Everything You Need to Know About Internships—From What They Are to How to Get One

Everything You Need to Know About Internships—From What They Are to How to Get One

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What Is an Internship?

An internship is a short-term work experience offered by companies and other organizations for people—usually students, but not always—to get some entry-level exposure to a particular industry or field. It is as much of a learning experience as it is work.

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What Is an Internship?

Ideally, interns spend their time working on relevant projects, learning about the field, making industry connections, and developing both hard and soft skills.  Summer internships are typically 40 hours a week over 10 to 12 weeks. Fall and spring internships vary, but are almost always part time. Some are paid.

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Why Are Internships Important?

As an intern, you get a chance to work side by side with accomplished industry professionals and get a pretty good idea of what an entry-level role might entail. You’ll not only gain real work experience, but also meet and learn from the pros.

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Why Are Internships Important?

One other less obvious but equally important benefit of an internship is the chance to figure out what you don’t want to do.  Internships give you the chance to try a few things out without committing. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something you love. And if not, you’ll at least know what doesn’t work for you.

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Why Are Internships Important?

Internships offer you the chance to not just build relevant skills and learn about the field, but to demonstrate those skills and industry acumen on the job. For most employers, even ones who are extremely adept at hiring new graduates, nothing quite makes up for real-life experience.

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Do Interns Get Paid?

How much interns get paid varies widely by industry. Tech and finance tend to pay on the higher end, while journalism, fashion, and nonprofits in any field often pay on the lower end (or not at all). According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE),

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Do Interns Get Paid?

 56.7% of graduating seniors in 2017 most recently had a paid internship or co-op experience—up from 53.7% in 2014—while 43.3% were not paid. Undergraduates who were paid in 2018 made an average of about $18.50 an hour.  As short-term workers, interns typically don’t receive health or other benefits that full-time employees get.

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Do Interns Get Paid?

Let’s talk about the unpaid ones. A pretty uncontroversial stance is that people should be paid for their work. Luckily, the law—namely the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—agrees. Usually. All that said, some organizations, whether for-profit or not, offer unpaid internships that, uh, get precariously close to the lines (or cross them).

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Do Interns Get Paid?

Some industries are notorious for not paying their interns (or paying them poorly), while also requiring internships in order to get a foot in the door for full-time entry-level jobs. Of course, that means that people who can’t afford to take unpaid internships not only miss out on those valuable learning experiences, but have more trouble breaking into the field as a whole.

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3 Ways to Find an Internship

1. Use Campus Resources If you’re a student, go to your campus career center and figure out how to attend career fairs and take part in on-campus recruiting. There may also be job boards for students at your university. These employers are specifically looking for students from your school!

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3 Ways to Find an Internship

2.Go Online  As you probably guessed, there are tons of resources online too, including, of course, The Muse, which features both job and internship postings along with company profiles to help you learn about organizations and their culture.

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3 Ways to Find an Internship

3. Look at Your Favorite Organizations Everyone has a couple of dream companies. If you’re not sure exactly what kind of internship you want to pursue, another direction you can go is to check out the company first. Go directly to your target company’s website and see what kind of internship programs and opportunities it offers.

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4 Tips for Getting an Internship

1. Start Looking Early Figure out when your industry recruits. In general, the larger the company is, the earlier in the fall they probably start the process for the following summer’s intern class. If your school has a fall career fair, that’s a great place to begin your search. Smaller companies have a harder time projecting headcount

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4 Tips for Getting an Internship

and therefore tend to hire closer to when they need someone to start. If you’re looking for a fall or spring internship, aim to start your search at least a full semester before your target start date.

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4 Tips for Getting an Internship

2. Get Your Resume and Cover Letter in Shape Follow steps to write a resume for an internship and read up on how to write a cover letter for an internship. You might not feel like you have very much experience to write about, but as long as you keep an open mind about what “experience” encompasses—like course assignments, 

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4 Tips for Getting an Internship

hackathons, volunteer projects, or other extracurricular activities—you’ll likely be able to put together a compelling application.

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4 Tips for Getting an Internship

3. Prepare for Those Interviews It can be tempting to wing it, especially since interview invites can often make them sound like casual chats. Don’t fall for it. Review common internship interview questions and practice answering them aloud. You don’t have to memorize your responses, but definitely practice them.

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4 Tips for Getting an Internship

4. Use Your Network If you’re a student, reach out to professors, alumni, and your career center. Let people know what kind of internship you’re looking for. They can’t help unless they know what you’re after. To be even more targeted with your networking, create a list of companies you’re interested in and

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4 Tips for Getting an Internship

start finding people to reach out to via LinkedIn or your school’s alumni database. Networking is often a more labor intensive approach, but it also tends to result in a better fit than just applying randomly. Even if it doesn’t directly pay off in your internship search, one day you’ll be glad you started developing your network early in your career.

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