Your Guide to Getting a Summer Internship

Your experience as an intern will make you more appealing to employers.

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Lindsay Olson
Finding a job after graduation hasn't been as easy as you hoped it would be, has it? Breaking into your industry is a challenge. And despite your top grades and extensive research projects, employers only seem to want experience—something you simply won't have right out of college.

A summer internship could make the difference. By putting in the effort to get some on-the-job training in your field, you're effectively becoming more appealing to potential employers. You'll also make great connections within a company that may pay off once your internship ends. If you haven't graduated yet, a summer internship might just be the thing you need to keep from having job hunt issues once you graduate.

According to, available internships are at an all-time high. You've got time until the fall semester starts, so why not put it to good use? Some degree programs require summer internships, such as nursing programs, but even if yours doesn't, you'll be doing yourself a favor by taking one anyway.

Should I be paid?

Not all internships pay, and those that do tend to pay minimum wage or close to it. But remember: You're not taking an internship for the money. You're taking it to get valuable job training that will make you more hireable, as well as to network and to potentially receive a job offer at the company. 

Should I intern at a large or small company?

It depends on your goals. If you want to work for a large company ultimately, having an internship at one will definitely help to make this happen.

Small companies offer a different sort of intern experience, and one that will be beneficial to your resume. Whereas at a large company, you'll likely stick to one set of tasks in a specific field, a small business might give you the chance to dabble in different areas. If you're not exactly sure what you want to do after you graduate, this may help you decide.

Will I be a coffee gofer?

Summer internships have this stigma of being simply errand-running positions, but you won't find that to be the case at many companies. It's to a business' benefit to train you on a set of tasks. For them, it's cheaper to have you do them than to pay a full-time employee, and if it works out, you might end up being that employee.

But to ensure you learn what you need to as an intern, outline what your responsibilities will be at the outset of the internship. Treat your internship like a full-time job and look for opportunities to get more involved with the company's projects or suggest to develop a project from a personal idea.

Finding an Internship

Online job boards list internships, but there are other places to find them. Your university should have a career center with listings of openings, as many local businesses work with colleges directly to find interns.

If you network with people in the industry you want to work in (and you should), you can get the lead on potential interning opportunities simply by keeping your ear to the ground. Let your contacts know you're an ambitious college student or recent grad who would love the chance to intern with a local company, and you may open up opportunities you'd never find through formal channels.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.