Landing the Right STEM Internship


Interns at Intel.

— by Karen Purcell

Internships are a great way to experience the work environment and explore different options within your discipline of study. Internships provide fantastic on-the-job training and often lead to job offers after graduation.

Many students find themselves stuck when it comes to finding and securing an internship. This is likely their first experience with applying for jobs in this type of environment, and it involves more than filling out an application and talking to a manager in charge.

Tips to find internships aligned with your career goals follow the jump.
To begin your search, you should first look to companies or organizations you are interested in working with. Go to job fairs at your school and see which firms are out there. Are any of the companies that are there recruiting from your campus ideal fits for you? Perhaps you have been reading up on successful groups in your area of specialty and you have decided that Company XYZ is the place you want to work.

However you discovered them, go first to your favored operations and see if they are offering any internship positions. Even if they are not publicly advertising them, there may be opportunities for you. Pick up the phone or visit the office in person and introduce yourself, leave a résumé, and make yourself available to them.

If you don’t have a specific internship in mind, there are many resources available to you online to help you narrow down your choices. Search online for information on available internships, application deadlines, qualifications, and more.

Talk to your professors, advisers and mentors about your search and ask them to point you in the right direction for any resources available on your campus, such as databases or aggregate lists of STEM internships.

You probably won’t be offered the first internship you apply for, so cast a wide net. You may even find that you get to pick your preferred placement if you’ve lined up plenty of options.

Once you get an interview, take time to prepare. You want to put your best foot forward. Show them that you have done your research and understand what they are about. Tell them how an experience with them aligns with your future career goals. Don’t leave it up to them to guess; make it explicit.

Bring a list of questions about the company or the position that demonstrate you understand the company’s purpose and how you might fit into the equation.

Don’t make money the primary conversation piece. If you want to make loads of money over the summer, an internship is probably not for you. Remember that you are giving a great deal of your time and energy in exchange for experience, connections, and references that will better serve you in the long run than a higher wage will serve you now.

Karen Purcell, P.E. is the founder, owner, and president of PK Electrical, an award-winning electrical engineering, design and consulting firm. She is the author of Unlocking Your Brilliance: Smart Strategies for Women to Thrive in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. She has created Stemspire, which aims to help women create meaningful futures in the STEM fields.

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