Preparing to launch a new career or take the next step toward your dream job with an internship? Internships are available in virtually every industry and for a wide range of skill sets. Learn how to find an internship that is right for you by using the tips below, and join the nearly 300,000 interns every year in gaining relevant job experience.
Key Features of an Internship
An internship is designed to give you hands-on training in your desired job or career field. Some are unpaid, while others offer some compensation. The best types provide more than one of the following benefits:
- Hands-on experience
- Industry knowledge
- College credit
- Consideration for a full-time job
- Professional contacts
Internships are available for high school students, college students, early professionals and professionals looking to change careers. Start your search for a competitive position today with this guide.
Intern vs. Entry-Level Position
Do you need to know how to find an internship for your career? These short-term, hands-on positions can be a huge resume-building activity for many professions. In others, however, they may not be required to launch your career.
Ask teachers, professors or people you trust in your field about the necessity of interning. In some cases, you may qualify for an entry-level job right out of high school or college.
The main benefits of interning are academic growth, unique networking opportunities and a low-risk trial in a specific job. In some cases, however, you may not receive the same pay or long-term job with an internship as you would with an entry-level position. Don’t be afraid to ask your prospective employer or other professionals in the field about advancement opportunities for both interns and entry-level employees.
Consider Your Schedule
The average internship lasts between 10 to 12 weeks. There are, however, many different lengths of positions available. Consider your career goals and availability to find the best option for your schedule. This will help you narrow down your search as you discover how to find an internship.
Summer internships are popular for high school and college students. They’re also available in seasonal careers. One of the biggest mistakes in learning how to find an internship is waiting until it’s too late to start your search. Ideally, you should start your search for summer positions in September of the year before and apply for fall positions in January.
Most college students can apply for summer internships starting their freshman year. Many options for college students require little or no experience, giving you hands-on knowledge that complements your coursework.
School Break Internships
Summer positions aren’t the only ones catered to school schedules. Short-term opportunities that cover winter or spring break can be a great way to get your foot in the door and introduce yourself to professionals in your field.
The application dates vary, but be sure to start your search months in advance and apply as soon as possible. A one- or two-week position may not offer as much hands-on experience, but it can still strengthen your application for a longer internship or an entry-level job in your chosen career.
Internships for early-career professionals or people looking to change careers don’t always line up with school breaks. Learning how to find an internship in these situations is similar, but you may not need to wait for a particular time of year to apply. Check with position-specific instructions, and be sure to ask about the length and scope of the position.
How To Find an Internship Online
The internet is an excellent place to quickly find and sort through available prospects that match your career path. Here are some popular websites to explore as you look for both paid and unpaid opportunities:
Some of these sites offer internship-specific search options. Be sure to carefully read every position description to confirm you qualify for it and have availability during the internship dates.
Set your parameters carefully. There are thousands of open options throughout the nation and in other countries, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with your choices. Sort and filter opportunities based on industry, length, job requirements and location to find your favorites.
How To Create an Online Application
Many of these online resources require you to fill out a portfolio before you apply for a specific internship. This additional step qualifies you to receive updates regarding relevant positions. Some sites also allow employers to find your profile and resume.
Take your time filling out this information. Accurately and thoroughly writing your work history and educational background can go a long way in helping you find the right positions and stand out in the application process.
While the internet can teach you how to find an internship, there are many other places where you can find leads to the next step in your career journey. Word-of-mouth referrals can be excellent opportunities to find options that fit your career goals.
Ask your high school teachers, college professors, friends and family about any possibilities they may know about. Knowing someone who has already interned or worked for your chosen company can help you learn more about a role before you apply. Your word-of-mouth recommendation can also strengthen your application.
Steps To Apply for an Internship
Applying for an internship can seem like a daunting process. If you’re new to your chosen industry or haven’t applied for many jobs before, then the first step in how to find an internship can be the hardest. Take a deep breath and follow these steps to continue your career journey.
1. Watch for Upcoming Deadlines
You may be surprised at how early companies set application deadlines before the next session takes place. Many summer intern positions are full by January or February. Waiting until a few weeks before you need a position can result in unpaid options or no options at all.
As you watch for upcoming deadlines, don’t forget to look for early application opportunities. Just like applying for college, the goal of learning how to find an internship is to stand apart from your peers. Early submissions are sometimes favored or reviewed before others.
2. Consider Your Career Goals and Interests
Reflect on your career goals and find out what types of internships can help you get there. Don’t worry if you don’t have a clear plan for what you want to do in the long term. However, it’s helpful for you to identify your interests at this point.
Do you prefer to work with your hands or in an outdoor environment? Or does your ideal career involve working closely with people or working alone on your computer? How much flexibility do you want in your day-to-day life? These questions can point you to positions that help advance your career.
Your chosen internship doesn’t have to be in the specific department and role you wish to have, but it should add to your skills and knowledge. A fun or well-paid opportunity with no overlapping skills may not be the best option for your career, but don’t overlook prospects in related fields.
3. Prepare Your Resume
Writing a resume is a major task in finding and applying for the right internship. Take your time and follow these tips to create this essential document for your applications.
If you’re just starting the job application process as a high school or college student, you likely don’t feel like you have a lot of information to put on a resume. Include a compelling objective statement that summarizes your goals in applying for the position. You can also include relevant clubs, volunteer opportunities or skills if you don’t feel you have enough work experience to fill your resume.
4. Write a Personalized Cover Letter for Each Position
Most internship applications, just like full-time jobs, require a resume and cover letter. Once you’ve put together your resume, it’s time to write a cover letter.
A cover letter should include relevant information not included in your resume. Remember that the same people who read your resume will read your cover letter, so include new information in this letter. Write about your passion for the field, what you know and love about the internship or other relevant information.
Never reuse the same cover letter for multiple internships. This letter should be specifically addressed to the company’s hiring manager and talk about the ways you’re passionate about the specific role. A general cover letter isn’t going to strengthen your application.
5. Apply to Plenty of Positions
It can be tempting to focus all your energy on your dream opportunity. If you have found an opening that seems perfect for your career goals and previous experience, do not get tunnel vision.
Ideally, you should apply to 10 or more options. This gives you the best chance of receiving one or more positions for your chosen time frame. You can then discuss each position in more detail to see if that dream internship really is as perfect as it seems.
Applying to 10 positions doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive anything. The competitiveness of your field and the strength of your resume matter. Be honest about your experience level as you apply to positions. It’s great to send your information for anything you’re qualified for, but beware of applying only to highly competitive options. Try a mix of easy-to-difficult opportunities, just like you would with a college application.
6. Follow Up After Your Interview
Follow up with the hiring manager if you do receive an interview for a position — most human resources departments generally expect this. In your note, thank the manager for the opportunity to chat.
In some cases, the hiring manager will give you an estimated date to hear back about whether you’ve been chosen to move on to the next step of the interviewing process. Wait at least one full business day after that date to reach out if you haven’t heard anything back.
Tips for Landing Your Internship
After you figure out how to find an internship, applying doesn’t have to be stressful. Approximately 70% of employers offer full-time jobs to successful interns, so this application can be the first step to your new career. Follow these tips to strengthen your submission and improve your chance of interning in your chosen field.
Contact the Right Person
Some listings have a clear person to contact regarding the position. If you find one that doesn’t include a point of contact, then do a little research on the company to find the relevant hiring manager.
Reach out to that individual by phone or email with your application and any questions you may have. Contacting the wrong person could lead to your application not being reviewed.
Double-Check Your Documents
Sending the wrong cover letter, neglecting to include your resume or only partially filling out an application can automatically result in rejection. In some cases, you may not even receive a notice that your application was incomplete. Always double-check your documents before sending them.
Prepare for Your Interview
A strong application will typically lead to an interview. If you land one, you can expect open-ended questions about your experience and ambitions.
This process shouldn’t be stressful. Prepare for common interview questions and consider how to approach them ahead of time. This can prevent awkward pauses or answers that you later regret.
Consider Large and Small Companies
It’s natural to want to work for the largest, most successful company in your industry. There are, however, some key benefits of choosing a smaller company for your internship. Weigh the pros and cons of large and small companies as you search for applications and apply.
A large company comes with instant name recognition, which can be a huge benefit on your resume. Alternatively, a small company may offer more hands-on experience.
Start Your Internship Search Today
Explore your options and launch your career with these steps, tips and resources. Now that you know how to find an internship, reach out for more information on how to succeed as an intern and land a full-time job.