Once you know that you want to intern and have determined when you hope to intern, your next major step will be to develop a list of potential internship sites. But where do you find internship opportunities? There are numerous resources available to identify internships – sometimes, too many. I suggest sticking with fewer resource, at least initially, to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Your campus career center will likely have internship books, like Vault Top Internships or the Career Education Institutes’ series of books, including “Washington Internships in Law and Policy,” “Big Green Internship Book,” “Internships with Community and Social Service Agencies,” and “The Museum Internship Book.” Many of these books are republished every year or every other year.
These books are available to pretty much anyone who wants to purchase them, so keep in mind that the competition for the internships listed in such publications will be pretty steep because they are so public. Don’t discount these print resources, though. They are still a good place to start; just don’t put all your internship eggs into these baskets.
Many career centers will have some sort of internal posting site where employers can post internships and jobs to the students at your school. Sometimes these sites require you to have an account where you’re able to upload resumes, search for jobs and internships, even schedule interviews. (Names of common posting sites are NACElink and CSO, but your school will probably have branded the site with its own logo.) Some employers will post only to your school, but most will post their opportunities to your school as well as to all the schools in your geographic region, all the schools with specific majors, and even nationally.
Competition for these opportunities can be very fierce, especially if the internships have been posted nationally. Take a little bit of time to review opportunities that are posted through your school’s internal job posting system; if possible, automate internship searches so that you receive an email whenever an internship that meets your criteria is posted (sometimes called a “search agent”). This way, you don’t miss any interesting opportunities, but you aren’t spending all of your time searching these low-yield listings.
Depending on the size of your school, you may also have employers coming to visit campus specifically to recruit interns or recent grads. Larger schools tend to attract more recruiters; it’s just not financially feasible for recruiters to travel to all schools, so they typically travel to larger schools where they can meet more students, or very prestigious schools where the caliber of candidate is especially high.
If there’s a recruiter that comes to your campus from a company that interests you, definitely take advantage of the opportunity to hear more about the organization and possibly interview with them. As a student, it’s not always possible to travel to an employer’s site for a screening interview, so if you have the opportunity to interview on your own campus, take it! Unlike internships that could be seen by virtually anyone when they have been listed in a book or posted on a website, on-campus recruiting opportunities narrow the field a little bit further. They also seem to suggest that the employer has a higher degree of interest in your specific campus, or at least that they are willing to invested the time and money to travel to your campus with the hope of finding some strong candidates. If any of the companies recruiting on your campus seem interesting, make sure to attend their information session and find out if they are accepting resumes or conducting campus interviews.
The resources listed above have one important thing in common – they assume that the employer will make the first, ever-so-important, move of posting an internship opportunity, i.e. publishing the internship to the general public. This means that you are left at the mercy of the employer. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to have a little bit more control over my career path than that.
It’s possible for you to generate your own list of internship sites, without necessarily waiting for the employer to post the opportunity. That’s not to say that you ignore the opportunities that have been posted, but that you start with your own list first, and supplement with the ones that have been posted in books, online or through on-campus recruiting. You can generate your list of possible internship sites by identifying 3-5 types of organizations where you might intern, then identifying 3-5 specific geographic locations where you hope to intern. For example, if you are a psychology major and hope to find an internship related to psychology, the types of organizations where you might intern could be community-based residential facilities (CBRFs), youth development organizations, crisis hotlines, emergency shelters/domestic abuse shelters. If the geographic locations where you’d be willing to intern are Chicago (home), Evanston (grandma’s there), and Colorado (Aunt Susie’s there), then you can search for one or two CBRFs in each location. Then search for one or two youth development organizations in each location, then crisis hotlines, etc. The yellow pages would be a great way to start your search; the local chamber of commerce for each location might be another resource. Pretty soon, you will have a manageable list of sites whose work is interesting to you AND are located in places you could intern. Remember, these sites don’t need to have posted any internship opportunities.
Which ever process, or combination of processes you choose to use, you will want to have a list of internship sites that interest you, regardless of whether an actual internship opening has been posted at the site. Next, we’ll talk about the application process.