What is an internship?
You may have heard the word internship and thought it referred to an on-campus job. In reality, internships include any supervised work experience related to your career interest including work that is paid or unpaid, credit or non-credit earning, and/or in corporate, non-profit, government, clinical, or research settings. Most importantly, internships allow you to apply what you have learned in the classroom and develop career skills.
Other key aspects about internships:
- Provides you with the real-world experience you will need to successfully attain a full-time job in your field.
- Alerts you to the skills that employers demand of prospective employees.
- Allows you to test out possibilities by exploring your interests and using your skills in a professional, working environment.
- Maybe paid or unpaid, may or may not offer academic credit.
- May include opportunities in the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors.
- Offers employers fresh ideas to creatively respond to real business problems.
- Provides networking opportunities in the field.
- May result in a full-time employment offer.
Plan to spend several months and many hours looking for an internship. You will have to apply to many opportunities to land a great internship.
Explore: Assess if your college or department offers an internship course for credit. Also, consider if you can afford to do a paid or unpaid internship. You can also make an appointment with Career Services or your college’s career office to explore preparation for and search of internships.
Focus: Determine the type of organization you want to work at and what type of role within the organization you want to explore. You will be much more successful if you are targeted in your search versus applying to every internship you see.
It is best to start looking for an internship at a minimum one semester prior to your desired start date – see next section. Also, take note of the internship program timing of the employer and/or industry. Some companies require an application to roles months in advance of the start date. When in doubt, speak with the employer HR or recruitment contacts for more information.
Network to find out about opportunities
Network to find out about opportunities – Use your network of friends, family members, faculty, and anyone else you know to discover organizations in your field and potential contacts within them. You can also network and look for opportunities at our career fairs, where employers often have both internship and full-time opportunities.
Polish your resume and cover letter
Polish your resume (or CV) and cover letter. Both are important tools to communicate your strengths and how you will be an asset as an intern to a potential employer. In addition to your strengths and direct work experiences, you can also include related experiences such as course projects, student leadership, and volunteer work.
Making the Most of Your Internship
Self-study online modules are now available for current UIC students on YouTube (and on Blackboard) on internship and employment topics. Each online module can be completed in less than 10 minutes. Note: UIC students may register for the Career Readiness 101 online course on Blackboard to access the course (non-credit):