Finding an internship is very similar to finding a job. The research and application process entails a large time commitment that includes researching career fields and organizations, searching for opportunities, creating resumes and cover letters, interviewing, and evaluating internship descriptions and offers. Passion, persistence, patience, early planning, and commitment are your keys to landing a great internship.
Reasons to Intern
- This is your chance to test drive a variety of different fields before choosing a career direction.
- Experience in a field of interest will help you make more educated career decisions.
- Hands-on career experience can enhance your academic performance and success.
- You can develop career-related skills and demonstrate them for future employers; i.e., you become much more marketable!
- 57% of employers nationally prefer to hire graduate who have experience gained through an internship or co-op (NACE, 2015).
- Professional contacts in the field can help you get hired and get ahead in your career.
- Many organizations use internships as extended interviews for full-time employees.
- Most organizations will hire successful interns over candidates they have just met.
- Compete for a higher salary. Graduates who participate in an internship will likely earn more than students who did not intern.
- Many internship positions are paid, and they can be a lot of fun!
Keys to Landing Your Ideal Internship
- Build relationships as a student
Connect with your professors, TAs, and peers. Go to your professors’ office hours. Graduate students are a good resource too because many of them may have had internships in your field. Most educators are very supportive of students who show interest and initiative, and they often know other professionals in their field.
- Broaden your contacts and relationships outside of school
Network, network, network! Talk to your employers, family and friends, and any other professionals you interact with, such as those you encounter at your volunteer position or in your community.
- Before applying for an internship, first think about your own interests and needs
Do you want to work in a big firm or small organization? What type of work interests you the most—corporate, academic, nonprofit, community-based, etc.? You may not land the ideal internship your first time out, but at least you can have some clarity about what you would prefer. Know what you want and go after it!
- Write down what you are good at and what you want to learn
Ask your friends and former employers to describe your strengths and areas to improve and explore. What are your goals for the internship? What would you like to learn? Include these points in your communication with a potential employer phrased as areas of competence and areas you would like to develop.
- Research specific companies and organizations that you would like to work for
It is often more beneficial to identify specific companies where you would like to intern and then contact them directly than only to respond to posted positions. Many of the best jobs and internships are NEVER publicly posted! So come up with a list of at least 5-10 organizations that catch your eye and that you want to learn more about.
- Search for posted internship openings through Handshake and other websites
Sign up for Handshake to access the Office of Career Services online database of internships and jobs.
- Take advantage of the Office of Career Services resources and advising
Attend our workshops and visit the Office of Career Services website. Make an appointment via Handshake or stopping by 105 Bray Hall.
- Start your search early
If looking for a summer internship, DO NOT WAIT until the first day of summer. Give yourself at least a few months to look for an internship. Some summer internship programs accept applications as early as the fall semester before you will start! If you are looking for an internship during the academic year, begin researching and contacting companies at least one semester in advance.
- Use a variety of internship search strategies
The more places you look and the more strategies you use, the better the chances you have of securing a great internship. Here are the major ways ESF students have found internships: 1) Personal contacts and networking, 2) The Internet— Handshake, major internship search engines, etc., 3) ESF Career + Internship Fairs, and 4) directly targeting companies of interest.
- Contact the companies on your list and apply!
If the internship was posted online, apply within the required time frame with a resume, cover letter, and any other documents requested. If there is not a specific opening listed but you’ve identified a company that interests you, contact the company directly and identify yourself and your situation—state that you have researched the company and would like to speak with someone about the possibility of an internship.
Internships for Credit
To complete an internship for credit at ESF, students must first secure a faculty sponsor. This can be your advisor, a professor in your department, a professor you’ve had a class with, etc. Faculty sponsors and students develop a contract that outlines what students will complete in order to obtain credit for their experience. Students are allowed to complete internships for credit that are either unpaid or paid. Details surrounding the registration process and what will be required of the experience for credit are all organized between the student and faculty sponsor.
Use these documents to help organize your internship experience. Any forms or procedures that are required will be identified as such by the sponsoring faculty unit.
- Student Information Form (SP-1, PDF)
- Student Information (to be forwarded to site supervisor) (SP-2, PDF)
- Application (SP-3, PDF)
- Confidential Information and Acceptance Agreement (SP-5, PDF)
- Employer Evaluation of Student Intern (SP-6, PDF)
- Student’s Evaluation (SP-7, PDF)
____ Research organizations early
- Do they have a formal internship program?
- Does their program match your goals?
- Is there a human resources contact you could connect with?
____ Determine your location and internship focus
- Do you want to intern at home? In Syracuse? The Northeast? Anywhere?
- Do you want to work for the government? A non-profit? A firm?
- Do you want to do field work? Work in a lab? In an office?
____ Explore internship postings
- Organizations’ human resources or careers webpage
____ Identify deadlines
- Are deadlines rolling?
- Do they have a set date and time?
____ Connect with professionals and alumni
- Request a list from the Alumni Office of alumni in your geographical area and major
- Become a student member of your field’s professional organization(s)
- Use LinkedIn to identify professionals you can connect with in your field and area
- Generate a resume
- Draft a cover letter
- Prepare references, if requested
- Have the Office of Career Services review your application
- Proofread, proofread, proofread!
- Submit your application prior to deadline
____ Follow Up
- Identify who to follow up with based on application instructions
- If no contact exists, attempt to connect with human resources at the organization
Inspired in part by: Syracuse University Career Services, Cornell Career Services, UC Berkeley Career Center, and RIT Career Services
Student Career Links
Events and Programs
- Betsy and Jesse Fink Career Development Program
- Career and Internship Fair
- Internship and Engagement Expo
- Career Development Series
- Graduate and Professional School Fair
- Personality Traits, Interests, Skills, Values & Interests
- International Students
- Students with Disabilities