5 Ways to Choose the Right Internship

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “61%  percent of [2014] graduating seniors had an internship or co-op experience” and “52% percent of those graduates receiving job offers before graduation held internships.” Completing an internship is extremely important, but when striving towards future career goals, choosing the right internship is just as important as completing one. Before accepting your next internship, use the criteria below to determine if it’s right for you.

What is your target sector after graduation? Private? Public? Non-Profit? Your goal should be to pursue an internship that will provide you with experience and insight into your future sector. Will you thrive in the competitiveness of the private sector? Is the federal government fast paced enough for you, and is it different from working at the state or local level? Are you truly able to enact global change in a small non-profit or only a large international one?

Do you want to be in a big city after graduation, or do you want to be in a small town closer to home? By pursuing an internship in your target location, you will become familiar with the cost of living, pace, and livability of the city. For example, you may want to work for a senator in Washington DC, but through your internship, you learn that the big city is not for you.

Experience Gained
Are you hoping to launch your own company after graduation and experience working with clients and learning the business side of a company? Or do you have research experience, but lack non-technical writing skills? Will your internship provide you with the experience that you desire?

Are you able to accept an unpaid internship that only provides course credit, or do you need to earn at least $10 per hour to pay for summer housing? Do you hope to intern in San Francisco, DC, or New York City? If so, an unpaid internship will not suffice. Including the amount of your stipend in your criteria is encouraged, especially if you hope to intern in an expensive city.

Networking Potential
Last, but definitely not least, what is the networking potential at the internship? The opportunity to meet and interact with professionals is extremely valuable. By networking, you not only have the chance to learn skills needed to advance, valuable career advice, and potential career paths, but the professionals may become a reference for you. Many organizations have established internship programs that provide interns with a mentor or allow the intern to work in many difference departments. For example, the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center holds Lunch-n-Learns where each week a representative from different departments discuss their experience and allows interns to ask targeted career questions.

Determine which of the above criteria are most important to you, and which are flexible. Once you have weighed the criteria against the potential internship, you will be able to make a better career decision.

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Rhonda Sarmento

Rhonda Sarmento has over 5 years of experience in career and professional development and is currently the Sr. Career Specialist at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Her expertise is in helping student’s identify, embrace, and communicate their strengths to employers through engaging in meaningful experiences. She received her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from East Carolina University and her B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.