How to secure internships

Your search begins when you start to identify what makes you tick, what excites you. Pay attention to your passions in life.

For example, if you love to dress, and often find yourself giving insightful advice on fashion, maybe you should consider a career in the fashion industry. If you don’t know or have a lot of interests, consider an assessment like strong Interest Inventory or the Self-Directed Search. Assessments don’t tell you what to do, but they can help you narrow down career paths and the work environment that aligns with your temperament, personality type, interests, abilities and values.) Your university career services department should be able to provide an assessment. You can also find them on plenty of websites. Just stick “Career Assessment Test” into any search engine and you’ll be surprised at the variety to choose from.

Gaining Experience at Different Levels If you’re in high school, get volunteer experience in the area you are considering as a career. If the only work you have done has been baby sitting and you don’t want to open a day care center or teach elementary school, you need to get into an environment that matches your interests. If you’re interested in public policy or political science, volunteer in the office of your local assemblyman. You could discover that politics is not your cup of tea, or the experience could light a political fire in you and confirm your desire to purse a career in government. If you’re in college and have not made a career choice, let yourself fantasize. Jot down your the activities you like. Say, for example, you enjoyed your classes in political science and public policy. The reading assignments and the professor’s lectures appealed to your desire to see justice done. You imagine a life where you make a difference. You recall the time when you were in junior high and participated in an outreach program to the poor by working in a soup kitchen. Now that you have more understanding about how “the system” works, you want to do more. Start by asking your professor about internships available in public service. Yes, you will have to ask people for help. That’s the first and most important step. Who you know and who knows you matters, but what you do with this support matters more.

There are many resources at your disposal, probably more than you realize. The first thing you do is tell everyone you know that you are looking for an internship and be specific about what you want.

When Olga (a young lady who landed the music Internet internship) asked about internships, she already knew that she wanted to work in music. She started with her music professor. Her conversation with him is an example of what to say.

Sample dialogue/telephone script “Professor Graham, taking your class has made me realize that I have a passion for music. I am not sure that I want to be a performer, but I know I want to do something in the Arts. I was wondering if you could suggest some contacts or places for me to look for internship opportunities this summer. “Sure. Let’s set up time and we can talk in my office. “That would be great. I appreciate that. How about Thursday at 4pm?” Take that conversation, mold it to your situation and match it to the people in your life—Mom, Dad, Uncle, Pastor, Professor, Alumni of the University and friends.

All these people need to know two things:
  1. You are looking for an internship
  2. What kind of internship you want. You do this because you don’t know who knows whom. You may think that your family isn’t well connected, but when you start asking around, you will be astonished at the connections you can make. If you have a fear of asking for favors and engaging people in conversation, it helps to realize that people - even strangers- want to help and contribute to someone’s future. Here’s how you might talk with a total stranger about an internship.

Sample dialogue/telephone script “I love animals and would like to volunteer here at the animal shelter. I am thinking about veterinary medicine as a profession and I know that I can get some good experience.” “Well, right now, we have all the volunteers we need.” “Oh. Well, can you recommend another shelter or animal hospital?”

“You know, if you had started back in January, you could have applied to the top animal hospital in town. They have an extensive summer program, but it is very competitive and it hardly pays if at all. April is too late to start, but I’m sure the shelters around town could use your help. You could go to the ASPCA, but go in person. They never answer the phone or return voicemail messages.” “Thanks for the lead.”

Not to do list: Your Search
  • Don’t complain that you have to know someone to get an internship. Look, who you know can really help you, but not having a large network of professionals working for you is no excuse.
  • Don’t spend more time on or than job sites. The Internet is a great place to start your search. 
  • Here are some suggestions:
  • Don’t pay for college services that you don’t use. Probably one of the most under-used places at your college is the career center. Make an appointment or go and visit the center and let the counselor know what you are looking for. They will be able to give you some guidance. After all, you are paying for this service as part of your tuition, whether you use it or not.
  • Don’t think an internship will find you. This is a search, so do some searching! Newspapers, magazines, books on internships are all resources. Also, get creative – make phone calls, attend job fairs, and offer to do unpaid work at companies you’re interested in (even if they don’t have an established internship program).

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