Too Young to Intern?

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

Internships have become a must for college students in all fields. And it’s becoming more common for students to engage in internships earlier and to graduate having had multiple internship experiences. So why is it still a challenge to find opportunities open to freshmen and sophomores?

Historically, internships, if done, were an integral part of an academic program. This internship component didn’t take place until junior or senior year, when students were immersed in their major coursework. While there are still some academic programs at UW-Whitewater that contain a required internship component, the world of internships has loosened up considerably and is no longer solely in the academic domain. But somehow, the junior/senior-only element hung on.

So what can you do if you’re not a junior or senior yet but you want a summer internship? Here are some ideas to help set yourself up for early internship search success:

  • Know what you want to do and why you want to do it. I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but I can’t stress enough how important some initial career decision-making can be. You need some focus and to be intentional with your search. And while your internship might be part of your exploration, it should be in a field you are legitimately considering. As a freshman or sophomore, you might already be considered to be less professionally serious than a junior or senior. Be sure to exude decisiveness. And while the field you choose now might not be where you end up, it should be something you could see yourself doing after completing your initial research.
  • Develop a knock-out resume. If you are a freshman or sophomore who already has an impressive resume – with a job or two, college activities, and maybe some leadership roles – you should be taken more seriously as an intern candidate than someone with little to no background, even juniors and seniors. To get your foot in the door, you need to be able to prove that you can do the job. Provide that proof and increase your chances of getting an internship.
  • Network! Back to being a broken record. No matter your class standing, networking is essential to an internship search. As a younger student, it could hold even more weight. Start with your parents or other family members. This is a great way to give them the opportunity to help you in your career development. Connect with other adult-adults you know in your hometown – friends’ parents, teachers, coaches, etc. If you have had and continue to have good relationships with these people, they will be more likely to help you take this first pre-professional step.

Keep in mind that some companies will offer internship programs specifically for freshmen or sophomores (J.P. Morgan is an example). Other programs are targeted at freshmen and sophomores, like the Disney College Program. Some organizations, like smaller non-profits, might be more open bringing on a younger intern.

It’s all about starting to build your personal brand and selling your skills to a potential employer. If you can do this well, you are more likely to land an internship.

Question of the Week:
What challenges are you facing in your current internship search?

One Response to “Too Young to Intern?”
  1. Callen says:

    Interesting questions, in my high school it was not uncommon at all for people to have internships and some of my friends have great jobs with big companies in no small part from being an intern for six to eight summers, the last several paid. Its also a great way to put together an example resume.

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