If you’re an ambitious, career-focused college student, you probably have had internships on your mind lately. You might have even spent spring break frantically submitting your resume to company after company on LinkedIn.
At this point, internships have become an expectation for many employers. If you’re looking to get a full-time job in the environmental field upon graduating, you’ll need at least a little “real-world” experience. The good news is many organizations, big and small, are willing to take a chance on interns!
Here are our tips on how to get started on the internship search:
I know, I sound like every parent, professor, and college counselor out there. Although it’s not novel advice, you won’t get an internship unless you make time to search and apply. All too often, internship hunting is pushed to the back burner — not because of laziness, but because work from your classes ends up taking priority. So here’s my advice: treat the internship search like a class.
Let’s say you want to get an internship for the summer semester, meaning you have a little over a month to secure a position. Block out about 1-3 hours a week to “internship hunt” — whether you do it all in one sitting or split it up into shorter sessions across the week. The key to getting an A in “Internship Hunting 101” is attendance, so schedule it on your lightest class days or over the weekend so you’re less likely to cut class. Finally, come prepared with an idea of what you want to accomplish for each session, whether it is updating your resume, conducting industry research, or applying to x number of jobs.
Your school wants to see you get an internship just as much as you do. So, make use of what they offer.
First, ask professors about research opportunities. This is an excellent option for underclassmen especially when you’re just starting to take courses that relate to your major. College professors are always looking for help in the lab, so don’t be afraid to ask your professors if they know of any opportunities. Although research is not exactly an “internship,” it still is experience — it can be a talking point for an interview, a bullet point to include on your resume, and an opportunity to explore a career path.
Next, make use of every career fair and networking event your school offers. If you can convince a recruiter to refer you to the company they work for, you will be miles ahead of every other applicant. Likewise, schools often invite alumni to be guest speakers for classes or events. If a guest speaker works at an organization (or even started a company) that you would enjoy interning at, use that event as an “in.”
Finally, look at specific departments within your college that might have sustainability opportunities, such as the school’s office of sustainability or department of campus recreation. Once again, this an exceptional place for underclassmen to start building experience if you are just starting your career. Plus, on-campus jobs are often perfect for spring/fall internships since your school will be happy to work around your class schedule, and you can usually choose how much or how little you want to work.
One of the hardest parts about finding an internship is knowing which organizations are even looking for interns, and of those opportunities, which ones are really worthwhile and exciting to you.
First, know what type of internship you’re looking for. Even if you’re not sure what your passion is, you probably have some idea of where you want to be in the environmental field or a couple of career paths you want to explore.
Once you know that, you can find opportunities on a plethora of websites - LinkedIn, Handshake, Glassdoor, Indeed. Although it can be hard to stand out among a pile of resumes on sites like these, it’s also where the largest variety of internships are available.
Another great place to start is calling your local government. Really, just call them. Here’s what to say: “Hi, my name is [your name], I’m a [grade level] at [college name], and I was hoping to learn more about your internship opportunities.” There’s a little research you have to do here - know which department to call (e.g., if your dream career is in city planning, your local town might not have a whole department for that, so you might have to do a little digging online or on LinkedIn).
Above all, it’s important to remember that your college internships are not the end-all-be-all. The point of internships is for you to learn skills that you could not in classes, so don’t feel like you have to meet every single preferred skill before applying. Beyond that, there are plenty of ways to gain experience outside of internships, such as volunteering or on-campus clubs.