Preparing For Internship Search

When Should I Start Looking?

It’s never too early to start! You can start by meeting with a Pomerantz Career Center advisor for assistance – they can help you assess your interests, strengths and skills, create a resume, participate in practice interviews, research organizations and employers and finally search and apply for opportunities.

Each organization follows its own recruitment schedule, but Pomerantz Career Center recommends that a student should begin the process 6-9 months in advance of when they hope to participate in an internship. Students may participate in an internship in the fall, spring or summer semester.

Note: A student must have completed at least 12 hours of UI coursework to register an internship for 0 credit hours and transcript notation.

PDF iconInternship Search Worksheet - Do a little planning, then discuss your goals with your Career Advisor. They can help direct you to resources that are tailored to your search. 

Know Yourself

Identify what you are looking for and what your current skills are - which skills do you hope to improve upon?

 Identifying Your Transferable Skills Survey


Identifying Motivations, Goals and Priorities

As a first step to obtaining an internship, it is important to identify your motivations, goals, and priorities. While it is sometimes difficult to decide which career path to pursue, doing so helps you conduct a more focused search for an internship. In addition, these considerations will help you to select an experience that is better aligned with your longer term career goals. In examining your motivations, goals, and priorities related to your internship search, ask yourself these questions:


  • Why do I want an internship?
  • How will obtaining an internship of interest potentially benefit me?
  • In what field am I trying to gain experience?


  • What do I want to gain from an internship?
  • What kind of responsibilities would I like to have as an intern?
  • What do I hope to learn from the internship?


  • Do I prefer to intern at a certain location? Do I want to be in a location where I hope to find a full-time position? Do I want to be at home this summer or to live in a new city?
  • Will I have access to housing? Can I afford to sublet an apartment?
  • Do I need to make money over the summer? How much do I need? How much will my living expenses be? A Paid vs. Unpaid internship – things to consider. Even though an internship is unpaid, you’ll gain connections, training and an understanding for the field. You need to weigh your need for a paycheck against the benefits of the internship.
  • Do I want to obtain an experience with a prominent organization, or do I like the idea of working for a smaller organization where I may be able to contribute to higher-level projects?
  • Do I prefer to register this internship for credit hours or 0 credit hours and transcript notation? Here are some things to consider:
    • Does your department offer credit hours for internships? Some do and some do not. Check with your Academic Advisor or departmental internship coordinator.
    • Do you actually need the credit hours? You will have to pay tuition on any hours received.
    • Do you just want the internship noted on your transcript? Then the 0 credit hour course option might be for you. You don’t’ have to pay any tuition on the hours, the internship is noted on your transcript and you maintain full-time student status for insurance and student loan purposes.


Researching Industries, Occupations & Organizations

Before jumping full-force into an internship search, it is important to do your research. Conducting research will impact the direction of your search by helping you identify fields and careers more clearly. Also, doing careful research will help you market yourself more strategically and allow you to have a more focused conversation about your interests with potential employers.


  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What credentials are required?
  • What is the typical career path?
  • What skills are required to be successful?
  • In what environments do people with this occupation work? (for-profit, non-profit, government)


  • What are the job functions of this industry?
  • What are the potential job titles within this industry?
  • What kinds of skill-sets are expected for the kinds of work I would do in these jobs/this industry?
  • What are the different areas within the industry in which I could potentially work?
  • What are the current social/economic trends for this industry?
  • What is the job market outlook for this industry?


  • What is their mission/purpose for existence?
  • What are their philosophies and core values?
  • What is their reputation with their clientele/customers?
  • What are the working conditions in this organization? How are employees treated?
  • How are employees compensated and rewarded?
  • Do employees seem to enjoy their work?
  • Has the organization been in the news lately? If so, for what?
  • What kind of internship programs do they offer?

Understand What Makes a Good Internship

An effective internship provides you the structure, support, and job duties that help you grow while also helping the employing organization.  You can assess whether an internship is a good opportunity by examining the recruitment materials and paying attention to clues during the interview process.  The internship should have a job description that focuses on specific duties, including the opportunity to support projects and not just perform small tasks.   Interns should be supervised by a professional staff member, with structured opportunities for feedback and training.   You can also read internship reviews on if you are applying to a large organization.

While many internships in non-profit organizations and governmental agencies are unpaid, for-profit organizations must pay you unless they meet standards established by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Make sure to work with the Pomerantz Career Center if the internship is a distance opportunity, you cannot find company information online, it has a residential address instead of a business address, requires fees or out of pocket expenses, or asks you to cash checks.  Never provide your social security number or bank account information unless you have been officially hired and the person who requests the information is the organization's human resources representative. Curious about further protecting yourself from fraud?  Read  How to Spot Fraudulent Employers and Postings.  

Prepare Your Application

Prepare your resume and understand how cover letters work. Be ready to tailor them to the positions you find and to visit the Pomerantz Career Center for help.

Then understand interviewing and practice!