Internships serve a variety of purposes for college students. They provide the opportunity for students to gain a more realistic picture of their chosen industry or career field, enhance a student’s résumé with marketable skills and experience, and expand a student’s network of professional contacts. However, the process of searching for an internship is almost as valuable as actually completing one. The internship search is great preparation for the post-graduation job search because the processes are essentially the same. At University Career Services, we have distilled the internship/job search into four steps: 1) Documents, 2) Research, 3) Network, and 4) Apply.
Step 1: Documents
To apply for internships, students will need to submit a cover letter and résumé highlighting their qualifications. For some applications, students may also need to supply a list of references, college transcripts, a writing sample, or portfolio of work.
Step 2: Research
To make themselves more competitive, students must demonstrate their knowledge of and fit for their target industry. Research will help students identify the appropriate application timeline, search strategy and list of target employers. For instance, many accounting firms recruit on campus in the fall for internships occurring the following summer. Industry-specific job boards are great for sourcing federal government internships (e.g., usajobs.gov). Volunteer roles often lead to internships in non-profit organizations. And in the arts, students can often simply contact an organization at any time to inquire about the potential of doing an internship with them.
Step 3: Network
Although students will most often apply online, a hiring manager will ultimately decide whether or not to extend the internship to them. Employers prefer to hire people they know or are recommended to them by a trusted source. Since up to 80% of positions are filled by word of mouth, it is prudent for students to spend the majority of their internship search time talking about their career interests to as many people as possible. Potential contacts include family, friends, faculty, fellow Mason students and alumni, as well as employers at recruiting events.
Step 4: Apply
After students have crafted documents that adhere to industry norms, and know the best time and places to look for positions from networking with those in the field, they are actually ready to apply. Of course, the first place students should look is HireMason, the university’s job and internship database which all students can access with their net id and password. They should also search industry-specific job boards, check organization websites and directly contact employers to ask if they are willing to take on an intern.
For assistance in creating a customized internship search strategy, Mason students should call University Career Services at 703-993-2370 to schedule an appointment.
Finding an internship is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.
Associate Director, Industry Advising and Employer Development
University Career Services