Finding An Internship

Finding Opportunities

Learn about other ways to gain experience by downloading this chart: - PDF iconWays to Gain Experience

There are a variety of ways to locate internships in your area of interest - PDF iconReady to Land an Internship - checklist

  • Access your Handshake account - an account is created for each student upon admission to the university. With this system you can research employers, apply for jobs & internships, begin the internship registration process and participate in on-campus interviews and mock (practice) interviews.

  • You can also use other online sites to search for internship opportunities -  LinkedIn - Search for an Internship,, Idealist

  • Attend a Job & Internship Fair! This is a great networking opportunity!

  • Schedule an appointment with a Career Coach - to find or develop an internship opportunity that is right for you. Receive help to create or update your resume and cover letter as well as polish your interviewing skills. During the school year, you can also meet with a Peer Advisor for a resume or cover letter review.

  • Visit the Research Majors page and your Career Community for field specific resources related to the fields you are interested in.

  • Visit with your Academic Advisor or the departmental internship coordinator to find out about academic internship courses or opportunities offered through your major department. Tips for Networking Within Your Academic Department

  • Hone your professional introduction and consider how you can network your way into an internship and use social media (LinkedIn) to your advantage.

  • Network with family, friends, and campus contacts. Let others know the types of opportunities you are looking for and share your resume with them. Visit Networking Shorts to watch a short video on Networking tips.

  • Watch the Career Center Panel video on how your peers found their internship, their tips for interviewing, what they learned, and more!

  • Looking to fund your internship, service-learning, or research? Use these PDF iconFunding Resources to make your experiential education happen!

Fee-based Programs

Another option is participating in a fee-based program where you are placed in an internship as part of the program.  The University of Iowa collaborates with the following programs:

The Washington Center

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) offers University of Iowa students the opportunity to work in dozens of fields in private, public, and non-profit organizations in Washington D.C. TWC's academic internship program is available for students of any major, including the social sciences, humanities, engineering, science, math, the fine arts, and health professions. Successful completion of a fall or spring semester internship will earn 12-15 academic credits; successful completion of a summer internship will earn 6-9 academic credits. International internship placements are available through TWC's London program.

IES Internships Abroad

Earn 3 to 9 credits while participating in a full-time, 8 week summer internship in Barcelona, Berlin, Cape Town, Dublin, London, Milan, Paris, Rome, Santiago, Shanghai, or Sydney. Internships are customized and guaranteed in the field of your choice. Discuss options, additional international internship programs, and scholarships with the Office of Study Abroad.

Creating Your Own Opportunity

If your search for internship opportunities that fit with your interests has been unsuccessful, consider developing your own internship.  Competition for internships has increased, so creating your own experience can be a reasonable alternative.  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 to plan an internship program and to invest in the advertising, interviewing and hiring steps.  They might welcome a proposal from a motivated applicant.  Nonprofits may not have the resources to offer internships, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for students to assist them.  The nonprofit scene in Iowa City and surrounding areas very active.

Find Organizations That Interest You

There are a number of ways to locate potential internship sites. 

  • Handshake includes an employer directory where you can search employers by industry and location.
  • Search the chamber 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.
  • Your informal network may help you find organizations to contact. Talk to family connections, relatives, your friends and their parents, former co-workers, faculty, and advisors. Let them know your goals. 

Identify Possible Contacts at Organizations

  • LinkedIn is a rich resource where you can connect with UI alums and inquire about creating an internship.  The professional networking site allows you to search for alums by geographic region, company, job tasks, previous major, and skills.
  • The effort to identify organizations in your informal network (mentioned above) will 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 sites as well as contacts since they work with a wide variety of employers.

Research Organizations

In addition to identifying possible contacts, it is also important to research the organizations and the industry you plan to reach out to.  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 issues organizations in your chosen industry have been facing? 
  • Are there things their competitors have been doing that your target organization should be doing? 
  • Are similar organizations hosting interns? If so, how do they use those interns? 

Develop a Proposal

Based on your research, develop a proposal for your ideal internship within that organization.  Your proposal may be for a specific project or it could be for a particular position that the employer is likely to have.  While you may be willing to “do anything”, be specific as possible when creating your proposal. 

When thinking about where to start, a written letter for each organization is a great place to start.  The letter 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 you wish to fill or project, which you would like to work on
  • 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
  • Your resume, tailored to the particular organization and skills needed

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

Keep Safety in Mind

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 (not a bar or restaurant), communication should be transparent and 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.  Never provide your bank account or social security number unless you have been officially hired and the person who requests the information is the company’s human resources representative. 

Negotiating 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.

Contact the HR office or your supervisor directly to let them know your decision and follow-up with an email.

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.   

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

Prioritize what you are looking for – consider work/life balance, benefits, opportunity for growth etc. Be up front with the employers and ask for more time to make your decision if needed. You can learn more about effectively negotiating multiple offers here 

Communicate and be up front with both employers. Let the organization that you have received the offer from that you are still finishing up the recruiting process and that you have more interviews to participate in yet.  Give them a general time for when you would like to make your decision (2-3 weeks is an appropriate amount of time).

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

Read here for advice on how to delay an internship offer deadline

The amount of time by which each employer will request you make a decision will vary.

Sometimes you may find yourself in the situation where you will want to ask for an extension.

Read here for advice on how to delay an internship offer deadline

Once you have accepted an internship offer, politely decline all remaining offers and internship interviews. You can do this by calling the HR Director and/or Supervisor to let them know your decision. You can also follow this up with an email. It is polite to let each employer know that you have accepted an offer so they don’t keep putting time into recruiting you as otential employee. This way, they can open the available spots up to someone else for consideration while still meeting their company’s hiring deadlines.

Yes – you won’t be breaking any laws, but if you signed a contract you could put yourself at risk. Make sure to check with Student Legal Services if you did sign a contract. 
But should you? No  -- you will be burning bridges

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. The organization might have specific penalties for students who renege the offer.  

You run the risk of making your university, the career center and yourself look bad. When you renege an offer, it reflects poorly on you and it can negatively affect opportunities for other students because employers may get a bad impression of Hawkeyes. The Pomerantz Career Center encourages all students to be transparent and ethical in their actions with employers in order to maintain your own professional reputation as well as that of the University.