A student should pursue internships as early and often as possible. You should have an internship every summer after entering college, and your experiences should bring you closer to the industry that interests you. Your summers are extremely valuable and should be used wisely; for example, the summer before your senior year should be spent with a company you'd like to work for upon graduating. Additionally, you should spend time during the school year working internships as well, when possible. Ideally, each student should hold a minimum of 2-3 internships before graduating.
Here are some questions--and resources--to consider when evaluating an internship.
What should I do for an internship?
The first thing to understand is that your internship is a stepping stone to something greater: a career. In many ways, the question “what should I do for an internship?” should be preceded by the question “what should I do for a career?” It is certainly helpful to consider some career possibilities first, and work backwards to determine what type of internship would give you relevant experience.
Your ideal career can be determined through a variety of online assessments or mentoring conversations, all of which you can set up through the Office of Career Services. Any career or internship should be chosen by considering:
- Your top skills or most admirable qualities
- Topic(s) that capture your interest
- Professional goals
- Work context desired (strict or flexible working hours, work on a team or independently, work in an office or from home, evolving work environment or work where things stay the same, etc.)
One final note: even though the internship is an opportunity to test a career, it does not mean that one should choose a career or internship just to "try it out." In order to honestly evaluate a career or internship, you have to give it your all--and that includes diligently researching, finding, and selecting opportunities..
Who should I work for?
Deciding on the job alone is not enough; you also need to decide on a place to work. Let’s say you want to be a social media strategist. That’s a great job, but there are lots of companies where you could work. You can narrow your search down by considering connections in your network, looking up companies in your area, or companies in a city you've always wanted to visit.
In the same way that you do not need to choose a career related to your major, you do not need to choose an internship in the career you're pursuing. For example, if you want to be a lawyer, you could intern with an attorney, or research with a technology firm. Want to be a public relations manager? Find an internship with a PR firm, OR the marketing department of a not-for-profit, OR write articles for a magazine.
To figure out how to find companies, see the Research Your Top Companies assignment in Step 2 of the Career Challenge.
How do I set one up?
Become familiar with companies where you would like to intern, and find out the dates for their internship programs. If they do not have an internship program, approach them with an idea on how you can contribute.
Do not be afraid to pick up the phone. Cold calling can work extremely well; it shows initiative, a personal touch, and it connects you straight to the source of information. Call and ask to speak with the internship coordinator. If they do not have one, offer to be an intern and describe what you could do.
When this happens, you must be prepared to send your polished resume and cover letter quickly, and also be prepared to interview if and when asked. This demonstrates your preparedness and your persistence.
Read more about Building Your Own Internship, and remember that this is your best best for finding a relevant internship with the least amount of effort. It gives you practice networking and also strengthens your professional relationships, which will only aid your job search later on. Focus on this method first.
You might also consider using these internship websites:
- Internships.com: The largest online national database for internships.
- LookSharp: Postings for national internship programs from 30,000 companies around the country.
- USAJobs: The Pathways Program offers internships and summer jobs within the federal government. Opportunities arise frequently, but they are highly competitive and should be applied to within a couple days of the posting date.
- Idealist: Focused on internships for students interested in non-profits.
- LinkedIn: Use the search bar to type in the type of internship you're seeking.
- Ave Maria's Job Board: Our partner companies post internships as well, and when they do they are looking for Ave Maria students specifically. Take advantage of that fact, and submit an application quickly.