As much as you probably won’t want to admit it, chances are you’ve seen the popular reality television show “Say Yes to the Dress.” If you haven’t, the basic episode synopsis is that an excited bride-to-be visits a bridal store (with entourage in-tow) with certain expectations in mind. She tries on a few dresses (sometimes it's exactly what she envisioned, sometimes she tries on an unusual style that she didn't realize was going to be the best), she hates some dresses, loves one, drama ensues (budget constraints, dress wouldn't be shipped in time for their wedding, etc.), and then the episode concludes with the bride finding the perfect dress and leaving happy.
Strangely enough, finding an internship is similar to finding the perfect wedding dress. Here’s our “Say Yes to the Dress”-influenced grad school internship guide:
Find the Perfect Internship
Like dress shopping, to find the perfect internship in grad school you have to know where to look. Talk with your professors, student peers, and professional network contacts to learn what companies and organizations are currently hiring interns. More importantly, they may have some contacts that they could reach out to on your behalf.
You should also do your own research online and make an effort to talk with companies, non-profits, archives, or sites that you’re interested in. Even if a they aren’t actively advertising grad school internships, it doesn’t hurt to call them and ask if they would be interested in creating a position for you. In fact, you may be the catalyst that creates an internship tradition.
Try it on for Size
Like finding the perfect dress, finding the perfect grad school internship is not easy task and requires you to be open-minded. You probably have an idea of what type of internship you want or a certain place you want to work, but sometimes the best internship experience comes from an internship that you hadn’t given much thought to before. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new and unusual.
As with any good reality television show, there can be a certain amount of drama and anxiety involved throughout the internship-seeking process. Try to avoid last-minute searches for internships in grad school and plan to apply as early as possible. Ideally, you should be applying at least five months before you would like to begin.
Every bride-to-be on the show has a rough budget in mind (well, some more than others). During your internship search you should definitely consider your financial situation and means, but this should not be the deciding factor when choosing an internship.
Don’t balk at the unpaid opportunities. Internships are all about experiences and sometimes the best experiences are gained at places that simply can’t afford to offer you financial compensation. Remember that often your academic department can subsidize your costs with scholarships and stipends.
Finding the One
After all of your research and searching, you’ve finally found an internship that fits you the best! However, unlike buying a wedding dress, you can’t just drop a few thousand dollars and get the one you want.
You’ll have to apply for the position and convince the company that the arrangement will be beneficial for them, as well as for you. Before applying, make sure to fully research the company and to tailor your resume, cover letter, and references to each individual position.
If you’re offered an internship in grad school, it’s important to remember that not all internships are glamorous jobs—in fact, most are not. No matter the position, it’s important that you make a good and lasting impression by giving it 110% and showing enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. The company took a chance by offering you an internship, so it’s vital to make it a positive experience for both you and them. Grad school internships are all about experience, and if you embrace the opportunity, you’ll grow personally and professionally.
Good luck with the search and before you know it, you’ll Say Yes to the Internship!