Internship Q&A

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Written by Peter Vogt

Get answers here to all your burning questions about internships — who needs them, when, and why.

I graduated from college six months ago, but I never did an internship because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I now think that I would like to work for a study abroad organization. Is it too late to convince a company to let me intern with them? I inquired several times about internships my senior year and got responses like "An internship? In your senior year?"

It’s NEVER too late to have an internship in order to gain experience in your field of interest. Many recent (and not-so-recent) college graduates arrange their own internships after graduation for the very purpose you have. It may not be called an "internship" per se — you might simply need to volunteer.

When you approach organizations, don’t ask only about internships. Let them know that you’re looking for experience of any kind, whether it’s through an internship or a more informal arrangement.

For example, you might want to contact a study abroad advisor at a nearby college and ask if you could assist him or her one day a week – for free – in order to get some experience. Chances are it might turn into a real internship. If not, you’ll be able to include your volunteer experience on a resume.

Also look into working on a freelance or contract basis with organizations in your field, particularly non-profits. Non-profit organizations often rely on volunteers to accomplish organizational goals.

I know that, nowadays, graduating college students need to have work experience in their chosen field. However, many students have no chosen field. Liberal arts majors, like me, for example, chose their major because it had the most appeal. I studied what I thought to be interesting or, at least, tolerable. So what kind of experience should I be seeking?

While you may not have a "chosen field" yet, you can still start gaining experience by trying an internship in Field A, a volunteership in Field B, a part-time job in Field C, etc. It’s not a smooth way of doing things, but in reality it’s the way most of us work when it comes to finding our initial career path. After all, you can read all you want to about careers and even talk to people in various careers. But most people don’t really decide if a field is right for them until they experience it firsthand.

I’m trying to find a business internship, but I don’t know which companies offer them. How do I track down this information?

Internships are an essential ingredient to career success. However, sometimes the difficult part is finding the internship you want. Try these steps:

  • Make a trip to the college career center. A counselor can guide you toward the best field for an internship, your geographic options, and the time of year that best fits your schedule.
  • Go online. In addition to college databases, sites such as lets browsers search by company, region, and field.
  • Check with alumni. Many alumni are happy to sit down with aspiring interns for informational interviews about the company they work for.
  • On-campus recruiting. Many national organizations, such as INROADS ( and the Washington Center ( probably visit your campus frequently. Check out your career center for info and dates.
  • The direct approach. If you’re interested in a particular field and know of a particular company you’d like to work for, contact the company’s human resources or personnel department. The staff should be able to inform you of any internship opportunities.

I’ve submitted several resumes for internships this summer and haven’t even received a phone call for an interview. It’s frustrating because I earn good grades and have had previous employment experience. Should I call the companies and ask about an interview? Any information you could give me is really appreciated.

Definitely follow up with a phone call to each company/organization you’ve applied to. At a minimum, you’ll show that you have good follow-through skills and that you’re self- motivated. Just be polite and courteous when you call, then see what emerges from there.

Keep in mind, too, that if a company doesn’t respond to you as quickly as you’d like, it may have nothing to do with you and/or your qualifications. Instead, it may simply be that the person you sent your stuff to is running a bit behind.

My son is a sophomore in college, and he wishes to take some extra classes over the summer. Should his focus be on completing a five-year program early or in having a summer internship for work experience?

I’d tell him pretty strongly to do an internship this summer — if he can get one – instead of taking extra courses and knocking a semester or two off of his five-year program.

There aren’t many "musts" where college students’ career development is concerned, but one is that today’s students simply MUST gain some field-related work experience while they’re in school. An internship would give your son the chance to start building this work experience, as a sophomore no less (which would be impressive to future prospective employers). The future "payoff" of doing an internship this summer will far outweigh a semester or two saved by taking summer courses.

Do internship opportunities include post-grads? I am trying to break into the graphic design field, but I only have student experience. All ads are for experienced designers, so I am thinking of an internship. Do you think this is a good strategy for me? Thanks!

I think that gaining experience through an internship is definitely a good idea. It will give you the opportunity to make contacts in the field and to learn about different aspects of the industry. Employers tell us they prefer candidates who have developed job-related skills and knowledge through career-related work experience.

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