1) What should I look for in an internship?
A) An organization/industry that matches your interest
When deciding where you want to work, consider your interests. If you enjoy sports, the Kiel center may have opportunities. If you enjoy marketing, several large marketing firms are located in St. Louis. If you are interested in criminal justice, most counties in the surrounding areas accept interns.
The internship is a wonderful opportunity to explore industries or organizations that interest you. Moreover, if you are interested in the service or product your organization produces, then you will be more active in insuring that the learning experience you have within the organization is as comprehensive as possible.
B) A place for you to acquire marketable skills --Not only can your internship experience help you decide if you have found your “true calling,” but it can help you acquire skills that can lead you to another organization if you haven’t. For this reason, students should be most concerned with finding an internship that provides them with marketable skills. Let’s say, for instance, you think working with criminals is exactly what you want to do as a career choice, but when you begin an internship in the probation office, you realize that the situation is much different than your expectations. Your experience is not wasted if you can take the skills you acquired from the experience and use them elsewhere.
Be careful, then, that you choose an internship that will be useful to you in a variety of settings.
C) A place to attain a job after the internship
Students should consider finding an internship at an organization that has the potential to hire them after their internship is complete. Organizations with the potential to hire interns come in all sizes, small businesses or agencies as well as corporations and government offices. Organizations tend to be loyal to their interns when looking for job candidates. After all, the interns already have the job knowledge and ability (so they do not have to train a new person), and they have proven their commitment to the organization by working 120 hours for free. Many organizations would much rather hire someone they already know and trust rather than some “unknowable” entity.
Working in a “large” organization with more job opportunities is NOT a necessity when finding an internship. If you feel that the skills you are gaining are valuable to you, then it doesn’t matter whether or not you have the potential for a paid job afterwards. What matters most is that you are seeking what you want from the internship experience.
2) Where should I look for an internship?
Students have primary responsibility for finding and choosing the site where they wish to complete their internship. The process of finding an internship is it self an important learning experience for students which we have found to be an excellent "dry run" for doing an actual job search. Also we have had the most success with students networking- establishing and using personal contacts of those who have jobs or know others who work in organizations that are familiar and appealing to you. However, there are several other places or sources to look for an organization. First, try the Career Development Center. They are in contact with many different types of organizations that accept interns. Second, try the yellow pages. Look under the specific service or product that interests you to see which companies are located in the area where you want to work. Third, look in the Want Ads. While organizations do not advertise for interns, perusing the want ads can help you gain familiarity with the different organizations that exist in your areas.
3) Should I look for an internship that pays wages?
It would seem ideal to find an internship that paid you while you learned. However, while we do not object to a paid internship we know there are some pitfalls to avoid. As we discussed above, your role as students allows you the legitimacy to become involved in the organization in ways that many “regular” employees are not involved. You can make requests to gain certain skills and become involved in settings that provide you with those experiences. However, if you are paid, mutual expectations tend to change- the employer tends to think of you more as an employee and so do you. You are less likely to act like a “student” (someone who legitimately deserves access to a learning experience) and more likely to act like an “employee” (someone who is expected to get the job done, no questions asked). In other words, your access to learning may change when you get paid.