Tips to Find an Internship

Use Online Resources

Get Inside Information

  • Read internship reviews on Handshake.
  • Do informational interviews with former interns. (You can find them on Handshake, by asking fellow students, or by reaching out to Peer Career Advisors ).   
  • Consider fee-based programs where you are placed in an internship such as The Washington Center or Internships Abroad.
  • Ask questions about internship opportunities of guest speakers or at events

Connections and Networking

Networking is one of the top ways to find an internship.

  • Hone your professional introduction and consider how you can network your way into an internship.
  • Participate in a Career Fair, Networking Event, Employer Info Sessions, or Career Trek.
  • Connect with family, friends, and campus contacts --let others know the types of opportunities you are looking for and share your resume with them. 
  • Feel hesitant about reaching out?  Check out these templates for online platforms and email.
  • Use Linked In and social media to your advantage.
  • Send emails of introduction when you do not see openings at a site you are interested in.
  • Visit with your Academic Advisor or departmental internship coordinator to find out about academic internship courses or opportunities offered through your program of study.

Ask for Help

  • Talk to former interns.
  • Schedule an appointment with a Career Coach - for help in finding or developing an internship opportunity that is right for you. 
  • Visit Peer Career Advisor drop in hours or appointments for resume and cover letter reviews during the school year.
  • Participate in a mock interview.
  • Consider enrolling in CCP:2004 Internships: Search, Secure, Succeed for structured support and deadlines through a course.  

Not ready for an internship? Learn about other ways to gain experience on this chart: Ways to Gain Experience, or look at campus opportunities on

Remember Safety!

Don’t forget to review Tips for Spotting a Fraudulent Employer and/or Posting
Contact the Career Center if you cannot find company information online, if it has a residential address or requires fees for out-of-pocket expenses, or if you are unsure about an opportunity. Never provide your social security or bank account information unless you have been officially hired and the person asking for the information is an HR representative.

Creating Your Own Opportunity

Do not forget that you can create your own internship! Developing your own opportunity can be especially valuable if you are tied to a specific location and can’t apply for openings in distant cities.  

Many organizations are too busy or lack budgets to plan an internship program and to invest in the advertising, interviewing and hiring steps, but are still open to proposals from a motivated applicant.

Find Organizations That Interest You

  • Handshake includes an employer directory where you can search employers by industry and location, even if they do not have current postings. 

  • Search Chambers of Commerce or the United Way websites for the city where you’re looking.  

  • Consider searching economic alliances or regional development associations to find companies that are relocating to your target geographic area. 

  • Talk to relatives, your friends and their parents, former co-workers, faculty, and advisors to let them know you are looking for leads.  

Research the Organizations

It is also important to research the organizations and the industry before you reach out. Once you have gathered that data you can share that during a phone conversation or in your internship proposal.  

  • What are some of the current challenges organizations in your chosen industry have been facing?  

  • Identify gaps in methods, products, or services and how you could help your target organization fill those gaps.   

  • Are similar organizations hosting interns? What do those interns do? 

Identify Possible Contacts at Organizations

  • LinkedIn allows you to connect with UI alums and other professionals to inquire about creating an internship.  

  • Your informal network can also generate ideas for possible contacts. It is perfectly appropriate to ask people if they would host you as an intern before investing a lot of time in developing a proposal.  

  • Career Coaches may also help you identify potential organizations or contacts. 

Develop a Proposal

Based on your research, develop a proposal for your ideal internship within that organization. While you may be willing to “do anything,” be specific as possible when creating your proposal.  

An email for each organization is a great place to start.  The email should include: 

  • A clear and concise description of what it is you are offering to do for the organization and why the organization will benefit from it  

  • The specific position or project that the employer is likely to have 

  • Why you are the right person to do this for the organization 

  • Desired logistics:  start & end dates, full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid 

Don’t forget to attach your resume. 

Invest time to prepare these materials! Look carefully at the organization’s needs and connect those needs to your skills. A well-crafted resume and email allow you to show the organization you are offering something of value.

Negotiate an Offer 

Since you are proposing an internship, the process may seem different from a regular internship search process.  However, both you and the employer should still be professional.  Meetings to discuss creating a potential opportunity should take place in the work environment.  If your proposal is accepted, the employer should eventually provide your duties, time, and compensation in writing with an official offer letter or other form.   

Evaluating Internship Offers

Do not accept an offer until you have it in writing, and it includes the job title, location, salary/benefits etc. (an email is acceptable). If an organization gives you a verbal offer, request it in writing. Only accept an offer if you plan to complete the internship.

Contact the organization’s human resources office or your supervisor directly to let them know your decision. Complete next steps required by the organization (signatures, contracts, etc.)

Based upon the industry and/or the size of the organization, you may also be asked to sign a contract, which could include a non-disclosure agreement and/or a non-compete clause.  
Student Legal Services is a great resource to help you understand the agreements. Make an appointment with them to understand the ramifications of these legal documents. 

Yes. Once you have accepted the position, you should stay with your decision. See the ramifications for reneging below. 

Consider work/life balance, benefits, opportunity for growth, etc. and compare them to your goals. Be transparent with the employers and ask for more time to make your decision if needed. You can learn more about effectively negotiating multiple offers here.

The amount of time will vary with each employer. Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you will want to ask for an extension. Read here for advice on how to delay an internship offer deadline

Communicate and be transparent with both employers. Let the offering organization know that you are still finishing up the recruiting process and that you have more interviews. Give them a general time for when you would like to make your decision (2-3 weeks is appropriate). 

Follow up with your dream organization to see when they might decide. Let them know that you have received another offer and that you are exploring your options. 

Read here for advice on extending an offer deadline. 

Once you have accepted an internship offer, politely decline all remaining offers and internship interviews. You can do this by calling the human resources contact and/or supervisor to let them know your decision. You can also follow this up with an email. 

You won’t be breaking any laws, but you could put yourself at risk. You run the risk of upsetting the current employer as well as any new ones you apply to in the future. Some industries are small, the recruiters are well-connected, and you could potentially harm your reputation with other employers. In addition, read any contracts you signed carefully and discuss them with Student Legal Services. The organization might have specific penalties for students who renege on an offer.   
You also run the risk of negatively impacting the University of Iowa, the Career Center, and your reputation. When you renege on an offer, it reflects poorly on you, and negatively affects opportunities for other students. The Pomerantz Career Center encourages all students to be transparent and ethical in their actions with employers. 

Have Questions?

Sherry Rhinehart

Sherry Rhinehart

Senior Specialist, Employer Engagement & Experiential Education

Jennifer Noyce

Associate Director, Experiential Education