How to Find a Summer Internship

By Deborah Federico

A student came into my office recently, bearing a worried expression. A friend had told him there weren’t any more summer internships available, he lamented to me. “What! That’s definitely not true,” I exclaimed, and  quickly reassured him that there were still plenty of internships available for the summer. Then I told him to stop listening to his friend—at least when it comes to career advice.

As an undergraduate career counselor in the School of Management at Boston University, a large portion of my job revolves around dispelling myths such as this one. So, whenever your friends give you advice about the job market or your career, make sure to get the facts from your school’s career services office.

I can almost guarantee that you’ll find some kind of internship for the summer by using the strategies outlined below. You might even find yourself in the enviable position of having to choose between multiple internship offers.

Career Services Office: This should be your first stop. Find out if they have either an online or print database of internships. Not only will the pool of applicants be relatively small compared to larger internship search sites, the companies that post want to hire someone from your school. Make sure to check for deadlines and remember to check the database often, as new internships will be added as they come in.

Online Internship Databases: There are several online job databases that contain hundreds–if not thousands!—of internships. Simply Hired, for instance is a favorite of mine. A great thing about it is the ability to search by geographical area. You can also set up multiple searches, get daily email alerts with any internship that matches your search criteria, or sort your search by company name to zero in on internships at your favorite companies.

Another one of my favorite internship sites is Craigslist (yes, I said Craigslist!). Despite the many sketchy posts on Craigslist, lots of my students have found some very good internships there—particularly at smaller companies. Students just need to view postings with a bit of discernment. See if the company has a website, or Google their name to see what comes up. When in doubt, consult your career services office.

(Speaking of sketchy things, be aware of scam internship emails. Scammers typically operate by sending students brief and vague emails, written with poor grammar, and sent from Hotmail or Gmail accounts. If you respond, they will send you a check—with no funds to support it—ask you to deposit it, then request you send them your money. Never, ever get involved with anything like this and make sure to immediately report these scammers to your career services office.)

Target Companies: Is there a particular company or industry that you really want to work in?  Go to that company’s career page or find out the key players in your industry and visit their career pages to search for internship postings. If nothing is available, send your resume and a prospecting cover letter for potential future openings. Then follow up with human resources.  You could even consider designing your own internship. Employers will love your initiative, and many companies would welcome the additional set of hands during the summer.

Career Sites: Vault is a great resource for finding and researching top internship programs and for their internship ratings. Some other good resources for doing internship research are Internship Ratings, where students rate their internship experience, College Confidential, where students discuss their internship experiences in chat forums and CareerTV, which has many company profile/internship programs on video.

Events: Go to career fairs and company information sessions, both inside and outside of your college. Remember: Even if a company may not have an internship for you at this moment, they may have one in the future, and you’ll be building your relationship with the employer in the meantime.

Network! Network! Network! During a recent “Internship 101” event at Boston University, many of the student panelists said that they had found their internships through networking. Networking with whom? Anyone and everyone! I would recommend starting with your family and friends. Many of my students have found great internships through neighbors, uncles, aunts, cousins, and best friends’ parents. Go through them first, then you can branch out into contacting your school’s alumni. Just remember never to ask outright for a job! You need to build a relationship first, impress them with your abilities, which, in turn, can lead to an internship opportunity.

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By doing multiple internships, you’ll develop your transferable skills, discern what you want out of your future career and build your resume to make you a competitive candidate in the job market when you graduate. If that isn’t enough, consider the following:

In terms of starting salary offers, there is a definite financial advantage for students who have internship experience, according to results of NACE’s 2010 Student Survey. Overall, students in the Class of 2010 who had internships received an average salary offer of $41,580. Meanwhile, their classmates who didn’t take internships received an average starting salary offer of $34,601.

Internships are plentiful. Nearly 95 percent of the students I work with have had at least one internship during their college years, if not two or three. The sooner you start, the more methods you employ, the better. Don’t simply apply for one or two internships and then wait for the phone to ring. It’s a numbers game, and by applying to multiple internships, you exponentially increase your chances of landing the one of your dreams.

Remember to continuously check for internships throughout the spring semester because companies will keep posting new internships through June. There is one caveat to be aware of, though. Some larger organizations do have more formal internship programs with specific recruiting cycles, and, if you’ve missed their deadlines, then it really is too late. But you can always look for an internship at a smaller firm. It’s much better to have some experience on your resume than none. Your goal should be to have a resume filled with diverse work experiences, not the same one from summer to summer.

Deborah Federico is an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Career Services in the School of Management at Boston University. Prior to her career in higher education, Deborah worked in the corporate world, primarily doing marketing and market research. She blogs about career advice here and her LinkedIn profile is here.

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