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San Diego State University

Career Services

7 Steps to Develop Your Own Internship

Hoping to gain valuable hands-on experience, where you can practice the skills and knowledge you have learned in the classroom? Then completing an internship is an excellent way to go! If you've conducted an internship search and still haven’t found what you're looking for, consider developing your own internship — one that is tailored to your interests and skills.

1. Determine Your goals

Before you develop an internship, you should develop clear goals for the experience. Start by asking yourself:

  • What do you want to do? (List out possible careers, jobs, professional goals, projects and responsibilities)
  • Why do you want to do an internship?
  • Where do you want to do it? (Think about the environment, location, office culture) What do you hope to gain from the experience? What experience or skills can you bring to the company/organization?
  • What projects would you like to be a part of?

2. Identify

A company or organization you would be interested in working for. Reviewing current job descriptions is a great way to familiarize yourself with the necessary qualifications, projects, and responsibilities of a position in the industry you are interested in. That way, you can tailor your internship experience to gain particular skills necessary for future positions.

3. Research

Conduct research on the company, review their website including their mission and goals, determine if they produce any products, and also become familiar with the staff and what each of their roles entail. This will help you identify areas you may be interested in working for within the company.

4. Materials

Develop a tailored resumé and cover letter for each company you are looking at contacting, making sure to match your skills and experience with what you have learned about the company in your research. Review Resumé Do's and Don'ts for more information on how to create the best version of your resumé.

5. Proposal

Before contacting the company, think through what types of projects you would be interested in working on, what your professional goals are and list out the requirements of your internship including the logistics: how many hours a week, duration of the internship, potential start and end dates, etc. Make sure you to being intentional about what the companies needs are and address how you can help them in their initiatives.

6. Build connections

Now that you have identified a few companies where you are interested in being an intern, start to connect with someone at the company who would be in charge of hiring and supervision. This can be accomplished through LinkedIn, calling the organization/company, or sending an email to introduce yourself.

7. Interview

After you contact the company, they may want to have you in for an interview. It is important to bring all necessary documents with you this should include: Resumé, cover letter, list of references and your ideas for projects and possible schedule. Dress professionally and keep the company dress code in mind, it is always better to overdress for an interview and ask about the daily dress code once you have the internship.

Strategies & tips for success

  • The preferred means of connecting is via telephone (unless noted on organization website or materials) as this will expedite your attempt to reach someone at the company.
  • Don't say you are "willing to do anything." Be clear and concise when explaining what you want to do and why they need you to do it. But keep an open mind to the needs of the organization.
  • Communicate why you are the right person for their organization, providing information about your academic abilities, interests, skills, and experiences.
  • Offer to send a resumé and cover letter for their consideration and ask for the appropriate address to send that information.
  • Be assertive, but not pushy, when conducting follow-up with a contact you have made.
  • Prepare a phone script and consider your responses to possible comments or questions. The more you prepare, the less you will be likely to stumble on your words. Have your resumé and key talking points in front of you for reference.
  • Dress professionally every time you are meeting with someone, even if you are only dropping resumés off at potential internship sites. First impressions are vital.
  • Follow up with every contact, regardless of the level of support or help they provided. This can be done via email (see Step 5 of Effective Employment Interviewing).

Note: Adapted from Oregon State University website.