Internships are great ways to gain experience in your field, but they can be difficult to obtain. It is hard to apply for something when you have little to no experience. Employers recognize this, yet they still ask for it in your application. I am currently searching for an internship myself so I know it can be frustrating. The good news is that I have learned a few things during my search for an internship and I would like to share them with you. I hope that reading this blog gives you a head start in your search for an internship.
When and why do you want an internship?
The purpose of most internships is to provide a non-professional student with professional experience in his or her field of study. It is never too early to gain this experience, and the most common time to obtain an internship varies for different majors. I’m a mechanical engineering major and a professor once summarized this dilemma for me. For mechanical engineering majors, he said it’s impressive to have two internships, expected to have one, and disappointing to have none by the end of graduation. Now, if you are a senior or even a junior without an internship don’t let this discourage you. This is specifically for engineering majors. Some majors may not expect you to have one at all, but if you are looking for one, start looking as early in the year as possible.
Where do you look?
After deciding you want an internship, your first question may be where to look. A great place for students at UMD to start would be goldpass.umn.edu. In case you are unfamiliar with this site, GoldPASS has job and internship postings for U of MN students. You just log in with your student ID and fill out your information to apply for positions. People often default to Googling openings when looking for internships. This a great tactic but make sure you narrow your search, otherwise you will get mass amounts of junk that you don’t want to search through. If you know the specific company you would like to intern at, then the company website is probably your best bet.
Another useful tool that people tend to overlook are job fairs. UMD and Career & Internship Services put on several job fairs throughout the year. They also send buses down to the Twin Cities for some the major spring job fairs. Job fairs are great ways to meet employers in person. If you decide to attend a job fair it will be very beneficial to research the companies attending beforehand.
How do you narrow your search?
You want to keep your search broad enough to give you many options. At the same time you want to narrow your options so that you aren’t applying for internships that don’t apply to you.
The fact that you are looking for an internship (instead of a full-time job) narrows your search already. The fact that you are looking for an internship related to your specific major narrows your search even more.
It is important to differentiate between what you prefer and what you need in an internship. For example, I am not able to relocate outside of the Twin Cities; therefore, I don’t apply or search for internships located outside of the Twin Cities. On the other hand, payment is a preference of mine. I would prefer to be paid but I would take an unpaid internship as well, therefore I apply to both types of positions.
Topics to search by:
- Paid/Not Paid
- Date of Employment (Summer, Spring, Fall)
- Length of Employment (Co-ops are generally two semesters instead of one)
You may also want to specify the type of work that you would like to do within your major. This is one of the hardest decisions to make when searching for internship positions. Most students looking for internships have no real work experience in their chosen profession. This makes it difficult to choose what you want to do with your major. For example, Mechanical Engineering has many different paths to take. You can work in manufacturing, design, management, product quality, sustainability, and everything in between. I have chosen not to choose my path yet, but I strongly encourage you to apply for a specific position if you know exactly what you want to do.
What do you need when applying?
Even if the position does not require a resume and cover letter, you should always have them. A base resume is great to have on hand and you can tailor it to any position. A cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for. Some companies even ask for an unofficial transcript, so it would be good to have one of these as well.
Hopefully after reading this post you feel more confident and prepared to go find that internship. Keep working at it and good luck!
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