How to get an internship

Jan 252012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Painstakingly piecing together résumés, cover letters and answers to potential interview questions isn’t new to CSU senior Robert Huerta.

“I have a degree in natural resource, recreation and tourism, and an internship is actually a requirement for my degree,” he said. “Considering my field is solely based on experience, experience and more experience, the Warner College of Natural Resources makes sure that as graduates, we’re going to be prepared with some previous experience so that we don’t walk out into the real world and be like, ‘Oh God, what do we do?’”

And he’s not alone. Approximately 2 million Americans become interns every year, with the majority of applications going out in January and Feburary in the hopes of landing summer positions.

An increasing number of applicants, said Ross Perlin in his book “Intern Nation,” are college students. Seventeen percent of undergraduates interned during their college years in 1992. In 2008, that number skyrocketed to 50 percent.

Experts say it’s a sign of the increasing importance of having real-world experience before graduation.

“We’ve all heard the saying, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ Well, I see this as ‘network is net worth,’” said Ryan Kahn, a professional career coach at Dream Careers, Inc, and the star of MTV’s “Hired” in an email to the Collegian. “The more relationships you have, the better chance you have down the road of getting referrals … Today, internships are the fastest way to grow your personal network and get your foot in the door!”

So how does someone get an internship, anyway?

Professionals recommend making sure a person’s application stands out from the other 100 that are flooding the desired workplace’s desks.

“I’m not talking about a résumé on florescent pink paper,” Kahn said.

Having an interesting story to tell during an interview –– like what you learned during your time studying abroad –– helps individuals’ names pop out in the minds of internship coordinators.

Wendy Rose, a counselor at CSU’s Career Center, advises ambitious internship applicants to set up informational interviews with an employee from the workplace they hope to win a spot in.

“If they want to identify somebody that they could just take to coffee and just ask about, ‘what do you guys do here? Can you tell me a little bit more about your organization?’… People get a sense of, this person’s dedicated, they’re really interested in us – not just any internship,” she said.

But before an application is even sent out, Kahn and Rose also suggest cleaning up any questionable content that can be found on personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Some people actually have people pull up their Facebook account in their office,” Rose said.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

Want additional internship advice?

Visit CSU’s Career Center. It’s free, and counselors have drop-in hours for busy students who want a quick informative session in between classes.

Visit for an expansive list of internship programs to which you can apply.

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