Internships: A Complete Guide

Looking for an internship? In this article you are going to learn:

  • Tips on how to get accepted
  • How to establish goals and get the most from your program
  • How to turn your internship into a dream job
  • A list of some of the top online internship search sites & websites in the USA and abroad

Life After College

For most students, college life can be a safe place because you have teachers and the school system keeping you in line and disciplined. Sure, there is the party life and it can be overwhelming with all of the homework that needs to be done, but at the end of the day, the system itself keeps you focused and on track.

But when you enter the “real world”, things change drastically. All of a sudden you are truly on your own and the fact that you can be fired is a slap in the face of how real life gets.

Many college students become nervous of having to enter the workforce because they lack real world experience and are not sure what to expect. Fear of the unknown can set in and this is where you will be truly tested to see what you are made of.


What To Look For In An Internship

A good internship should provide you the space to learn and grow as well as fall down and make mistakes. Because we live in a world where people expect perfection, this can be challenging for students who can feel the pressure of these expectations and assume that they have to do everything right from the get go.

As you look for an internship, make sure you are going to work with a company that will give you the space to make mistakes without having to worry that you will be yelled at or punished for not doing everything perfectly when you start.

[bctt tweet=”Find an internship where it’s okay to make mistakes” via=”no”]

Paid or Non-Paid?

Something else you will need to take into consideration is whether or not you want to look for a paid internship or a non-paid internship. While a paid internship program is ideal, don’t assume that it is the best decision for your career. The most important factor in choosing the right opportunity is finding one that will help you develop relevant experience so that you can leverage that experience into a full-time job.

In many ways, your internship is a continuation of your schooling so don’t settle for an opportunity just because it pays you a little money. Right now you need to have the mindset of paying your dues and building a strong resume that will be your bridge to the next best opportunity in your career path.

[bctt tweet=”The goal of a good internship is to build your resume and portfolio of work” via=”no”]

Internships Are Not Glamorous

It goes without saying that an internship is not going to be the most exciting work and that’s okay. In exchange for you having the opportunity to build your resume and gain some experience, you are going to have to do some grunt work.

Embrace it with a positive attitude and don’t let this remedial work get the best of your ego. High level business people want to work with and support those who can take any small task and execute at 100%. It’s important that you have the willingness and mindset to pay your dues.

Keep in mind that you have a great opportunity to see from the front lines how a business works. All high level executives started at the bottom. The difference between those people who rose to the top and others whose careers don’t evolve all comes down to the fact that they didn’t embrace the experience.

School is all around you. If you just know how to listen the right way, you can learn a whole lot. In fact, most managers and high level execs are so far removed from the day to day business operations that it’s really the people at the bottom who have a better understanding of what is going on in that company. By paying attention and learning from everything that is going on, that experience can give you the insights you need to take the next step in your career.

Challenge Of Getting Internships

For someone who is looking for an intern, the biggest challenge they face is finding someone who is not going to need too much of their time. While it is understood that there will need to be some training and education provided by the company, what they don’t want to do is feel like they will have to babysit you or fix too many of your errors.

Whomever hires you is a very busy person with a lot on their plate. Your job is to make their lives easier, not harder. There is a big difference between being your mentor, and being your parent. During your interview process, make sure you convey to them that you are not going to take up too much of their time and that you learn quick on your feet.

Getting a good internship can be just as difficult as getting a good job because there are a lot of people who want that limited position. By conveying to the company you are speaking to that you will make their lives easier will catapult you to the top of the list of candidates.

Note: If you do make any mistakes do not lie about it. Be honest and be ready to fix it. If they catch you lying you are out the door!

Fitting Into The Company Culture

As best as you can, you should only be seeking out an internship with a company that aligns with your values and personality. Ideally your career path is aligned with your authentic self and you are not just doing something to only make money. That is a recipe for disaster because you will end up miserable and then hate having to do some of the tedious work you will be assigned.

Assuming that you are aligned with your authentic career path, you should only be seeking out internships with companies that best suit you. You want to make sure that the people you are working with compliment who you are so that you don’t have to pretend to be something you are not.

Once you do start working with the company, make sure you pay close attention to how they do things. There is a fragile ecosystem already in place at this company and if you don’t fit in to it, you will stand out like a sore thumb.

[bctt tweet=”Find a job that allows you to be you so that you don’t have to pretend to be something you are not” via=”no”]

It’s Time To Become An Adult

High school and college is an easy environment to pick up bad habits. Things like checking your smartphone or social media become second nature when you are in school and this is why so many young adults get ADD and have a hard time focusing.

But in the workplace this is not acceptable. You are going to have to buckle down and discipline yourself and learn how to work at a higher level. You are going to need to become an adult.

That being said, this does not mean you have to be too serious or that you can’t have any fun. There are many high level execs that party like crazy but still get their work done. Remember, you are the new person there and you have intern stamped on your forehead.

Everything you do will be scrutinized because they are worried that you will make mistakes. You need to be prepared to prove yourself immediately so that the people around you will give you some slack. But once you do prove yourself you will quickly see that they will become more comfortable with you because you have earned their trust.

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Getting Feedback

Most of us are afraid to hear of what others think of us and the work we do. Too many young adults never speak up and ask for feedback because they fear hearing negative criticism. I highly encourage you to ask for feedback once a week. On your last day of the week check in with the person managing you and ask them what you can do to be better and improve.

By being proactive, you are providing the space for your manager to speak their truth without allowing their concerns to build up. Many managers are not that great at communicating and if you don’t open up the line of communication sooner rather than later, it can create issues and build up over time. Many people are let go without ever knowing exactly why it happened. They assumed that everything was okay.

It wasn’t.

This is why if you take the initiative to hear their feedback, it will show them that you are open to hearing their criticism which makes them feel better, and it solves the issue sooner so that you have the time to correct it before it becomes a major problem.

[bctt tweet=”To build your career, invite criticism from your co-workers & don’t take it personally” via=”no”]

Don’t Take Things Personally

Starting a new internship can be scary and make you feel more sensitive and insecure than usual. When you enter the ecosystem of a business, there are many personalities that you are going to have to deal with. People who are working high stress jobs don’t tend to handle it very well and communicate in ways that can be upsetting.

If you have an encounter with someone who rubs you the wrong way, don’t get upset and take it personally. People have a lot on their plate and may not have the presence of mind to communicate with you in a calm rational way. While it would be nice if they did, most won’t so be prepared for the fact if they do communicate with you in a harsh manner, to just let it go and move on with your day.

Use Your Internship To Build Relationships

Networking is the key to any successful career and one of the most important opportunities you will have at this company is to build relationships with your co-workers. These people can help you with your career in many ways even though you may not see it right away. Whether you continue to work at this company or move on somewhere else, industries are small worlds and you will continue to bump into each other for the next twenty to forty years.

The best way to build healthy relationships with people is to have the mindset of “What can I do to help them?” All too often people are thinking about themselves and fail to realize the power of reciprocity. When you genuinely do things for other people it will come back to you. But here is the trick: do it because you want to without expectations. Don’t have any hidden agenda that you expect something in return.

Be Gracious and Grateful

When you enter this company as their intern, remember that they are your host. Even if you are doing free work for them, be a gracious guest in their “home.” In fact, it’s important that you not even look at it as doing free work because it’s not. What you are getting in return are these people’s time which is very valuable. Even if you are doing a paid internship, be grateful for the fact that these people are giving you an opportunity to learn from them. People want to help those who show some gratitude.

Creating An Internship Strategy

Step 1 – Create a list of companies you want to approach and learn everything you can about them so that when you speak with them, you can have an intelligent conversation about their business.

Step 2 – Create a list of ways you feel they can benefit from having you. You need to sale them on why they should choose you and what they will get from having you.

Step 3 – Create a list of things you want to learn from them. No company expects you to come in knowing everything. They understand you are there to learn. So be upfront with them about what your expectations are.

Internship Search Sites & Websites

This site offers a plethora of internship opportunities in the USA (I don’t think they offer abroad but you can check). You can search the industry that interests you and the city. To learn more go here.

This is another mega site that aggregates all of the opportunities for college students and graduates to find an entry level job. They offer some great tips such as what to expect when you get hired, finding the right opportunity, effective interviewing, and some sample resumes and documents. To learn more go here

This site aggregates internship programs as well as entry-level work opportunities. When I last searched their database they had over 37 thousand listings. To learn more go here.

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About The Author

career coach

At the age of 16, Sergio Diazgranados dropped out of high school and followed his passion in music, personal development, and natural health where he has fulfilled the roles of CEO, publisher, chief marketing officer, and sales director.

During this time he has learned a specific formula for how to turn your passion into a career.

Because he has read thousands of resumes and interviewed hundreds of job applicants, he understands what hiring managers are looking for and how you can sell yourself the right way.

As a career mentor and coach, he is on a mission to teach you how to play “the game” and find your dream job.

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[toggle]FAQ – Here are some common questions asked to us by students visiting our site and we thought we would post the answers here:

1.What should I write on my cover letter? Is there a sample?

Your cover letter should be short and to the point. It needs to convey who you are, why you want an internship with their company, what you expect to get out of it, and what they can expect to get from you.

2.What are some interview questions to ask?

The best way to come up with good interview questions to ask is to have a clear understanding of what you want to get out of the internship. You definitely want to ask if they will become a reference for you if you provide satisfactory work. You should also ask them what they expect from you.

3.Is there a way to search a database for listings? Like an internship jobs finder?

There are some sites that offer this type of tool but its not perfect as it does not list every opportunity there is. While you should use those sites (we listed them above) to see what they have, you should also take the time to compile your own desired companies.

4.How can I find internships abroad?

There are a few sites you can search and we have them listed below. But you should have a clear strategy first before you aimlessly search these opportunities and postings.

Intern Abroad
Study Abroad
Go Overseas
Transitions Abroad

5. What should I put on my resume?

Keep your resume simple and show them what you have accomplished both at school and any work you have done. Make sure to include your picture and keep your resume to one page only.

6. How can I find an internship after graduation near me? Is there a job board with programs I can search

We have a list of websites you can search and also highly recommend you identify companies on your own.

7. What is the application and evaluation process like?

When you submit your application they will quickly review it and see if it resonates with them. If it does, they will call you in for an evaluation.

8. What are some of the benefits?

The three main benefits include getting relevant experience, networking, and building your resume. This is all you need to focus on right now.

9.What are some of the duties and responsibilities of the internship job description? Are there any specific guidelines?

Each company will vary but generally speaking you will be doing entry level work to gain some experience. Generally speaking, interns are used to help the business owner with remedial tasks.

10. What should I put in my essay?

Your essay should convey your passion and desire for wanting to work with the company. It should also convey your career goals.

11. What are some of the qualifications or requirements that are necessary to get the position?

Each company will vary so there is no clear cut answer to this question. But generally speaking the person doing the hiring wants to see that you are responsible, passionate about their subject matter, and willing to work hard.

12. What are some of the qualifications or requirements that are necessary to get the position?

Each company will vary so there is no clear cut answer to this question. But generally speaking the person doing the hiring wants to see that you are responsible, passionate about their subject matter, and willing to work hard.


White House Internships

For a lot of people, especially those looking to get a career in politics, an internship at the White House is heaven-sent. If you want to know more about this program, check out this page about the White House Internship Program.

This program can benefit you in a lot of ways. To summarize, it can help you gain valuable experience that you can use in just about any industry. It can also help you build leadership skills which can help you down the line as you grow in your career.
Check out this post if you want to apply for the program.

White House Resources

In addition to the general internship offered by the White House Internship Program, you can also apply for internship at the Council of Economic Advisers of the President. They’re actually offering part time and full time opportunities.

As an intern, you’re expected to assist the CEA’s staff. Strong research skills are a must because your main job will be to do research on international and economic issues. You’re also expected to do administrative work.

Check out this post for all important information that you need to apply.

UC Berkeley

The Career Center of the Berkeley University of California set up this page to provide useful information to those seeking an internship position. The center recognizes the importance of internship experience and this is why they’re setting their students up for success by providing them the resources needed.

This page also talks about developing your own internship. This is a good option to try if you feel that the more common internships are not going to help you.


For a lot of students, finding the right internship program is a huge challenge. This is why the Macalester College set up an internship program. Check out this page to know more about it.

From this page, you’ll know more specific information about this program. You can also schedule an appointment right on the page. Students can also find internship with the help of this page, while employers can post internship opportunities for Macalester College students.

Check out this page as well for information about related events.


You shouldn’t go through the motions when it comes to your internship. You can gain valuable experience if you succeed during your internship.

The Stanford University, via their Student Affairs department, understands the importance of their internship program. This is why they’re providing their students with useful tips that interns can apply so they can succeed in their internship stint.

These tips are very easy to apply, but they’re very effective at helping you achieve internship success.

Forbes – The 10 Best Websites For Finding An Internship

Thanks to the Internet, finding an internship program is made easier. But with a lot of competition, you’ll soon find out that these internship positions are quickly filled up. In addition, not all programs are alike. You’d want to join an internship program that can help set you up for success.

This article lists down good websites that can help you find an internship program. In fact, it lists down the 10 best websites that you need to check out. These websites are so good that you can easily find the program for you after checking out just a few of them.

Forbes – Is the Unpaid Internship Dead?

Unpaid internship is very common. In fact, it’s been an accepted practice with little to no resistance from interns. This is because they understand that what they’re getting is experience, and not really pay. It’s a stepping stone for them – a stepping stone that will prove to be helpful down the line.

However, a ruling by a federal judge shows that unpaid internship is illegal. It breaks labor laws. Check out this post to know more about this situation and get the answer to the question – is unpaid internship dead?

NY Times – Millenial Internship

If you’re one of the millennials, you know that it’s a vicious cycle out there. You accept a few internship offers while waiting for that big offer. However, it doesn’t come. A handful more unpaid internships later, you’re now under the impression that the cycle is not about the end anytime soon.

This post talks about this vicious cycle. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Are people hiring? Can people afford to hire you? Will you be an intern for the foreseeable future? This post has the answer.


It’s very common for interns to go for unpaid internship. They’re doing this so they can gain valuable experience. In the case of Diana Wang, she went through 7 unpaid internships. The 7th one was for Harper’s Bazaar, and she’s just had enough.

A month after the internship ended, Wang sued the corporation that owns Harper’s Bazaar, Hearst Corporation. The lawsuit states that the company violated labor laws, both at the state and federal levels.

Check out this post to know the story and the reason behind the suing.

HBR – The 40 Year Old Intern

Right now, even the older generation is applying for internship. Yes, it’s not just the 20-somethings that are going into the internship pool. This is a good story of a 42 year old career woman who took a couple of years break from work so she can take care of her children. However, she soon found out that the timing of her return to work was pretty bad as the recession was pretty bad at that time.

Fortunately, Sara Lee offered a unique opportunity – returnship. Check out this post to know what it is and if it’s something that you can take advantage of.

NY Times – The Internship That Looks Good vs the Job That Pays

Are you graduating from college soon? Are you under the impression that things are about to turn for the better? Are you excited at the prospect of finally working so you can put that major to work?

Hold your horses.

First of all, there’s the issue of summer internship. As this post described, the competition is like getting into Harvard. In addition, it’s expensive especially considering the fact that you’re probably looking at an unpaid internship.
Check out this post to know more.

Forbes – The Top Rated Internships For 2015

Are you looking for that dream internship? You may want to send an application to Facebook. It’s been rated as the top internship program in the US. It’s been ranked first for the two years running.

This post describes how Facebook ended up first. It tells the story of a summer intern as she offers her thoughts about working as an intern on Facebook. In addition, you’ll also find out about other top rated internship programs. Check out this list to know where you can apply to get into a good internship program.

Huffington Post – Intern Summer Before College

What should you be doing the summer before you hit college? For a lot of teenagers, it means partying and making that summer count. However, experts are saying that they’re missing out on a good opportunity to hit the ground running at college. This post explains why you should intern the summer before you start college.

In addition, this post also describes in details how you can intern even before you go to college. It’s a good post to read if you’re looking to be productive before college.


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