostly offered by large employers within the law, investment banking, fintech, accountancy and consulting sectors, although a few big organisations within other sectors offer them. Search for them on targetjobs .

Are spring weeks and insight days only for first-year students? Who can attend?

Spring weeks and all insight programmes are traditionally aimed at first-year students on three-year courses and second-year students on four-year courses. But it’s not always the case.

Some are geared towards student cohorts of any year who are underrepresented in that profession, such as those of black heritage, those who are the first generation of their family to go to university or women in traditionally male-dominated sectors. A few are open to graduates and postgraduate students, particularly in law.

Check out the entry requirements on individual insight programme vacancy listings .

Note that some employers also run insight programmes aimed at year 12 students in sixth form, which are structured similarly to the university schemes; we don't cover these here because we are focused on university-level opportunities, but you can check employers' websites for further details on their sixth form offerings.

What are the benefits of doing an insight day or programme?

Many employers run insight programmes, and especially spring weeks, with a view to hiring future interns and graduates. If you make a great impression, you’re likely to be offered a place on their internship the following year and then, if you continue to impress, a place on their graduate programme. Or you’ll be fast-tracked to the final interview or assessment centre stage of the recruitment process at the very least.

This is why so many spring weeks and insight programmes are offered to first years (or second years on four-year courses) – because employers want to attract students at the earliest stage and try to ‘secure’ them for their graduate positions.

But, even if you do not go on to work for that employer, there are still many reasons to do an insight programme. You will:

  • learn much more about the profession and work out if it’s for you
  • understand what kind of employer culture and working environment best suits you
  • be able to ask any burning questions to current graduates and experienced professionals
  • develop your skills through dedicated workshops and case studies
  • gain insider tips about how to write a good job application and impress at interview
  • have something concrete to write about on your CV (see below)
  • develop your network by adding the people you meet to LinkedIn; they may be able to help with your job search and professional life in the future (learn more about making the most of LinkedIn and creating a great profile ).

Not all spring weeks and insight weeks are paid. Some are, but others will just cover expenses such as travel and accommodation. Insight days are more likely to be expenses-only. Whether or not you are paid, you should be well fed and watered by the employer. During longer programmes, some employers also arrange paid-for social events in the evening.

When are they and when do you apply?

As suggested by the name spring week, most insight programmes are held in the spring (between February and April), but some may be held earlier – in the autumn or at Christmas.

Deadlines are typically set around two months before the start of the programme. However, some employers start reviewing applications and filling places with good candidates before the deadline and may close the scheme early if all places are filled. So, it is best to start looking and applying as early as you can. If you register with targetjobs , you will be able to follow employers and be notified of their insight schemes as soon as they open.

How do I apply for an insight programme or spring week?

The application process for all insight programmes is usually a scaled-down version of the employer’s graduate recruitment process .

You will usually have to fill in a condensed online form , involving psychometric tests , and perhaps sit a short interview via video or phone. Some law and consulting firms ask you to submit a CV and have a short interview.

Is it hard to get a place on a spring week or insight day?

Employers don’t accept just anyone on to their insight programmes; after all, they are hoping to find some of their future graduate employees. They will expect insight programme attendees to be motivated to learn and to be actively developing the skills that they need to succeed in the profession. As such, you need to put in the best application you can.

Put together a good CV and/or application answers. Practise online tests and give them your full attention. Make sure you can give concrete reasons why you want to explore the profession and with this employer specifically at both application and interview stage. Recruiters don’t expect you to be fully committed to the profession or the employer – they know you will use these to explore your options − but they do expect a genuine interest and that you know something about the employer.

View our work experience CV template and tips and follow our links to free and paid-for practice tests in our online tests advice .

How many insight programmes should you do?

Many students do a number of insight programmes so that they can fully explore different professions and get a feel for different employers in the same profession. There isn’t a set figure for the right number of programmes. Fit in as many as you can while juggling your other commitments.

How do you prepare for a spring week or insight programme?

Employers will send you information about what to expect in advance and many include details about where to book accommodation (if not provided). To make the most of the experience, follow our tips:

  • Do some research beforehand. Employers will not expect you to know everything about them or the profession – after all, that’s why you are going on the insight programme. But reading up on the employer, its specialisms and the profession in advance can help to put what you learn on the programme in context. Our advice on researching a company will help guide your investigation.
  • Using your research, think of plenty of questions to ask people you meet during the programme. These could be about working life at the employer and in the profession generally, their thoughts on industry trends and how you can improve your employability. If you need inspiration, turn to our list of good questions to ask at an interview .
  • Prepare a short introduction to yourself for the networking sessions. Don’t overthink this, though: just be prepared to say who you are, what you are studying and something about you.
  • Book your accommodation well in advance (if it isn’t arranged for you). Plan your commute or journey so that you arrive punctually, allowing extra time for delays and so on.
  • Prepare your work outfits. Your briefing pack should advise on the dress code, but if in doubt opt for a suit or business wear (see our advice on job interview outfits for more tips).
  • Take a notepad and pen to make notes. It's probably best to avoid relying on a device that may run out of battery or signal.

Do you include an insight day on your CV and LinkedIn?

You should definitely include insight days, spring weeks and all other insight programmes on your CV – and on your LinkedIn profile too. They absolutely ‘count’ as work experience and show any future employer that you are interested in the profession and have proactively sought out ways to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Even if you are using your CV to apply for roles in a different profession, include your insight programme on it. Recruiters will be impressed to see that you have carefully considered different career options and will appreciate the transferable skills and critical thinking it has helped develop.

See how we have written up an insight programme on our graduate CV template .

As well as adding your insight programme to LinkedIn, consider posting about it too. Saying what you’ve learned and how much you’ve enjoyed it will help present you as a switched-on job hunter.

Do I need to have done an insight programme or spring week to get a graduate job?

Absolutely not – insight programmes are just one form of work experience. It’s true that doing one puts you on an employer’s radar early on and increases the likelihood of you being offered an internship, and from there a graduate job. But increasing your chances is all it does – you can apply to internships and graduate schemes without one. And an employer will always take an impressive and well-researched candidate without an insight programme over an underwhelming and ill-prepared former insight student.

Are there any alternatives to insight programmes?

Yes – look out for careers events and employer presentations. At targetjobs, we run a number of events for all year groups that are similar to insight programmes, enabling you to meet employers, complete interactive workshops and develop skills.

Your careers service may also help to organise work-shadowing days or mentoring schemes. And you can always arrange your own informal work experience by sending a speculative application .

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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