Steps to Acquiring an Internship

1. Interests, skills & abilities

Consider the following:
  • Take one or more career assessments and receive interpretations.
  • Read information specific to career fields on the Career Development website.
  • Talk to family, friends and acquaintances about their careers.
  • Participate in a job-shadowing experience through Davidson.
  • Attend career panels and other workshops at Davidson.

2. Set goals & learning objectives

Consider the following:
  • Articulate your goals for participating in an internship. What do you hope to learn and accomplish? How will the internships in the career fields you are considering help you to meet those goals?
  • Answer practical questions: can you afford to do a full-time unpaid internship, or do you need to focus your search on part-time unpaid or paid internships? Do you have the flexibility to relocate for a summer internships, or are you restricted geographically?

3. Your network & online presence

Consider the following:
  • Meet with a Career Development counselor for a tutorial on, and access to, AlendaLinks, the new Davidson online alumni network.
  • Create a LinkedIn account and join the Davidson College Network.
  • Read our Networking Guide for additional information.

4. Plan for the search

Consider the following:
  • Set aside time for the internship research and application process.
  • If you are looking into summer internships, note that January through March are the most common months for deadlines. However, many large, competitive internship programs (including federal government internships that require security clearances) have deadlines starting as early as October. Many students start preparing for the search in the fall even if they do not actually apply for positions until the spring semester.
  • Make a list of career fields and specific companies and organizations that you are interested in exploring through an internship.

5. List internship opportunities

Consider the following:
  • Log on to WildcatLink at least once a week to check for new postings (including many from Davidson alumni and families), and be sure to select your career field preferences to receive specialized information about internship opportunities of interest to you. Internships are found by clicking the 'Jobs' tab and then searching for 'Internships–Paid' or 'Internships–Unpaid.'
  • Once you are in WildcatLink, visit the Nationwide Internships Consortium (NIC) and the Liberal Arts Career Network (LACN), consortiums of selective liberal arts colleges that contribute internships to shared databases. As a Davidson student, you can access more than 5,000 internships in these databases at no cost.
  • Go directly to the websites of organizations of interest to you and learn about their philosophies, missions, services and target populations to get a sense of what you can offer and what you can learn. If you feel that the organization is a good fit for you, see if any internship opportunities are advertised.
  • If an organization is not currently advertising internships, contact them directly to see if any opportunities exist that are not advertised, or if they would be willing to create an position for you. If you find an organization interested in taking you on as in intern that does not have previous experience working with interns, stop by our office for advice on handling this situation.
  • Consider using other popular and comprehensive internship search sites, especially if you need to focus your search on a particular geographical area. Here are some of our favorites:
    • internmatch.com
      User-friendly, growing website with internship postings across the country
    • Idealist.org
      Major search site for nonprofit internships
    • indeed.com
      Metasearch job engine; most visited job search site in the U.S. Type in "internship" and a geographical location.
    • One Day One Internship
      Website started by an ‘06 Cornell grad that features one internship opportunity per day
    • internshipking.com
      Internship reviews and salaries provided by students in addition to internship postings
  • If you are interested in doing a non-profit internship in the greater Charlotte area, contact the Center for Civic Engagement to hear more about partnerships they have developed.
  • Explore other Davidson-run summer internship programs, including the Education Scholars Program (contact Allison Dulin), the Sustainability Scholars Program (contact Jeff Mittelstadt), and the Entrepreneurship Internship Program (contact Allison Dulin).

6. Prepare application materials

Consider the following:

7. Apply for internships

Consider the following:
  • Apply for many internships – particularly if you are focused on competitive programs – and spend time carefully crafting application materials that align with the internship posting.
  • Make a list of the various documents required for each internship, and check off materials as you complete them.
  • Keep track of exactly when and where you have sent completed applications.
  • Follow up with organizations who have not gotten back to you within a reasonable time frame, particularly if they are your top choices and you are starting to hear back from other organizations.

8. Practice interviewing

Consider the following:
  • Sign up for an account with CareerBeam, which includes a new interactive interview prep system.
  • Make an appointment with a Career Development Adviser for a mock interview.
  • Connect with alumni through Alenda Links and LinkedIn for career field specific interview advice.
  • Read our Interview Guide.

9. Interview & follow-up with employers

Consider the following:
  • Write each employer with whom you interview a thank-you note. Email is acceptable, but if you know that decisions will take a while, consider a handwritten thank you note.

10. Evaluate & accept an offer

Consider the following:
  • If you receive multiple offers and are unsure how to handle them, meet with a Career Development counselor to talk them over. Feel free to ask the organizations additional questions about the internship. Much of the advice we give in our Job Offers Guide applies to internships.
  • If you are offered a full-time unpaid internship but are constrained by financial issues, consider asking the internship site if working part-time is a possibility. Interning for 15-20 hours per week as opposed to 40 would allow you to obtain a part-time job to do alongside the internship.

11. Make the most of it

Before the Internship:
  • Ask about the dress code at the internship site, and purchase appropriate clothing if necessary.
  • Research the internship site more thoroughly to get a better sense of its history and organizational culture.
  • Ask your supervisor what you can do to prepare for the experience.
  • Look into housing options and secure lodging. If you aren't sure where to start, contact your internship site for advice on safe and affordable housing close to their organization.
  • Research transportation options and plan how you will get to work each day.
During the Internship:
  • Be proactive. If you have down time, ask about new projects you can assist with or take on yourself. Don't do just what is asked of you.
  • Share your learning goals with your supervisor, so that he or she is aware of what you are hoping to get out of the experience.
  • Reflect on your internship by keeping a journal or talking regularly with family and friends about your experiences.
  • Document your work at the internship. This might entail gathering writing clips for a portfolio or saving copies of reports to which you contributed.
After the Internship:
  • If an exit interview or final meeting is not a part of your internship, request one. Ask your supervisor for feedback on your performance and advice for moving forward in the profession.
  • Ask your supervisor if he or she would be willing to provide you with a recommendation in the future.
  • Stay in touch with professional contacts that you make during your internship.