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“When Should I Get an Internship?”

We get this question a lot at the HPRC. The answer is complicated.

Not everyone will answer “yes” to the following question, but I ask it anyway: Do you want to work for a large company (Fortune 500, something with name recognition, a role with a steady salary and benefits) — right after you graduate? Then a paid internship the summer before your junior year with the company you ultimately want to work for is key — and it would be good to get experience in advance of that point that will help you get the internship. The HPRC can help you make use of virtual career fairs, info sessions, and Handshake to be successful on that path (make an appointment with us and come to our events on preparing for career fairs!) The process ideally starts at the end of your sophomore year as you get your resume together and start researching companies, so that you are ready when internship applications open in the fall of your junior year.

If you DON’T want a career with the kind of large companies that hire directly out of huge internship programs, then the timetable gets much more flexible.

And it depends more on what you want than on any external frameworks. So start by answering some questions:

  • What kind of time do you have to devote to an internship? Are you looking for something part-time during the school year or full-time during the summer?

  • Do you need a paid internship or are you willing to consider an unpaid internship?

  • What kind of career do you want to explore?

  • What skills do you want to build?

  • What kind of work experience do you already have and how would you like to add to it?

For some career paths, an internship may not be the best starting point. Volunteering, paid part-time jobs, leadership in your RSO, or independent creative work may be a better way to get specific experience relevant to your interests and demonstrate your value to potential employers. You can make an appointment to talk to us about your career goals and the best strategy for achieving them.

If you’re just starting to explore, however, an internship can be a way to start gaining some work experience and getting more data points about your strengths and interests.

When should you start looking? Really, whenever you feel like you have the time and mental capacity to take on an internship. For some people, that can mean as early as freshman year; for others, it may make more sense to wait until their junior or even senior year. Employers have radically different hiring cycles and timetables, so there’s no wrong or right time to start the search — though generally the more time you give yourself, the more opportunities you’ll have.

Where to find internships:

Not sure HOW to apply? Don’t have a resume? We can help. Make an appointment.

The answer to “SHOULD I apply?” is probably “Yes!”

Should I take an unpaid internship?

There are a lot of internships and other opportunities out there! If you need help making your way through your options, make an appointment with us.