Internships are an increasingly important part of the college experience. According to the NACE Job Outlook Survey, more than 70% of employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience, and a majority of employers prefer that experience to come through an internship or co-op. Internships provide students with opportunities to build valuable skills and utilize what they have learned in the classroom.
Check out pages 4-6 of our Career Guide to reflect on your interests and goals. If you’d like to go deeper in assessment, check out our FOCUS 2 tool, or speak with a coach about additional assessments.
Begin to craft a resume that accurately conveys your unique skills and qualities. Great resumes are highly specific to your experiences and focus on results. Consult our Career Guide for a variety of samples. Visit the Career Center for a Same Day Appointment or make an appointment to have your resume reviewed.
Research and create a plan
Research is one of the most important components of an internship search. Use our resources to discover current postings and research potential new employers. The goal of research is to tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your best fit for an individual position. Here's a sample game plan for finding opportunities:
- Consult Career Center resources such as Handshake, Career Shift, and LinkedIn to identify 5-10 organizations that meet your criteria. Research the mission, services, and potential opportunities at these organizations.
- If there are no current internship opportunities posted, work with a career coach to develop talking points for reaching out to new contacts or alumni at these organizations to gather details.
- Develop a tailored resume and cover letter that positions you as the best fit for the opportunity. Get it reviewed by a career coach and other trusted advisors.
- Apply for the opportunity in a timely fashion and practice for an interview. Mock interviews are available with career coaches and through our InterviewStream tool.
What to Look for When Applying for an Internship
There’s a wide variety of internships and it is important to take the time when deciding which internship is the best fit for you. Below are a few tips to help you navigate your internship search and decide if an internship aligns with your career path.
Signs of a Well-Structured Internship
You are learning new skills and how to apply them
You want to walk away from your internship with new skill sets that will help you prepare you for future job opportunities.
You are supervised by someone with industry experience
Your supervisor should want to share their wisdom and expertise with you. Having a supervisor or mentor who guides you and gives you constructive feedback will help you grow professionally.
Your responsibilities align with your coursework
You want to ensure that you will be participating in meaningful projects that make an impact. Participating in these projects should allow you to apply what you have learned in the classroom in a real-world setting.
There are opportunities to meet co-workers from other departments.
Not only should you be learning new techniques in your internship but you should also be given the opportunity to network with coworkers and peers. Now is the time to start building your network!
Signs of a Poorly-Structured Internship
There are no clear goals
While you are reading an internship job description you should be able figure out what your goals will be, what new skills you will learn, and the type of projects you’ll work on. If you are unsure after reading the description then you might want to pass on applying
The organization has a negative or no online presence
Does the company have bad reviews on Glassdoor? Are you having trouble finding out information about the company? Does their website look extremely outdated? You may want to look into these questions a little more before applying for the internship.
You only perform busy work and low-level tasks
If this is happening to you, schedule a meeting with your supervisor to ask about options to work on projects that will help you acquire new skills. You can also ask your supervisor if you can take the initiative to develop your own projects to work on.
Finding Internships in Handshake
Handshake is the university-wide internship and professional job database. Students can access Handshake by clicking here and entering their AccessNet username and password.
A few helpful tips for finding the right internship in Handshake:
- Fill out Your Career Interest Profile.
- Click on “Jobs” and use the Filter tool and keyword search function.
- Make sure to “Favorite” employers to ensure you are updated when they post internship opportunities.
Making the Most Out of Your Internship
Your internship is an opportunity to gain real-world experience while applying what you have learned in the classroom. Make the right impression by following our helpful tips.
Ask questions and listen
Make sure to ask questions. Your supervisor knows that you are there to learn and they are expecting you to ask questions.
Pay attention to the office culture
Conduct research on the industry in which you will be working. Is it a professional, business casual or casual dress environment? You want to make sure that you dress appropriately for the culture of the office. After you begin working, observe others to find the best way to interact with your team.
Connect with coworkers and peers to learn and build your network
Your coworkers might have certain abilities that you would like to develop. If they do, ask them how they developed those skills. If there is an opportunity to meet new colleagues or collaborate with a different department, take it. Your internship should allow you to build your professional network.
Ask for feedback from your supervisor
Ask to meet with your supervisor on a regular basis. When you meet, ask them for their feedback. What could you be doing differently? What could you be doing better? Are you on the right track to meet your goals? Once you get the feedback, make sure to use it.
If you run out of work to do, take the initiative to brainstorm project ideas and run them by your supervisor. What kind of projects would help you develop the competencies you intend to grow?
Now is your time to learn and make mistakes! There should not be any repercussions for making a bad suggestion, so make your ideas heard. Your suggestions may benefit the company.
Seek advice on your resume
Towards the end of your internship, ask your supervisor to look over your resume to help you realize all of the new skill sets that you have acquired. This can also help you learn how to sell yourself to other employers when you begin your job search process.