More signiﬁcant is the skills advantage interns develop through their experience. Quality internships focus on the critical skills new professionals need to be competitive in the workplace such as risk-taking, leadership, cooperation, critical thinking, and problem solving. Exactly what employers value most.
Internships come in many shapes and sizes. They also vary a lot between career ﬁelds and employers. Internships can be paid or unpaid, for-credit or not-for-credit, part-time or full-time, and they can be done at any time during the year, not just in the summer. Some academic programs, like engineering, oﬀer cooperative education placements (co-ops) which are special partnerships between a student, an employer, and a college or university.
- What do you want to learn?
- Where do you lack experience?
- What type of experiences would you like to have?
- Are you looking for a paid/unpaid internship?
- Do you have an effective resume?
- Do you have a cover letter based on the type of internship you are looking for?
- Do you know the number of hours you are available to work?
- Are you willing to relocate for an internship?
- You can never start early enough. Internships are competitive and have application deadlines. Spend time researching requirements for applying as well as knowing when the deadlines are so you can get your materials submitted in a timely manner. Ideally you should start searching for an internship about 6 months before you want the internship to take place, especially if you are looking for an internship during the summer months.
- Internships can start at any time. Many internships, however, begin at the start of summer, fall and spring semesters. Start looking at least one semester ahead of when you hope to start your internship!!
- An on-site work experience directly related to career goals and/or ﬁelds of interest
- Supervised, emphasizing learning and professional development
- Evaluative, providing a system for feedback and communication
An internship is not:
- Routine, repetitive tasks unrelated to identiﬁed learning goals
- A job that does not oﬀer career related learning opportunities and experiences
- Consider doing an internship on campus (The Internships@State program works with campus departments on about 200 internships a year.)
- Check out the Student Internship Toolkit
- Use Handshake to search for internship positions and take advantage of on-campus interviewing and career fairs.
- Look into the MSUFCU Internship Opportunity Award to help you with unpaid internship expenses.
- Meet with the Career Consultant for your college to discuss and create an internship search plan that ﬁts your goals and interests.
- Identify employers of interest and contact them directly.
- Still have questions? Meet with a Career Advisor who can help get you on track.
Cooperative education is primarily a traditional, alternating period of work assignments in an engineering function. Internships are usually a onetime only work experience in an engineering function. These experiences are usually paid and available for credit. Visit the Get Experience section of the College of Engineering website.
Getting the Most Out of Your Internship
- Set goals. Before you begin, sit down with your supervisor and establish several realistic goals for your learning experience. Ask, “What results should I be working toward?” Use these goals to evaluate yourself throughout your experience.
- Know your place. You will be working with professionals who have many more years of experience in the ﬁeld than you. Remember you do not have all the answers. Communicate respectfully to all employees—those with a college degree, and those without. At the same time, don’t be afraid to share your ideas. Sometimes a fresh perspective is just what your employer needs.
- Find a mentor. If your employer does not provide you with someone who will coach you and answer your questions, seek out employees who will agree to serve in that role. Building quality professional relationships during your internship is vital to lifelong career success.
- Take the initiative. Some experiences are well-deﬁned with speciﬁc outcomes provided, others are not. In either case, don’t sit back and wait! Your employer will be impressed when you see a problem or issue and address it. When you take ownership in your work, you’ll ﬁnd it more rewarding.
- Build relationships. Learning about your chosen ﬁeld can be an enjoyable experience. Connect with other students and employees both inside and outside of the work environment. Take it upon yourself to organize a er-work social activities if they are not planned for you. Remember to exhibit a strong work ethic throughout your experience, and you will be respected by those with whom you work.