Keys to Finding Internships

Remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint
Starting your search

As many of you started looking for internships over the winter holidays, I thought that would like some more detailed advice on how to approach the internship search.  Since internships are increasingly seen as entrance points into the job market, this advice is also applicable to the professional market. 

Much of the following is taken from the Seventh Edition of Careers in International Affairs, edited by Maria Pinto Carland and Lisa A. Gihring, and published by Georgetown University Press in 2003. If you’d like to read the full version of the book, the Maxwell Center for Career Development has a copy on file in their library.

In seeking an internship, there are several points worth considering:

  • Consult a variety of sources for leads. It pays to cast a wide net, but be discriminating. Don’t apply for every opportunity.
  • It takes time to arrange an internship, because they are not high on the list of an employer’s priorities. Be persistent. Be patient.
  • You may be able to take on more responsibility than an internship description would first indicate. Many employers will want to test you on job before rewarding you with pay or substantive responsibilities. Remember that if you have a particular interest you can sometimes convince an employer to create an internship where none exists.

The Realities of Seeking an Internship – Carefully consider the following advice:

  • Take the time to evaluate your education, experience, and abilities. Although you may be short on experience, perhaps you are long on the ability to analyze issues and make judgments in an intense, competitive atmosphere.
    You probably know how to organize your time, meet deadlines, and define and defend your ideas and interest orally and in writing. In a tight market, you must present your assets intelligently and distinguish yourself.
  • Employers may ask what have you done, but they really want to know what you can do for them. Make sure your prepare examples that illustrate what you can do for them.
  • Job search manuals, university career offices, and college deans all emphasize the value of focusing on interests. This doesn’t mean closing doors to other opportunities, but rather choosing which door to open first. You must be focused. That doesn’t mean your focus can never change. You can still keep your options open.
  • The overwhelming majority of people who fail in their careers do so as a result of personality, not skill, problems. You can master most jobs. The way you handle interpersonal dynamics, however, will make all the difference between an acceptable and a superior performance.
  • Remember that one of the most highly valued experiences these days is team-work. Make sure you can cite experiences—in the classroom, as a volunteer, or on the job—in which you served a meaningful role on a team. Be prepared to explain the results of that teamwork, not only in terms of success or failure, but in terms of what you learned about yourself and the situation.
  • At the entry level, be willing to pay your dues (i.e., accept the small projects and do them well so as to earn recognition and greater responsibility). It’s simply a way to demonstrate not only ability but an appreciation for the on the- job culture.