During the pursuit of a graduate degree, you have a unique chance to use school relationships and resources to find internships for the career path you want. Internships help to expand your network, promote your professional growth, and make you anyone’s top choice.
The benefit of an internship experience
Graduate internships are particularly important because they may be required by your college or university. They can also be a way to open doors to new roles and lines of business within your industry.
In addition to the credit you may earn from an internship, you’ll also be:
Building a network
Interning at a new company can be a great chance to work alongside influential people in your field whom you might not have met otherwise. You can make connections along the way, even before you secure an internship, and create a network of people who could open doors down the road or become great mentors.
Learning an industry
This is a great way to learn firsthand about your own industry, or an industry adjacent to yours. Plus, having experience to supplement your learning will make the concepts richer and refine your career skills.
Finding your next role
This could be your entry point for a career at your desired company. Some graduate schools have longstanding relationships with particular employers, and those connections can help get your foot in the door as you advance in your career.
So many choices. Where to start?
When choosing your internship, start by figuring out which opportunities align with your goals. Then, see what’s available based on your experience and school partnerships. The internship search process is challenging, but setting clear objectives from the beginning will make it easier.
First, take a moment to reflect on your professional goals.
Where do you want to be when you’re done with your graduate program?
Is there a particular set of skills you want to learn?
Do you want to gain entrance to a specific career, company, or subcategory in your industry?
Let your goals lead you
With these goals in mind, explore which organizations have deep connections with your graduate program. You should be able to learn this information by talking with instructors in your department, consulting with the school’s career office, or attending presentations about graduate internship opportunities.
Do the available internships help you get closer to achieving your goals? If so, work with the staff at your college or university to prepare your internship application and meet with the appropriate contacts in your program.
Don’t settle for internships that don’t benefit you
If the opportunities readily available through your graduate program don’t seem like the best fit, don’t be afraid to widen your options.
Top 8 internship opportunities
Students at Spotify: Interns with the streaming service Spotify work on major projects. Summer intern applicants apply during the previous fall.
Internships at Deloitte: Internship openings from this international professional services network are available in many states and for a variety of roles, including analysts and tax consultants.
Google Internships: The tech giant has internship programs specifically designed for a wide range of studies – from IT to business.
Disney Professional Internships: Interns at Disney work in business, finance, marketing, and other departments. Opportunities are available from Seattle to New York and many places in between.
University Internships with Microsoft: Graduate students may be interested in Microsoft’s sales, services, marketing, finance, or supply chain internships.
International Nursing Internships: Finding a nursing internship may be a matter of applying to your local hospital, or you could extend your scope and experience with an opportunity with International Medical Aid.
Tesla Internships: From computer engineering, mechatronics and robotics to finance, HR and sales, Tesla hires year-round and offers students the chance to solve real-world problems.
CVS Health Internships: Students can apply for their rotational program which will expand and deepen your pharmacy experience.
Go wide with your search
To locate internship programs outside your university, you can conduct web searches and use virtual job boards, or talk to people within your existing network, including school faculty. Ask if they can recommend any internship programs or put you in touch with people who can.
Seek networking opportunities to locate internships
Your graduate program might host networking events — perhaps even virtually for online programs. Don’t overlook any chance to meet new people. Go with an optimistic attitude, an open mind, thoughtful questions, and some clear career goals.
During networking meetups, always be prepared. It’s a good idea to have your general application materials handy, including an up-to-date resume.
The ins and outs of applying for an internship
To set yourself apart from other candidates, identify and clearly articulate your unique experiences, expertise, and attributes. Communicate what you offer. Then connect those qualities to the information you’ve gleaned from your contacts along with the internship’s written description.
Make a strong first impression with your cover letter
Address your cover letter using the name of the person who will read it, when possible. Otherwise, you might want to address it to the selection committee.
Make sure your cover letter is clean and tastefully formatted. Use a legible, professional font, standard margins, regular paragraph breaks, and single spacing.
Clearly state the opportunity you’re applying to.
In your own writing, attempt to mirror the language used in the position description. Your letter could be scanned for keywords. Use natural phrasing to incorporate important terms related to the position and your experience.
Write about your current position, the graduate program you’re enrolled in, and how this internship connects to your talents and objectives.
Share relevant details from your resume that might be overlooked, including specific projects that have a direct connection to this opportunity.
Vary the language and customize details in each letter to relate to the specific opportunity.
Let your personality shine through in a professional way. The reader should be able to tell that you’re enthusiastic about the internship.
Keep your contact information up to date and make it easy for the reader to locate your name, email address, and phone number.
Limit yourself to one page. Readers will appreciate your focused writing.
As you work on preparing your internship application materials, find out what resources are available through your school’s career services center. You may be able to sign up to have your resume and cover letter reviewed by impartial, trained professionals who can give constructive feedback.
Prepare for the interview
Some career services departments will offer mock interviews to help you prepare for your internship interview. Virtual sessions may be available for online students.
If you don’t have access to this kind of support, you can ask friends or relatives to conduct a mock interview with you. Also, practicing in front of a mirror will help improve your delivery. Know what you want to convey, but answer these questions in an unscripted manner.
Interviews commonly include:
Questions about your background:
“Tell me about yourself.”
This is your opportunity to give a brief rundown of your work and educational history. Don’t worry about covering every detail. Frame things in a way that will allow your interviewer to see what you bring to the table while making it obvious how this internship fits into your plans.
“What do you like to do outside of work and school?”
There’s no “right” way to answer this question. As long as your response is appropriate for work, you’re all set. It’s basically an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know a little bit more about you as a person. You can talk briefly about your volunteer work, personal life, or hobbies. Be honest, too. They might ask you a follow-up question, especially if they can relate to what you share.
Invitations to talk about the internship and the company:
“How have your past experiences prepared you for this role?”
Explain in greater detail similar projects from your past and the experience you gained along the way.
“What do you think will be challenging about this role?”
This one can seem scary at first. After all, you want to paint yourself in a positive light. Embrace this question, though. Focus on what you want to learn in this role and the skills you want to acquire. Don’t forget: This internship can help you grow.
“What are you most looking forward to about this position and this company?”
Maybe you’re an avid fan of their products or you find their innovative business strategies exciting. Point to the specifics here as much as possible.
“What do you hope to gain from this opportunity?”
You can stay humble responding to this question while unambiguously stating what you want. If you’re hoping this leads to a career at the company, tell your interviewer. Companies want to learn how your goals align with theirs.
“Tell me about a time when things didn’t go according to plan for you.”
Focus on a moment in your career where you faced a challenge. Instead of placing blame anywhere, just identify the problem, share how things went astray, and most importantly, emphasize how you changed course to solve the problem. Companies know that things go wrong sometimes. They want to know you’re capable of pivoting to accomplish the task at hand.
“How would your manager describe you?”
Ideally, you can answer this question by citing some examples from a recent performance review or a departmental accolade you’ve earned. Another way to respond is by highlighting qualities your manager regularly praises you for or situations where your peers look to you for help.
“What do you think are three areas in which you excel? What are three things you struggle with?”
If you can, try to connect your positive attributes to the internship opportunity. Back them up with short examples or point to accomplishments you’ve already discussed in the interview. When you describe areas for improvement, share short statements about how you’re working on overcoming any struggles.
“How do you manage your time?”
This is another common question that often doesn’t have a “right” answer as long as you can demonstrate you have an organizational system in place that works for you. Share the strategies you use to manage your tasks, meet deadlines, and establish priorities.
Interviewers may also ask you some technical questions related to your experience in the industry, or have you complete an on-site assessment to demonstrate your proficiency with specific technical skills.
It’s not just what you say
Landing an internship requires preparation and perseverance. Here are some important components to consider:
Prep your resume
You’ll need a well-designed resume, but nothing flashy. One useful tip for writing your resume is to start all of the bulleted statements with action verbs. For example, instead of writing that you “participated in” a committee, you can say you “led” one. Alternatively, you can focus on your specific duties, like “organizing meetings” or “creating reports” for the committee.
Seek out seasoned reviewers
In addition to working with the career services department for your graduate program, see if you can get one of your industry connections to review your application materials. They might be able to point out details that are unique to the field.
Research your interviewers
Before an interview, you should also research the people who will interview you. If they’re publicly visible in your field, you should have a sense of their personality, values, and business priorities. You can also search for your interviewer on LinkedIn to get a broad sense of their career arc and to understand how they describe their relationship to the company.
Choose the right wardrobe
Dress the part. Even if your interview is virtual. Specific choices may vary based on the corporate culture, but erring on the side of formality is probably your safest choice.
Lastly, take a moment to relax before going into your interview and remember to think of this as a conversation. Doing this will help you feel prepared, confident, and comfortable.
How can you excel throughout your internship?
Demonstrating your value and performing well during your internship will require consistent dedication and a reliably positive attitude.
To excel during your internship, be on the lookout for ways to:
Expand your portfolio
You’ll likely have specific tasks you’re responsible for throughout your internship. In addition to those routine tasks, you should volunteer for projects that allow you to acquire new skills.
As you learn more, you may be granted ownership over new initiatives. This will provide three benefits:
First, it will make you stand out at the company. When you prove yourself during an internship, the business has more reason to consider hiring you later.
Second, you’ll work with new people and expand your network within the company.
Lastly, your accomplishments from these projects can go in your portfolio to show other potential employers.
Graduate internships and COVID-19
If you had planned to complete an internship, public health concerns may have resulted in an adjustment to your offer or cancellation.
Surveys from the National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted in April 2020 found that during the coronavirus pandemic:
16% of employers had rescinded internship opportunities
29% of employers decided to opt for virtual internships
According to an article from CNBC, Jason Weingarten, the CEO of Yello, recommended that students who received an internship offer — only to have it canceled due to COVID-19 — should still include that information on their resumes. While it doesn’t need to have a permanent place in your work history, it can help explain gaps and increase interest in your application for the near term.
If you do participate in a remote internship, make the most of any virtual networking opportunities. Home-based happy hours or other distance-based social events can help you connect with colleagues in an informal setting.
No matter how your internship unfolds, remember that it’s important to treat the program with the same respect as you would any other professional setting.
Start building the path you want
Successfully finding, landing, and completing an internship during the course of your graduate studies may seem difficult at first, but it’s certainly achievable. Plus, it’ll make you a competitive candidate for full-time offers after graduation. Find your next step with confidence.