The Internship search — it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon

So this week is particularly busy with internship applications; there are so many due dates approaching so I’m trying to spend all of my down time working on them.  A lot of my friends have been asking me about where to find internship opportunities that match their interests.

In order to stay on top of the whole process, I created an internship notebook.  The first few pages list all of my “dream companies” – companies where I would love to end up one day.  I checked off the ones that I know offer internships in the fields that I am interested in and have bookmarked their websites.  After that, I compiled all of my favorite internships that I think I am most qualified for and listed them in the order that the application is due.  This has been incredibly important for me; it keeps me organized and helps me keep track of what I’ve already applied for!  I can just check them off and hope for a response.

When I’m looking for these internships, I usually go right to the corporate website and locate the career opportunity page.  A lot of large companies post their internships and student jobs right there, and direct you to the application page.  If they don’t, I do a simple Google search to see if their internships are listed on a different website.   Literally Googling the exact internship I want has resulted in many internship possibilities that I may not have found otherwise.  Also, I have learned to get creative in the way that I search for internships.

One of my favorite websites for non-profit, research, and government jobs, which I used a lot last year, is Idealist.org.  It’s really easy to search and includes so many internship postings for the types of jobs I’m interested in — International affairs, Asia, and Government.  They even make it really easy to apply and oftentimes provide you with the human resource department’s email address so you can contact them directly with your cover letter and resume.  For these jobs in particular, I spend a lot of time on my cover letter.  Many of the internships on Idealist.org are very specific and require certain interests, skills, or experiences.

That said, the one most important thing when applying to internships is to find ones that 1. you’re actually qualified for and 2. you actually want to do.  It seems obvious, but sometimes the whole internship application process is so overwhelming that I forget.  Last year, I applied for so many different types of internships because I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  I heard back relatively quickly from the ones I was very qualified for and was able to set up interviews and move along with the process.  However, I obviously never heard back from some of the random ones I applied for.  At first, I was sort of upset that I wasn’t hearing back, but then I realized that there was no way I’d even get the internship, and if by some chance I did, I don’t think I’d actually enjoy it.

The people who are searching for interns know what type of people they are looking for – they list criteria and qualifications for a reason! If those don’t match your experiences or interests, it’s usually not worth applying.  I’m not saying to avoid applying for something that you’d like to learn more about, but it’s really not worth all the time and stress to apply for an internship that you’re not qualified for and don’t even want that badly.  For my internship last summer, I walked into the interview confident and passionate about their work – more than just knowing some of the information from their homepage.  It showed, and I was offered the position.

Internship applications are overwhelming and scary – but a lot of people seem to forget that, at the end of the day, you really need to love what you’re going to spend the entire summer working on.  I don’t want to put all of my eggs in one basket, but I always try to remember that internship applications are about quality, not quantity.  If I’m qualified, interested, and excited about the internship, I’m so much more likely to get the position than if I’m just applying so that I can say I applied to a ton of internships.

Take a look at J-Connect and other internship boards and really focus in on the positions that match YOU.  If it’s a good fit, you’re already at an advantage.  Just remember that you want an internship for work experience, but you always want to enjoy it and have it be supplementary to everything else you’ve accomplished!

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