More on Internships
Internships are an important component of your Thayer School experience. As you develop your skills and knowledge through academic work, it is critical to begin to apply them in real work settings. This kind of experiential learning that you can get through an internship accomplishes two things. First, it demonstrates to employers that you are able to successfully operate in and contribute to an organization or business. Second, it allows you to test your career interests and goals, helping you to explore and determine if a career field or industry is the right fit for you.
Begin your search with the end in mind: What do you want from an internship?
If you're not sure where to begin, it's helpful to narrow your focus by picking a functional area of engineering that you'd like to work in (i.e. mechanical) and a geographical location (ideally one where housing or visa status won't be barriers to employment).
The first step in your internship search involves some self-analysis. Think about what you want from an internship and what you have to offer an employer.
Setting your priorities for your internship experience will help you focus your search. What are you looking to do? Learn more about an industry or field? Work in a certain geographic region? Gain experience with a particular employer? Rate the following priorities in order of their importance to you.
- Testing career ideas
- Gaining experience
- Performing a public service
- A job near home
- A job near Hanover
- A chance to do something different
- A job that's related to your major
- Other: _____
Use your responses here to focus your internship search. By narrowing the scope of your search, you break your search into manageable pieces. Narrowing your search too far, however, may limit your options, so stay as flexible as possible.
Another important exercise to undertake is to identify what you have to offer an employer. What are the skills, qualities, or experiences you have that would most interest an employer? Be positive about the contributions you could make. If you can demonstrate to an employer that you have some valuable skills and are willing to learn what you don't know, you will have an advantage in the hiring process over the person who can't articulate why an employer should hire them.
The Dartmouth term schedule allows you to choose the time of year when you would like to pursue your internship. Though seeking a fall, winter, or spring internship involves significantly less competition from other students than a summer opportunity, employers may not know that there are students like you seeking positions. This means that you may not have the luxury of extensive career listings from which to choose.
Without the same amount of listings for a non-summer term, it is advised that Thayer students begin exploring internship options at least two terms in advance to their scheduled off term. This gives you the time to perform a more extensive search which may be necessary to find the opportunity that is right for you.
Though the available career listings should remain a course of action for obtaining a position, looking for an internship during the traditional academic year may require a greater emphasis on the alumni network and employer targeting. Begin this process early because as stated before it can be relatively time consuming. Talk to your alumni contact about the nature of their career and industry, as well as any suggestions that they might have about pursuing an internship. Be Persistent! Emails generally will not work in targeting employers. Try to speak with people in the HR department of a company in which you are interested. They may be able to help you out with information or possible openings.
Congratulations on getting an internship! Your job now is to make it a successful learning experience for you and a successful work experience with the employer. The following tips will help you in that process.
Ask questions. The first few weeks can be confusing; don't be afraid to ask for help or seek clarification on something. Besides, it takes a while to find your way around, learn the routine, and settle in.
Talk with people throughout the organization. You can learn more about the employer's big picture by talking to the people who make up various parts of the employer.
Join in. Make an effort to include yourself in social activities, including lunch. Networking is an important part of the job search and your internship will provide you with a great source of people with whom to network.
Stay professional throughout your internship. Even if you are not considering applying for a full-time position with your internship employer, your employer can provide a valuable reference for you. Help them develop a positive opinion of you and your work.
Be prepared to do routine tasks. Not all your work will be exciting, but routine tasks are important ways for co-workers to assess your enthusiasm, skills, and initiative, as well as get needed work done. If you find yourself bogged down in routine work, ask for an opportunity for more in-depth work as well.
Managing Your Boss
Communicate with your boss on a regular basis. Let them know what you're doing and your progress. Ask questions.
Use your common sense on routine tasks or simple projects. There's no need to bother your boss if you have a good sense of what you're doing. Be sure to check in when the project is accomplished.
Let your boss know your goals for the internship. Let people know what you're interested in and find challenging.
Volunteer for projects and tasks. This shows your initiative and interest in your work.
Wrapping Up Your Internship
Expect a formal evaluation from your supervisor. You may want to inquire about this at the beginning of your internship.
Be prepared to evaluate your internship. Your employer may request an evaluation as well. Be honest, yet tactful, in your assessment. Your comments can assist employers with improving internship experiences for fellow students.
Update your resume. Include your internship, while the skills you developed and projects you worked on are fresh in your mind. Check with Career Services if you need assistance.
Special thanks to Matt Therian '05 for assistance on this section.
In addition to employer's websites, there are many other on-line resources that may be useful for finding internships. These include:
- DMOZ Open Directory Project (An index of many internship sites)
- US.jobs (search under keyword "intern" and by location for best results)
- Idealist.org (Non-profit internship listings)
- National Science Foundation: Research Experiences for Undergraduates
- StudentJobs (for positions with the U.S. Government)