How to Get an Internship

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How can an internship help your career, and what’s the best way to get one? An internship is a pre-professional work experience that provides students, recent graduates, and those seeking to change careers with the opportunity to gain experience in a particular career field. For students, internships also supplement academic classes and, in some cases, earn college credit.

For recent graduates and individuals considering a career change, an internship is a way to try a new job without making a permanent commitment.

An internship allows you to test the waters in a variety of career fields, to gain "real-life" experience, and to decide on - or opt out - of a certain vocation.

How to Find Internship Listings

If you’re currently a student or recent graduate, your college's Career Services or Internship Programs office is a terrific resource to use to line up an internship. Visit them on campus or check out their online resources when classes aren't in session. The office can direct you to internships targeted specifically towards students from your university including those sponsored by alumni, parents, and friends of the college.

You can use Google for Jobs to search directly for internships on Google. Search using "internship" and the location where you want to work as keywords. Indeed.com is the most powerful job and internship listing service on the web. Use the advanced search function and select internships from the “show jobs by type” tab.

You can also view internship listings scoured from company websites or posted on Indeed by employers.

Internships.com hosts over 5,000 internships nationally. The database is searchable by keyword, internship category including summer, paid internships, career clusters like marketing, companies, and college major.

Idealist.com is an excellent source for internships in the not-for-profit sector, including areas like children/youth, energy, environment, arts, economic development, and hunger. Search other leading job sites by internship filters or by using the keyword “intern or internship” to locate other internship opportunities.

How Students Get Internships

Internship listings aren’t the only way to find an internship. Most students who responded to the question, “If you have ever had a summer internship, how did you get your interview?” in LendEDU's 2017 Internship Report found an internship by using their connections. Here's a recap:

  • Family connections -  43 percent
  • I found it myself on the internet - 31 percent
  • College Career Center - 21 percent
  • Found through involvement in extracurricular activity - 5 percent

A large majority of the students surveyed said that connections were the most important factor when lining up an internship:

  • Connections - 91%
  • Grades - 9%

Use Your Connections

Need more leads? Speak with teachers, family, former employers, coaches, friends, parents of friends - anyone and everyone you can think of - and ask for contacts in your geographic area and/or career fields of interest. Ask your college’s career and/or alumni office about any networks of alumni or parent volunteers that you can tap as well as any networking events.

Join any LinkedIn groups for your college.

Meet with (or email or call) these individuals for information about careers and advice about conducting your internship search. Read our guide to Informational Interviews for how to get started.

Internships for Graduates

If you're a recent graduate looking for some work experience or are interested in a career change, consider an internship to get an insider's view of a new career field.

It will allow you to gain experience and to decide if this is something you really want to do. Plan your internship search just as you would a job search, but specify when you apply that you're interested in an internship rather than a permanent position.

Using the keyword search component of the major online jobs databases and searching for "intern" or "internship" or "post-graduate internship" is another effective way to generate internship leads.

Be sure to check with your college's Career and Alumni offices to see if they provide internship and job listings to graduates. If it works out, you may even be able to turn a post-graduate internship into a full-time job.

Internship Logistics

Now for the logistics. Internships can be paid or unpaid. It is important to check with the company before you take the position to determine if there is a salary, a stipend, or no compensation.

Academic credit is a possibility for many internships. However, the internship will need to be approved for credit by your college, and you may need a faculty sponsor. The internship sponsor must also agree to supervise and evaluate the internship experience. In many cases, there are school deadlines for applying for credit, so check the guidelines with the appropriate department at your institution before you commit to an internship.

It makes good sense to have a clear idea of what's expected from you, as well as what you can expect from the employer, before you start an internship. Discuss the details and the logistics with the internship sponsor before you commit to make sure that the internship will be a positive experience for both you and the company. Inquire about any training that you will receive and ask to speak with any current or past interns to find out if they benefited from the internship.

Explore Career Options

Don’t stop at just one internship. If your schedule allows, use internships to explore a variety of different career options. Spending some time actually working at organizations without having to commit to a full-time permanent position will enable you to try out a variety of roles.