What is an internship? Why do one?
An internship is your best chance to test out potential career choices. You'll get real-life experience doing the work of an employee in an organization. It is also a good way to learn about different management styles and work environments. Internships help you learn what type of work suits you.
An internship helps you develop professional skills and build a network of contacts. This will help you later when you begin your job search. It is also the best way to connect the learning you are doing in the classroom to the world of work. You will learn by doing!
An internship will help you get a job after you graduate. Employers seek job candidates with some type of experience. Internships build your resume and increase your chances of getting hired later.
How do I find an internship?
Search for listings on GoldPASS
GoldPASS is the U of M's job and internship database. It lists thousands of opportunities just for U of M students.
Stop by the CLA Career Services office
We can steer you to books, internship search sites, and other ways to find internships. After you find an internship you want to apply for, we can also help you write a resume or prepare for a possible interview.
Check out the Learning Abroad Center for more information on opportunities to complete an internship abroad.
Attend the CLA Internship Fair
At this annual fall event you can explore internship opportunities with a wide variety of employers who are hiring and who have internships for CLA students. This even is also an opportunity to develop your networking skills and to get advice about internships and full-time professional work.
Use your personal networks. You do have them: family, friends, classmates, faculty, advisors, teaching assistants, neighbors... anyone you can think of. To broaden your network, join a student organization or volunteer somewhere. Here's what you can say when asking about internships:
I'm hoping to get an internship soon, so I can explore career options and get some experience before I graduate. My major is ____, and I hope to get an internship doing ____. Do you know anyone who works in this field or who works somewhere that might have internships in that field? Or can you think of any other ways I might find an internship? If not and you hear of something later, I'd appreciate you keeping me in mind.
How do I know if an internship is right for me?
First, consider your academic and personal goals.
Also consider your strengths and values. Do you want to work for a nonprofit? Then focus your search there. Do you want to do advertising, anywhere? Then search by category, concentrating on ones related to that field (e.g., Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations).
Write a goal statement for yourself.
"I would like an internship that will give me an opportunity to..." This statement will guide your search. If you're struggling to clarify your career goals, consider taking one of the career exploration and planning courses we offer, ID 1201 or ID 3201.
If you have trouble finding the right internship, try creating your own.
Decide what you want to do and find an organization that will support you. Keep in mind that smaller, lesser-known organizations often provide internships that are just as good as internships at big companies, and tend to be more flexible.
Do an informational interview.
Do an interview with someone in an organization or field that interests you. If it seems like a good fit, ask them about internship possibilities in their organization. The CLA Career Services office provides books, handouts, and personal tips about conducting informational interviews.
How do I get the most out of an internship?
Create a Learning Contract with your site supervisor.
This agreement clarifies your expectations and those of your supervisor and maps out a plan for you as you work through your internship. Some experiences are centered around a specific project (a campaign, for example) so your agreement should be written with this project in mind.
Outline what you intend to learn and accomplish. Both you and your supervisor can use this document to manage the position. If your internship focuses on a specific project, write the learning contract with that in mind. If it doesn't, chart our various activities and projects, mutual expectations, and goals. As you begin, consider your goals in these areas:
What ideas and concepts in your field of study would you like to learn about, practice, or test?
What practical skills do you want to develop?
Need help creating a Learning Contract? Visit the CLA Career Services office for help.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Internships
Are internships paid?
Yes and no. Some internships will offer compensation and some will not. Some organizations also offer "perks" such as paid training, attendance at conferences, or parking reimbursement.
Is an internship required?
An internship may be required for some majors and not others, so you'll want to check with your department or major advisor. Either way, internships are strongly recommended for all CLA students. They're an important way to enhance your classroom studies (just like a lab, studio work, student teaching, etc.). They also let you explore potential careers and build your professional skills. Potential employers consider all this important.
Apply for a CLA Undergraduate Internship Scholarship!
I have to work. How can I fit an internship into my busy schedule?
Try to get a paid internship, or apply for the CLA Undergraduate Internship Scholarships for a small stipend. You might also be able to create an internship at your current workplace if it relates to your career plans. Another option is to do an unpaid internship during the summer for 10-15 hours per week, and pair it with a part-time summer job.
Does volunteer work or a service-learning class count as an internship?
Technically no, though any experience is great experience and can be used on your resume. Volunteer positions sometimes involve less substantive work or less time commitment. If you volunteer somewhere, be sure you will be learning about the organization, the clients the organization serves, and the ways in which the full-time staff work.
If I want to earn credit for an internship, what are my options?
To earn credit for your internship, you need to have an academic component to your experience. You have several options from which to choose:
Departmental internship or field-work courses
Check with your academic advisor to see if there are courses that match your needs.
Directed Study with a CLA faculty member
You'll work independently with an instructor for credit, or add credits to a class being taken the same semester as the internship. Students are responsible for finding their own directed study faculty advisor. For information and application forms, stop by the CLA Career Services office.
Do an internship through a HECUA program
These are 16-credit, semester-long programs that include classroom studies, field work, and an internship. Each focuses on a key social issue. There are 4 HECUA programs in the Twin Cities: City Arts, Environmental Sustainability, Metro Urban Studies Term, and Writing for Social Change.
Could my internship become a job after I graduate?
Many employers use internships to assess the abilities of potential job candidates. A significant number of employers hire their interns, and most employers prefer job candidates who've had internship experience.
What if I run into challenges in my internship?
The internship doesn't meet your expectations
- List out and assess your expectations. Are they realistic? If so, think about ways to meet them and consider talking to your internship supervisor about them. If you decide they're not realistic, try to figure out why.
- If you started the internship with a specific position description, reference that description to see if it accurately represents the work you're doing.
- If you don't already have one, consider working with your supervisor to create a learning contract. This is a good way to chart out internship expectations for both you and the organization. If you already have a learning contract, review it and modify if possible.
You and your internship supervisor have conflicting goals or priorities.
Some degree of difference is natural. If your differences are extreme, talk to your supervisor openly and positively to see if you can find a middle ground. Remember that your supervisor should want you to have a positive, useful experience. Try to meet your supervisor's expectations while also meeting your own.
Ask for new projects. If you notice a need or an area that could use some work, offer to work on it. If you show initiative and help solve some problems, you'll stand out and gain even better experience for your future.
Many workplace problems are a result of poor communication. Don't hesitate to talk to your supervisor about your concerns, but be sure to do so in a diplomatic, positive, and professional way. Most supervisors do not take on an intern unless they're committed to providing positive experience.