An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent. (National Association of Colleges and Employers)
An internship is a great way to gain valuable experience and build your resume. Internships can allow you to:
- Gain insight on your career goals
- Test out different work environments
- Build your resume and develop industry-specific skills
- Shape and grow your professional network
- Practice the job search process
What qualifies as an internship?
An internship must
- Be supervised by a professional within the organization you work for
- Serve PRIMARILY as a learning experience for you
- Have clearly defined duties and activities agreed upon by you and the employer
- Include an analytical or reflective component (“See How to Make the Most of your Internship” section below)
- Assist you in progressing toward a professional or exploratory career goal
- Comply with all relevant employment laws and statues; you do not give up your rights as an employee due to your student status
- If for academic credit – Is supervised by a faculty or staff member within the university
An internship should
- Take place in a professional setting (adequately structured remote experiences can also be internships)
- Have clear expectations and evaluation processes provided by the employer
- Assist you in delineating a career path from the internship forward
- Encourage you to develop career readiness competencies, including: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Oral/Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration, Digital Technology, Leadership, Professionalism/Work Ethic, Career Management, and Global/Intercultural Fluency.
Searching for and Securing an Internship
If you’re not quite sure where you would want to intern or which career field you would like to gain exposure to, you can make an appointment with a Career Center exploratory advisor to help you explore and clarify your skills, values, and interests.
If you have a general idea of your internship preferences, you can:
- Apply to posted internship positions on sites like Handshake, NIC, and CEI Internships
- Learn about potential internships or research opportunities through networking
- Create or update your resume, cover letter or other documents to begin applying for internships
You can also gain valuable experience by:
- Becoming a fellow
- Working as research assistant or conducting independent research
- Volunteering though RCCL
- Participate in the Internships in Europe program
Paid, Unpaid and Credit Internships
While some employers offer paid internships, an unpaid internship can be an equally valuable opportunity. If you secure an unpaid internship or research position for the summer, you can apply for funding to help cover some of your expenses.
The University of Rochester also offers options for receiving academic credit for completing an unpaid internship. If you’re interested in learning about internship for credit options, we recommend speaking with your academic advisor, Career Center advisor or visit our resource on receiving credit for internships.
How to Make the Most of Your Internship Experience
You can get the most out of your internships by approaching it as you would a full-time job.
Tips for making the most of your internship experience:
1. Develop goals for your internship: Consider what you hope to learn and what skills you'd like to build throughout your experience. Be open to new experiences outside of your goals.
2. Clarify policies and expectations: Prior to beginning your internship or during the first week of your role, ask your supervisor and/or colleagues about policies and procedures such as dress code, break or lunch schedules, email and voicemail etiquette and other protocols.
3. Be part of the team: Build relationships with your coworkers and treat each member of your team regardless of titles or position with respect and professionalism. Take the time to learn about other divisions or departments and learn how they work together to meet the goals of the organization.
4. Don't be afraid to ask questions: Discuss your projects and ideas with your supervisor regularly to better understand your role as an intern. Clarify assignments and ask for help when needed.
5. Establish rapport with your supervisor: Clarify expectations with your supervisor and establish a meeting schedule. Come prepared for your supervisory meetings by keeping track of your projects and accomplishments. Continuously ask for feedback to assess your progress and clarify your goals for the internship.
6. Expand your professional network: Discuss professional associations affiliated with your field/industry with your coworkers and supervisor to continue expanding your network and knowledge within the field. Use the University of Rochester Alumni LinkedIn Group during your internship to connect with alumni who are working in the same field, city or organization.
7. Reflect on your internship: As you complete your internship, reflect and assess what you learned about yourself including your abilities, skills, interests and values. Consider how the skills you gained and your experience contribute your future career goals? You may want to request a letter of recommendation and/or a LinkedIn recommendation. Also, schedule an appointment with a career advisor to update your resume with your latest internship and discuss the experience.