An internship is a position at a company, usually held by a college or graduate student, and can be paid or unpaid. It is usually for a set duration of time (summer break, for example) and is relevant to the profession the student hopes to join after finishing school. The application process may include an oral or written interview with a potential provider. Some students prefer to get paper help from professional services to be sure that everything is done properly.- All About Internships
For our purposes, we will be looking specifically at technical internships, including where to find internships, what to expect during your internship, and advice for after the internship is over.
Benefits of Internships
The main benefit of an internship is to gain experience in the field you are planning to join as a career. It can be very difficult to obtain that first job when you have finished your degree(s) and being able to show practical work experience will make you much more marketable to an employer. The contacts you make during an internship can also be the basis for professional networking throughout your career. There are also many instances of companies hiring their interns on a full-time “permanent” basis once they have finished their studies. Internships may be paid, which is also a benefit. Don’t expect the types of wages you would be making after graduation, though. If you are paid at all for your intern work, consider it a blessing.
How to Find Internships
Many companies hire during the winter months for internship positions over the summer. Some companies have ongoing
needs for interns to work part-time during the school year or on an as-needed basis throughout the year. Here are some ideas to get you started in finding an internship:
- Your college or university will often have access to internship listings for companies in the same geographical area. Check with your student services office and online listings through your school for details. You may also want to speak with your advisor or a professor that knows your work. They Industry can often steer you in the right direction and provide a reference for your application.
- Company websites: You should check with any large company located within a reasonable distance from your university (or your home, if that is where you will be physically located during the intern period). Check company websites and feel free to call the company human resources department to ask if they hire interns.
- Main technical job boards: Many of the large job boards list intern positions. Some of my favorites for intern listings include Craigslist, DICE, and Monster. If there is a professional association site specific to your major, make sure you check there as well. Electrical engineers, for example, would want to be sure to check the listings on IEEE.org. Those candidates interested in green technology or clean technology should check out the resources. You should also check the job search engines for intern positions. Make sure you change the search terms that you use on these. You can search for “intern” and check the results. Then go back and run a different search using different terms, such as “temporary”. Play around with and refine the terms you use to get the most results available for your location and technical interests.
- Niche job boards: These are job boards that exist specifically for hiring students and graduates. Some of my favorites are listed on the Find Internship Jobs resources, along with tips for applying for internship jobs. There are also sites there that will assist with finding an international internship, which is a great experience to have in our global society.
- Temporary Employment Agencies: Many of the “temp” and contracting agencies have contacts at the local companies and can help get you a part-time or short-term assignment. If all else fails and you can’t find an internship within the focus of your studies, they may be able to help you get other short-term employment that will provide experience and references for your next job search.
Landing the Internship
You should go about your intern job search the same way you would approach a full-time job search – with professionalism! Make sure you have a well-written cover letter ready to go. If possible, customize your cover letter to each employer you send it to. You will also need a resume that showcases your skills and any previous work experience.
You can include work that you did on a project, or work you did in high school – anything that showcases your skills and provides the employer some degree of assurance that you have been reliable. Make sure you also check out the job interview guidelines before your first interviews.
It is a wise idea, too, to ensure that your social networking pages present you as someone the employer would want to hire. Pictures of you partying last spring break on your My Space page are not the image you want the employer to have of you when they are considering you for a job, and many employers now routinely check these sites before hiring people. If you are active in social networking online, clean these pages up before you start your job search. Quite frankly, my recommendation would be to keep them clean, too. You never know who is checking up on you!
During your internship, you must be a dependable resource for the employer. You should not call in sick unless you are ill, and in that case, be sure to give your employer as much advance notice as possible. You should show up to your job on time, and look well groomed and professional. Paid or unpaid, your internship is your job, and you will need the references later in your career. Set the groundwork now and you will have a much easier time getting hired in the future.
After the Internship Ends
After your internship ends, ask if the employer will serve as a reference for you. You can ask for a letter of recommendation from the employer and also ask if they would be willing to act as a professional reference (it is against company policy at some companies to release information other than a verification of dates worked and titles held during employment, so check with your manager).
Be sure to keep in touch with the co-workers that you met during your internship. You can network with them via LinkedIn or other social networking platforms, and be sure to maintain contact with those co-workers that have had a chance to observe your work habits.