Finding an Internship or Co-op
When searching for an internship or co-op, tailor it to your interests and geographic requirements. Start by asking the question, "Where would I love to work?" Looking for organizations that fit your goals opens up a world of possibilities in which to find work that is meaningful and challenging.
- Join professional organizations. Nothing takes the place of effective networking. Most professional organizations have a student rate and opportunities to meet professionals in the field. Attend workshops and conferences and read the organization's journals and newsletters. Look into websites of professional organizations for your career field. For example: Association of Electrical Engineers (AEE) or American Psychological Association (APA).
- Speak to your professors. They are experts in your industry and can often provide you with suggestions and contacts in your field.
- Talk to your family and friends. Many students find their own internships or co-ops by networking with personal acquaintances. Ask them to help you come up with the top 10 organizations in your area.
- Look for state government internships. Go to the civil service section and look for internships. In Pennsylvania: go to the Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission and click on "General Job Opportunities."
- Look for federal government Internships. Go to www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads or www.gogovernment.org. You can also check the websites for agencies that interest you.
- Search the Internet by "creative keywording." By using a search engine such as Google and plugging in a variety of keywords related to your area of interest, you are bound to come up with information about organizations dedicated to the field you would like to explore through an internship or co-op. It's usually a good idea to include a geographical location in your string of keywords. Examples: "public policy + Boston"; "historic + museum + Chicago"; "children's advocacy + San Francisco".
- Visit the Career & Professional Development Center website
- Look at the businesses and organizations listed under the chamber of commerce in the location where you would like to intern. A directory of chambers of commerce online sites can be found at www.chamberofcommerce.com. Follow the links and look at the online member directory. Some chambers will list members by categories, such as accountants, engineers, etc.
- Look into the Business Journal for your Region. Use Google.com or another search engine. Follow the links and research the site. Look for the Business Journal's "Top List" or "Book of Lists" online.
- Look into local trade commissions and economic development councils.
- Browse Manderino Library for books, directories, magazines and articles on career fields and on particular organizations.
- Read newspapers, magazines, journals and online information that are accurate and bona fide. Find out what organizations are making news and why.
- Research the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.
- Think about what you bring to a workplace. Think of your skills: writing, analyzing, research preparation, collaboration, communication, reasoning, problem solving, leadership and more.
- Use e-mail to contact an organization. Once you have identified some interesting organizations, your next step is to contact them. E-mails are fast, and they make it extremely easy for employers to get back to you. Sample:
"Dear Ms. Doe,
I am a junior at California University of Pennsylvania, majoring in English. I am very interested in learning about the operations of a non-profit organization such as the March of Dimes. Although I realize you have no official program in place, I would be very interested in working with your organization this summer."The next paragraph should include information about your background and experience. You can also emphasize your interest in the particular career field and organization, and let your reader know if you have skills specific to the job. "I hope you will consider my proposal. Please contact me if you have any questions." Again, short and simple. If you don't hear back, do follow up. Attach your resume to the e-mail.
- Contact organizations by telephone. Phone calls can be very efficient if they don't lead to too much telephone tag. Think about what you are going to say before getting on the phone. For tips, see My One Minute Commercial. Introduce yourself and tell your listener about your interest in his or her organization and the fact that you are seeking an internship.
- Whom do you contact within the organization? In small businesses or small not-for-profit organizations, contact the executive director. In larger organizations, contact the head of the department or unit where you wish to work, or the Human Resources Department.
- Evaluating offers. When an organization says that it will accept you as an intern or for a co-op, it is important for you to understand clearly what type of work assignments you will be given, how you will be supervised and any other conditions for the position. Once you have this information, evaluate the offer carefully before accepting.