Congratulations! By reading this article you are taking the
necessary steps for achieving greater career and job-search
success upon graduation from college. Internships are invaluable
learning experiences for college students -- and almost a
necessity for any college graduate. Employers are demanding
that college grads have ďreal worldĒ experience, and internships
are one of the best ways for college students to get that
So how do you find your ideal internship? Itís a three-step
process: Determine Your Internship Goals, Prepare/Polish Your
Job Search Skills, and Find/Track Down Internship Sources.
Determine Your Internship Goals
Before you can even start thinking about finding an internship,
you need to spend time reflecting on your goals for obtaining
an internship. Consider these questions:
What are your specific career interests? An internship
is a great tool to help you define your career goals. For
example, if youíre majoring in history, but have an eye
on a political career, you might consider an internship
with a local or state politician. Or, an internship can
help further refine your career goals. For example, if youíre
a marketing major but not sure whether you want to go into
advertising or public relations, you should consider getting
internships in both areas to help you decide which is best
Why do you want an internship -- and what do you hope
to gain from it? There are multiple reasons for obtaining
an internship, including answering the question above. Other
possible reasons include learning new skills, gaining networking
connections, adding work experience to your resume, and
as an entry point that you hope leads to a full-time position
with the employer when you graduate.
What type of organization are you interested in?
Organizations come in all sizes and shapes, from Fortune
500 companies to not-for-profit organizations. What are
you looking for? Issues to consider include size, ownership,
corporate culture, etc.
What industry would be best for your needs? Even
when you know exactly what you want to do, you can still
be uncertain about the type of industry that best suits
you. For example, if you are a natural-born salesperson,
you really have the option of working in any industry, but
pharmaceutical sales is quite different from selling insurance.
Where do you want to have your internship? If your
internship is during the regular semester, you obviously
need an internship close to your college campus, but during
the summer months you may wish to have an internship near
home so you can save on expenses (and enjoy mom or dadís
cooking/laundry service/etc.) or in a location where you
hope to land a full-time position when you graduate -- or
just to experience a place in which you have never lived
Will you consider both paid and nonpaid internships?
It would be great if all internships paid, but in reality
a large number do not - especially in certain industries.
So, you need to decide whether you can afford to not get
paid during your internship. One more thing: while it is
not always the case, paid internships tend to be more professional
(and you do less grunt work) because the employer wants
to get its money worth from you.
Do you want college credit for the internship?
Many colleges offer at least some college credit for internships.
The plus side (besides earning the credits) is that there
is usually an internship program with an established list
of employers and internships available to you. The down
side is that there may be more restrictions on the type
and amount of work you can do based on the program guidelines.
Prepare/Polish Your Job Search Skills
As internships become more and more competitive, it becomes
even more important for you to have a strong set of job-search
We recommend you spend some time polishing these skills:
Find/Track Down Internship Sources
Okay. If youíve gotten this far, itís now time to find that
ideal internship that perfectly fits all your goals and needs.
So, where do you find internships? Try these resources:
Career Services Office. Just about all career services
offices have a list of internship programs, important application
dates, and other sources of internship information. This
office is a great place to start your search. Some offices
even have a special internship coordinator.
Major/Minor Department. Major-specific internship
programs are frequently maintained by the department office.
One or more faculty members may specifically handle internships,
so make sure you investigate these sources.
Networking Sources. Tell everyone you know that
you are looking for a specific type of Internship; these
people should include your family, your friends (at school
and at home), your familyís friends, your professors, past
employers, alumni, etc. Just as with job-hunting, networking
may be one of your best sources for internships -- especially
for competitive internships. Learn more
Internship and Career Fairs. Most colleges (or
college consortiums) offer at least one career fair during
the academic year, and often one focuses specifically on
internships. Even if you are looking for an internship in
a different geographic location, go to the fairs and network
with the recruiters. Many organizations have multiple offices
-- and you may later change your mind. Read our article,
Keys to Success at Job and Career Fairs.
Alumni Office. Many (if not all) colleges now ask
alumni if they would be willing to sponsor current college
students as interns - and these alums are a great source
for internships as well as a networking source for other
internships. Take advantage of this resource! This information
may either be found in the career services office or the
Company Websites. If you have already identified
a specific set of companies where you would like to intern,
you should consider going straight to the source by visiting
the career section of each companyís Website. Try our Quintessential
Directory of Company Career Centers.
Internship Websites. There are a few general internship
Websites, as well as a number of industry-specific Websites.
A good resource, but internship sites have lagged behind
the development of job sites, so donít depend too much on
these resources. Where do you find the best internship sites?
Go to our Internship
Resources for College Students.
Books and Periodicals. There are some great print
sources of internships. First, there are annual directories
of internships, which you can find in our College
Internship Books section. The other print source is
trade magazines and newspapers published for your major
or career field. If you are a member of a student organization,
you may already have a subscription to at least one of them.
Your college library should also have subscriptions to these
publications -- as should some of your professors. These
publications often publish information about internship
Cold Contact. If none of these other internship
sources work for you, or if you have a specific geographic
location you want to target for your internship, consider
using the cold calling method to find your internship. This
process involves identifying a list of companies and writing
them asking for an internship. Where can you get information
about companies in a specific geographic location? Consider
contacting that regionís chamber of commerce for a list
of member companies -- or just get your hands on a phone
book for that area. What are some other sources? Go to our
for Researching Companies. And consider reading our
article, Cold Calling:
A Time-Tested Method of Job-Hunting.
Final Words of Advice
After youíve found several internship possibilities and applied
to them, your work is not done. Just as with job-hunting,
you must follow-up with each company. Donít call the
companies every day, but be persistent. The old adage about
the squeaky wheel getting the grease rings true here. Follow-up
your initial contact with a phone call, follow-up your interview
with a thank-you letter, and follow-up your thank you letter
with a phone call.
Dr. Randall Hansen is currently Webmaster of Quintessential
Careers, as well as publisher of its electronic newsletter,
writes a biweekly career advice column under the name, The Career Doctor. He is
also a tenured, associate professor of marketing in the School
of Business Administration at Stetson University in DeLand,
Florida. He is a published career expert -- and has been for
the last ten years. He is co-author, with Katharine Hansen,
of Dynamic Cover Letters. And he has been an employer
and consultant dealing with hiring and firing decisions for
the past fifteen years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.