What is an Internship?
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. 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. There are also companies that 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 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 in to the company human resources department to ask if they hire interns. See the company research section for some company profiles to start with.
- 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 in the Green Tech and Clean Tech Job Boards. You should also check the job search engines for intern positions, such as Indeed.com. 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 in there that will assist with finding an international internship, which is 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.