How to Land an Internship

By: Connie Su, HR Advisor Lead at Capital Group

It can be daunting to start the college internship search. When I was getting started with my college internship search, some of the questions I asked myself included: What do I want to learn? Who should I talk to? Will I get paid? What if I don’t know what kind of job I want to pursue… Any of these questions sound familiar?

So what did I do?

For one summer internship, I wanted to do a service project abroad. I was open to travel, but I needed a way for the opportunity to be funded. I talked to other students and learned of an opportunity to teach English in China — airfare, room, and board covered. I spent four months in Beijing teaching elementary students at a rural school. Even though I wasn’t necessarily looking to be a teacher, I wanted to use the skills I already had and learn about different cultures.

For another summer internship, I wanted to stay close to home and build on what I’d been learning in my classes and volunteer activities. I interned for three months in the Los Angeles office of Senator Dianne Feinstein — answering constituents’ phone calls, preparing daily news clippings for the Senator, and researching local issues. The internship was unpaid, so I applied for a public sector grant, lived with my parents, and got a part-time job tutoring students in my neighborhood.

Since pursuing these internships, I’ve gone on to complete a Masters in Public Policy and an MBA, and have had jobs at nonprofit organizations and a university. I am now in a leadership development program at the Capital Group focused on human resources. I share my story to provide an example of the many different roads you can take in learning about yourself and designing your future.

Start your internship search by asking a few questions:

  • What are you interested in? Think about the topics that interest you and how they could translate into a job. Are you inspired by what you’ve been learning in your classes, passions you’ve developed, or your personal background or identity? Your internship doesn’t have to relate directly to your major, but thinking about your academic interests can provide a good starting point for your search.
  • Where are you willing and able to go? Think about your resources, interests, and where you want to go. Are you interested in staying local or going to another city or country? What does that mean logistically for you? How will you fund your internship?

Brainstorm ideas for internships:

  • Keep a pulse on career resources at your college. Meet with career center staff to help you brainstorm options in different industries. Attend career fairs and/or information sessions hosted by your college. Regularly visit Handshake, LinkedIn, and Indeed to keep an eye out for current opportunities.
  • Read newspapers, magazines, journals, and online publications. Set up Google alerts or subscribe to media and blogs through RSS for regular updates. Follow industry leaders on social media, including Twitter and LinkedIn. Find out which organizations are in the news and why. This is a great way to learn about new industries and opportunities.
  • Consider opportunities in various sectors. Research government entities and/or trade organizations associated with your prospective field of interest. Browse job boards on websites of companies you are interested in. Nonprofits also rely on the support of fellows, interns, and volunteers. If the internship is unpaid, check to see if there are stipends available.

Connect with your network:

  • Reach out to your alumni association. Use LinkedIn to search for alumni in your field or region of interest. Though you may not ask an alum in your field for a job or internship, you can request an informational interview, advice, and/or ideas.
  • Leverage your friends and peers. Prompt your student club to create events to connect with established professionals in your field. Ask classmates about organizations or internship opportunities they know of. Think of other personal connections who may be able to help. It never hurts to ask!
  • Ask faculty and staff. Connect with faculty from various departments through office hours. Ask for suggestions as to starting places for their respective fields.

Internships are important for Fulfillment Fund college students because they provide an opportunity to learn about a specific interest, meet new people, and explore career opportunities. It’s a way to build your skills, develop a network, and expand your thinking. As a student, it’s important to highlight in your resume what you’ve learned through your past experiences (clubs, leadership positions held, part-time jobs)…and to demonstrate your potential to learn and adapt and work in teams (trying something new, analytical and critical thinking, asking questions). Show that you’re excited to learn and willing to roll up your sleeves to get the job done. This will help you stand out from other applicants! Good luck!

I grew up in Los Angeles, in the heart of Korea Town, with my younger sister and parents who own a small business. Going to college on the other side of the country and traveling through my college internships really opened me up to opportunities, different people, and ideas. Since graduating college, I’ve worked with international nonprofits and foundations focused on social entrepreneurship and education. I now work in HR at the Capital Group where we believe that our associates are our greatest assets. At Capital, I’m committed to effective organization design, building highly effective teams, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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