In most parts of life, timing is everything, and the world of internships is no different. Each year, internship placements and programs get more and more competitive, and the earlier you express interest and get your application in, the better off you will be. If you are an under-graduate, the time to start looking for internships is right now!
What that means is that internships are always going on, and you can be placed as an intern in the winter, spring, summer or fall. Many people think that summer is the only time to apply for an internship, but this is not the case. In fact, the summer is the most competitive time to apply for an internship.
However, summer is also the most convenient time to be an intern, without the responsibilities of classes and exams. Therefore, if you definitely want to apply for an internship in the summer the latest you should be sending out your resume and materials is mid-February. That means that in the fall semester you’ll need to be doing internship research, polishing your resume, writing drafts of your cover letter and getting recommendations. If you are applying to one of the major internship programs, this deadline could be as early as the first of the year. For highly competitive programs, like Goldman Sachs or the U.S. State Department, deadlines are in early November. As you are doing your research, be sure and make note of all of the deadlines for the internships that you are interested in.
Winter break is a great time to look for summer internships. Since you will likely be working at your internship in your hometown during the summer, winter break offers the perfect time to go on informational (or employment) interview, and even to pound the pavement looking for a placement. You can also use this down-time to create and organize a plan for searching for internships in during the school year.
This is also a great time to get all of your paperwork and documents in order. While many companies will simply ask for a cover letter and resume, programs often have a lengthy application process including essays and recommendations. Don’t leave these until the last minute! Whenever possible, use your vacations and three-day weekends to sharpen your writing skills so that your resume, essay or whatever materials the program is looking for is in tip-top shape.
If you can’t find the internship of your dreams for the summer, consider a fall or spring internship. These are often less competitive, and you could even wind up interning at the same place that you could get into over the summer! That said, you’ll still need to be aware of the general deadlines associated with academic year internship placements. That is mid-July for fall internships and mid-November for the spring semester.
In some cases, having an internship during the academic year means that you can lighten your course-load; it isn’t uncommon to receive the same amount of credit (the equivalent of 1-2 full-time classes) for an intensive summer internship as you will for a part time placement during the semester. This makes academic-year internships even more attractive, and an option that is well worth pursuing.
No matter when you decide to work at your internship, remember to plan ahead, and to ask for help. While at your internship you might be on your own, during the application process you can feel free to take advantage of all of the internship resources out there on the web and in the library. Sometimes the most valuable resources are those you didn’t consider, like your parent’s, friends’ parents and extended family. Usually these groups represent a large cross-section of careers and professions, and can offer advice or even a job.
The only way to truly take advantage of all of this help, is to use your time wisely.