Finding An Internship
There are a variety of ways to locate internships in your area of interest. The more extensive your research, the more likely you are the find the opportunity that best fits your needs.
Ready 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.
Attend a Job & Internship Fair! Pomerantz Career Center sponsors a fair each semester for all business, liberal arts & sciences majors. Employers will be in attendance to speak with you about their internship and full-time employment opportunities. This is a great networking opportunity!
Schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor - 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. Please visit the Career Center website for our walk-in hours.
Department Resources - 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
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 Funding Resources to make your experiential education happen!
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 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.
The Des Moines Center Internship Program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to live in Des Moines for a full semester or summer while interning in one of many positions in the business, non-profit, and government sectors. Interns in the DMIP gain real-world working experience, make important connections, and build their leadership skills and résumés while working toward the completion of their University of Iowa degree.
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.
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. Organizations included in Handshake have a history of recruiting Iowa students even if they don’t currently have openings.
- Search the chamber of commerce or the United Way websites for the city where you’re looking. Look for the member directory where you can search through dozens of employer categories.
- 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. Think of who you know. Talk to family connections, relatives, your friends and their parents, former co-workers, faculty, and advisors. Let them know your goals.
As you find employers that look interesting, review their webpages to learn about their products and services as well as their current full-time openings in order to better understand their hiring needs and to craft an email/letter of introduction and internship proposal.
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 advisors may also help you identify potential sites as well as contacts since they work with a wide variety of employers.
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. Having done your research to show how you can help that organization succeed will show them you are serious about wanting to be productive as an intern.
- 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
Receiving an Internship Offer
When should I accept an offer?
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.
How should I accept an offer?
Contact the HR office or your supervisor directly to let them know your decision and follow-up with an email.
What if there is a contract? |
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.
Is my offer binding once I’ve accepted it?
Once you have accepted the position, you should stay with your decision. See the ramifications for reneging below.
What should I do if I have received multiple offers?
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
What should I do if I have received an offer, but am still waiting to hear back from my dream organization yet?
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.
How long do I have to make a decision on the offer?
The amount of time by which each employer will request you make a decision will vary.
How do I turn down an offer?
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
potential employee. This way, they can open the available spots up to someone else for consideration while still meeting their company’s hiring deadlines.
Reneging on an Internship Offer
Can I renege on an internship offer I already accepted?
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.
Why shouldn’t you renege on your offer?
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.