Step by Step Through the Internship Process
internships are important
Why is an internship important? These days, most students graduating from college will have done at least one pre-professional internship during their college years. Internships offer you many advantages – you can:
- Explore a possible career field - find out if it's something you'd like to pursue in the long-term.
- Get your foot in the door - for some career fields, it's really the only way to break in.
- Learn valuable work-related skills.
- Build on your classroom learning with related workplace experience.
- Gain an understanding of – and become comfortable with – the professional work environment, expectations, and social norms.
- Work for a potential post-graduation employer (many employers hire a fair percentage of their interns into full-time jobs after graduation).
When should you do an internship?
- Freshman year is not too early. (We don’t recommend you do an internship during the first semester of your freshman year, since you’ll be adjusting to college life and spending more time on your academics than you’ve been used to.)
- Senior year is not too late. (Some graduating seniors seeking to gain experience in a competitive career field will even do an internship during the summer following graduation.)
- Fall, spring, or summer. Many internships that are offered during the summer – when they might require 20 to 40 hours of your time each week – are also available during the fall or spring semester, when they typically would take up 8 to 12 hours of your time.
- At least twice during your college years, if possible.
STEP BY STEP THROUGH THE INTERNSHIP PROCESS
STEP 1 – Set goals, make decisions.
There are a number of practical considerations that you will need to address:
- Pay: Do you have to be paid for your internship, or can you afford to consider unpaid opportunities? (Many internships are unpaid or pay a low wage. Fields such as business and finance, technology, and the sciences often provide compensation, while many arts and nonprofit organizations cannot afford to pay you.)
- What is your geographic preference? For a summer internship, if you are not living at home, where will you live, and can you afford to support yourself during the summer?
- Will you be using public transportation, or will you have a car available?
- Career field: What industry or career field do you want to target? There are many ways to answer this question.
- Some students simply choose to do an internship related to their major – a marketing major may choose to do a marketing internship, or a communications major may do a public relations internship.
- Other students may be drawn to a particular field, such as sports, the arts, national security, or the environment, simply out of personal interest, even though that interest may not be reflected in their major.
- Some students really don’t know what industry or career field to try. Often these students will find that some “self-assessment” is helpful. That is, by working with a BC Career Advisor and taking a career-related assessment such as the Strong Interest Inventory or responding to some simple questions (“What extra-curricular or volunteer activities have you enjoyed the most?” “What classes have you enjoyed the most?” “What have you always wanted to do?” etc.), you may identify a few career fields that you’d like to explore further.
STEP 2 – Search for internship opportunities
The BC Internship Program offers some excellent online resources for internships, including EagleLink, which provides access to thousands of listings shared by a national group of prestigious universities.
PLEASE NOTE: Some of our resources are not easy to use. One of them, EmployOn, can only be accessed at the Career Center. Therefore, we strongly urge you to do two things:
- Attend an Internship Orientation Session – we offer several sessions at the beginning of each semester.
- Meet one-on-one with an Internship Advisor during our Drop-In hours.
In addition to our online resources, we have numerous internship directories in the Internship Office. These are accessible anytime the Career Center is open.
STEP 3 – Prepare your resume and cover letters, apply to internships.
First, remember that the Career Center is available to help you with this entire process. We highly recommend that you:
- Attend a Resume and Cover Letter Workshop.
- Bring your resume and cover letters in for critiques. You can do this with our Peer Advisors, during our Drop-In hours, or in an appointment with a Career Advisor.
A few words about resumes:
- You choose what gets the most attention on your resume - and that should reflect the skills and experiences that you think the employer will find most valuable for the particular internship you are applying for.
- A corollary to "you choose what's important" - your unpaid experiences (extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, unpaid internships, leadership roles) may be of equal or greater value than your paid work experiences. You can highlight these experiences and explain them in detail on your resume, just as you would your paid experiences. (In fact, if your paid work experiences were more "grunt work" than anything else, you may want to leave them off your resume, or leave them on but do not give any details of your duties.)
- Visit our Resumes section for advice and sample resumes.
A few words about cover letters:
- For each position to which you apply, write a cover letter that clearly states your objective, your motivation for doing the internship, the skills and experience you have that most closely match those required for the internship.
- A good cover letter draws attention to two to four specific skills that are appropriate to the internship and then provides at least one specific example for each skill claimed. for example, anyone can state, "I'm well-organized and work extremely hard," but if you add, "For example, I maintain a 3.4 grade point average while working at as a tutor and child care assistant 25 hours per week," then you have provided tangible evidence of your claim.
- A good cover letter also indicates that you know something about the organization. This will usually be something you've culled from their website, from a news article, or from a conversation with a current employee. Ideally, you are able to relate this information to either your skills or your motivation for working there. For example, in applying to a nonprofit organization, you might write, "As the Boston Globe reported recently, your organization is at the forefront of the battle to provide low-interest housing to the residents of Massachusetts, an issue that I researched and wrote about extensively in a recent report for a sociology course at Boston College."
- Visit our cover letters section for more information.
STEP 4 – Interviews and Choosing
Practice and prepare! Practice and prepare! Practice and prepare!
You are generally competing with other students for an internship – the more prestigious, or the more interesting, or the better the pay, the tougher the competition. SO – the best way to get that good internship is to:
- Practice – utilize InterviewStream or attend an interview workshop.
- Prepare – research the organization – know what they do, and how, and where. THINK about questions they might ask you, and questions you want to ask them.
Remember – the more you prepare, and the more you practice, the easier this process will become.
Weeding out the bad ones / Choosing
Here’s a fact – some internships really stink. You’re making coffee, sorting mail, or even returning your boss’s sour milk to the store! Many internships involve at least some grunt work, BUT a good internship will allow you to be challenged in some way, to learn about a career field or industry, and to pick up new skills that will be valuable to you and to future employers.
- How do you avoid the crummy internships? Ask questions during your interview!!!
- What percentage of my time will I be spending at each type of activity?
- Can you describe what a typical day will be like for me as an intern?
- What type of training will I receive? From whom?
- Will my work be monitored on a regular basis? Will I get regular feedback on my work? From whom?
- Make an appointment with a career advisor.
- Attend an interview workshop.
- Schedule a practice interview.
Be sure to take a look at our handout, Making the Most of Your Internship.
What if you can’t afford to give up your paid summer job to do an internship?
This is a reality that many students face these days – they have to work during the summer and during the academic year to cover their share of college expenses. Despite financial obligations, you should try to do at least one internship before you graduate. In the past, students have employed these strategies to fit an internship into their collegiate program:
- Take a course with an internship component (a limited number of departments offer this option).
- Do an internship during the semester. Most term-time internships require only 8 to 12 hours of per week, and most employers are flexible about the days and hours you come in. (If you have to work at a paid job during the academic year, you may want to plan ahead and do an internship during your senior year, when you will likely have four classes instead of five.)
- Combine part-time, paid summer job with a part-time internship, paid or unpaid.
- Find alternative funding. BC offers a few Summer Internship Grants for unpaid human service internships.
- Foundation Grants to Individuals, which can be found at the O'Neill Reference Desk, may also be helpful in locating sources of funding for internships.