What is an internship?
An internship is a short-term, structured experience with an employer in a career field of interest to you. This placement provides an opportunity outside the classroom to actively explore your interests, gain practical experience, and to assess if you like a chosen field.
Why is an internship important?
In today’s job market, actual experience can make a significant difference in your career prospects. An internship is one critical way you can demonstrate to prospective employers just how talented you are. More importantly, the contacts you make during your internship will become an extremely useful network during your job search.
What are the benefits of participating in an internship?
Aside from the hands-on experience you will obtain during an internship, there are a variety of reasons to seek an internship:
- Explore a new career path
- Network and make contacts
- Increase your knowledge and abilities
- Possibly earn money
- Contribute to an organization or company
- Test classroom theories in the “real world”
- Possibly earn academic credit
- Develop and enhance marketable skills
- Meet and learn from professionals in the field
- Build confidence in your skills and talents
When are internships offered?
Internships are offered throughout the year. Most St. Lawrence University students complete internships during two specific time periods: January break (up to 5 weeks) and Summer break (up to 12 weeks). These two sessions allow you to make the most of your free time, but semester long internships are also available.
Are all internships unpaid?
No. Although some organizations believe the valuable experience you gain is compensation enough for the internship, many others offer competitive wages, professional development opportunities, and other benefits to their interns. The true value of an internship lies in the quality and diversity of experiences you gain. Because of their different methods of compensation, there are 3 primary types of internships:
- An academic internship allows you to receive academic credit for the work accomplished during the internship. You can earn a 1/4 credit for your internship through the Career Connections office - contact Geoff Falen at email@example.com to learn more about this option. You can also try to arrange your internship as an independent study through a faculty sponsor. Your faculty sponsor may require additional projects (such as a journal, research paper, or presentation) along with the projects outlined by your site supervisor. If you would like to pursue an internship as an independent study, you must make arrangements through your Department Chairperson and the Registrar before you begin your internship.
- A paid internship will provide you with monetary compensation for your work. This may be one lump sum or an hourly pay rate. Alternative compensation may include reimbursements for travel, housing, or other living expenses. Because the primary purpose of an internship is the learning experience, hopefully money will not be your first consideration!
- Unpaid internships are no different from other internships, with the exception of compensation. These opportunities emphasize your commitment and dedication to the field more than financial gain. Researching financial alternatives such as grants, scholarships, part-time work, or housing assistance may enable you to pursue this type of learning experience.
What will I do in an internship?
It is impossible to offer a definite list of internship projects because each organization has different needs and opportunities. Because an internship is designed to give you practical hands-on experience as well as exposure to a particular career field, many placements try to include the following opportunities:
- Database management
- Customer contact
- Project management
- Attend meetings with supervisors
- Informal interviews with staff
- Keep a journal to record observations, questions, and accomplishments
Who can do an internship?
Typically students pursue internships during their sophomore and junior years, but many opportunities exist for first-year students as well. There are also experiences designed for recent graduates or students enrolled in graduate school.
Most employers understand that an internship is an opportunity for students to gain experience, so very few require applicants to have previous experience. Each internship sponsor, however, has different requirements and expectations for its interns. Certain skills, majors, or class years may be requested or required by the employer.
Do I need to have a career goal in mind before I pursue an internship?
Internships do not lock you into a particular career field. Instead, consider internships a valuable, hands-on way to test those areas you are considering for a future career. The Career Services office has many resources available to help you clarify your objectives for an internship. If you would like help learning about what opportunities would best fit your goals, make an appointment to meet with a Career Services staff member.
Will I need a resume and cover letter? What about interviews?
Resumes and cover letters will definitely be part of your internship application process. These documents are extremely important, as they can be your best tools for marketing yourself as an internship candidate. If you do not have a resume or need help writing a cover letter, the online Resume Guidebook and the Professional Correspondence Guidebook can help. Peer advisors and the professional staff in the Career Services office can also help you create or revise your internship applications. It is also very possible that you will be asked to interview for an internship, either by phone or in person. An interview helps the internship sponsor to meet you and assess how well your goals and experiences match their needs and opportunities. Prepare for an internship interview just as you would a job interview – do your homework on the organization and know your skills, interests, values, and experiences. To get basic information on interviewing skills, check out the Interviewing Guidebook. You can also schedule a mock interview with one of the Career Services staff to get some practice before the actual interview.
Can I do more than one internship?
Absolutely! Having a variety of internship placements will help you to understand the types of work that are most interesting to you. It will also strengthen your position as a future internship or job candidate because you will have more experience to offer that employer.