The University of Montana
The University of Montana
It is a position specifically tailored to your own academic and/or career interests, and one that is researched and obtained by you.
For many students, internships provide an opportunity for career exploration to test their assumptions about a field. An internship can also be a time of self-assessment when students clarify their strengths, weaknesses, and work environment preferences. The main benefit, for most students, is the valuable hands on work experience gained. Future employers are looking for students who have relevant work experience.
Just as there are many different reasons for seeking an internship, there are many ways an internship can be arranged. An internship can be paid or volunteer, involve academic credit, and can be either full-time or part-time. The main criteria are that internships combine work experience with educational and career goals, and the work experience involves active supervision.
The following strategy will help you develop your own internship, regardless of the field you hope to enter. We suggest three steps: 1) determine your individual goals, 2) research the field, and 3) contact targeted employers. You may be tempted to skip the first two steps, but doing so may short-circuit your progress.
This may be the hardest step in the process. It is often difficult to decide what you really want, but doing so will help you conduct a focused search for an internship. In addition, deciding what your own objectives are helps you get more out of any experience, including an internship.
Ask yourself these questions:
Why do I want an internship?
What do I hope to learn?
In what field(s) am I trying to gain experience?
If you need help in determining your career goals, consider working with a career counselor. Both Internship Services and Career Services have counseling available. Career Services offers workshops as well as career assessment surveys including the Strong Interest Inventory, the Career Assessment Inventory, the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey, and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Career Services also has a computerized assessment program called SIGI (System of Interactive Guidance & Information). Take advantage of these services if you are still undecided about your career and educational goals.
Once you are able to answer the preliminary questions about your goals, you can focus on some of the particulars:
What kind of responsibilities would you like to have as an intern?
What kind of daily duties would you prefer?
Are you looking for a paid or unpaid internship?
Do you want to work part-time or full-time?
If part-time, could you balance responsibilities of your classes and the internship?
If full-time (other than summer), could you defer graduation by a semester?
To receive academic credit, you will need to get the approval of a faculty internship advisor. The credit can be in your major, minor, or other fields of study. Each department on campus has their own criteria for internships. You will need to talk with your department’s faculty internship advisor to see what works best for you.
This step is important because it will give you ideas about employers who might offer the type of internship you want. There are two basic ways to research a field: (1) by using prepared materials, such as those found in both Internship Services and Career Services libraries, and (2) by talking to people who work in the field.
As you research the field, you will be identifying employers to contact later, while learning more about what the work involves. You will also learn about what qualifications are required and what responsibilities are involved. Increasingly, people are talking to professionals in the field as a way to learn about that field. This approach is usually called informational interviewing.
If used correctly, informational interviewing can yield candid information on what certain jobs are like, how people get started, and what employers are looking for in an employee. You may pick up some valuable tips such as who is hiring or what professional associations people in a particular field belong to. Ask your family, friends and faculty for names of people to approach for informational interviews.
It is important to remember at this point that your goal is to get information, not a job or an internship. It is crucial that you are honest with the people you approach (and with yourself) when you say you would appreciate meeting with them for information only, not to ask for a job. Remember to follow up with each interview with a thank you letter.
If you invest time and effort in researching a field, you will have a greater chance of success when you do contact employers. Your research will help you be selective - you will want to skip those organizations that really don’t do the work you thought they did. Instead of doing a resume blitz, approach only a few employers. They will not only be flattered, but impressed, because it will be evident that you have done your homework.
The emphasis now switches to: What can you offer as an intern? If you have spent some time determining your individual goals, you will know yourself better and be more familiar with your strengths (knowledge, skills, and abilities). Having researched a field, you will also know what employers want and are looking for in an employee. In addition to your individual qualifications, consider the selling points of flexibility and a fresh perspective.
Whether you approach the employer by letter, phone, or in person, be sure you are contacting the person with the power to make the decision to hire (supervisor or manager of the department in which you want to work). Organizational charts and other company literature can help you find the name of the person. Telephone receptionists and department secretaries can also help. It is better to invest the effort in a phone call than to send a letter to the Director of Human Resources or to “To Whom it May Concern.”
Where are you in the process of developing your internship?
What do you need to do next?
A large project can be overwhelming. Break it down into manageable parts. Give yourself a deadline for completing each small part. An action plan will be helpful in organizing your efforts and succeeding in developing an internship.
Information on the benefits to employers who hire interns, Employer Internship Guidelines, and other information are available from Internship Services. These should be helpful in the development of your internship.
For internship information and advising, contact Internship Services, Lommasson 154 or call 243-2815.
Lommasson Center 154
(406) 243-5866 Fax