Grad school internships - one of the best ways to get your feet wet in your new career. So how do you land the right grad school internship? Is there a secret to it? Is it magic?
Nope! Like most things in life, you’ll have to be proactive and put in a little bit of work.
So where do I find internships for graduate students?
There are a huge number of grad student internships out there. You just need to know where to start looking.
1. Ask around
Your first point of contact during the grad student internship search should be your program’s graduate coordinator and faculty. They will know if your program already has working relationships with specific companies or organizations with available grad student internships, and they probably have colleagues they can ask to help connect you.
You should also turn to your university’s Career Services office, because they too have internship resources and contacts in a variety of industries and disciplines.
2. Use your own contacts and network
If you haven’t started already, make sure you’re attending professional and University events where you can connect with professionals, speakers, and donors.
Ask your professors if you can tag along to the next event, and they can help introduce you to the people you need to meet. Meeting someone in person can have a bigger impact than sending an email or making a phone call.
Talk to advanced students in your program about the grad student internships they’ve completed, and ask if they’ll make introductions.
Go to professional conferences, career fairs, and career expos and ask about internships for graduate students, because you never know whose interest you may pique.
Networking can be intimidating when you spend most of your time in a lab or in the stacks at the library, but you can do it! (And take advantage of professional development opportunities to help make you better at it!) Grad school is the time to build a web of contacts who can lead you to the perfect grad student internship.
3. Comb the Internet for openings
Regardless of your discipline, make sure you cast a broad net. There are a number of web resources out there for internships, so start with the big hitters: indeed.com, LinkedIn, idealist.com, and internships.com.
At the graduate level, you’ll also want to scour your discipline’s professional websites. And don’t forget federal internships. Pathways Programs, the National Park Service, usajobs.gov, and engineeringjobs.com, are only the start.
It’s all about finding the right internship, and then using your networks to give you a boost when applying.
4. Don’t be afraid to propose an internship
If there’s a specific place you want to gain some professional experience, pick up the phone and ask about an internship. It’s okay to approach a company or organization that’s never had interns before—your graduate program, Career Services, and the Graduate School can help you and the company navigate the work of setting up an internship.
5. Don’t say “no” to the unpaid grad student internship
There are paid grad school internships available, but don’t balk at unpaid opportunities. Your grad program may be able to help offset the costs with scholarships or stipends for unpaid internship or professional volunteer work. While the ideal is a paid internship, your goal is to get experience, and an unpaid internship can offers just that.
Remind me again why grad school internships are important
To put it plainly, you need internships to build your professional skill set for the post-graduation job search. Grad student internships help get your foot in the door, and you need to maintain those relationships even after the internship ends. Your internship supervisors will serve as references for employment after graduation. They’ll also be the first to remember you--the known quantity--when full-time opportunities open.
But the internship experience is about a lot more than finding a job—it’s about delving deeper into your discipline, learning about the intricacies of working for an organization and contributing to its goals, and learning more about your own profession and passions.