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Building Skills

Internships: Getting Your Feet Wet

An internship is a wonderful, hands-on way to learn more about a career field or job type and can be an important part of your university experience. Internships may be part- or full-time, paid or unpaid, are offered by a wide variety of businesses and organizations, and can sometimes lead to permanent positions.

An internship can help you in many ways:

  • Experience in greater detail what a full-time job in a particular career might be like.
  • Strengthen your resume. Even if you don’t have relevant experience, employers care whether you’ve worked in a related field before.
  • Build confidence in your abilities.
  • Meet people in the industry and build professional connections.
  • Even if you come to realize you don’t like a particular field or industry, that piece of self-knowledge can be extremely valuable. Better to find out now, instead of after you graduate.

Explore internship opportunities that match your skills and career interests, but that also may complement your academic program, help you probe a new direction, or challenge you to grow in new ways. As you explore your options, think about the following questions: Do you primarily want career-related experience? The chance to travel? Funds to support tuition costs? Identifying your priorities ahead of time will better prepare you when it comes time to decide on the right opportunity.

Word to the Wise:

Before your internship ends, ask your supervisor whether he or she would be willing to be a reference for you, either over the telephone or by reference letter.

When to Start Looking

Internships are available during the summer months, as well as academic semesters. Internships during the academic year should only be part-time. Be sure to find out the expected time commitment during the search and interview process.

You can do an internship at any point while you’re at BU. We suggest, however, that students hold off until after their freshman year and are comfortable with their academic load. More and more, we hear stories of recent graduates pursuing internships as a means to enter an industry.

Many employers with formalized, competitive programs launch the selection process several months in advance. Some might have application deadlines a year or more out. For summer interns, most employers start looking between late January and late March. Internships for the fall and spring are usually advertised either very early in the semester, or late in the preceding semester. But be sure to check Handshake regularly; there are always opportunities to be found there.

While you’ll want to tailor it before applying for a specific internship, it’s a good idea to have your resume prepared and know the kind of experience you’re looking for. That way, you’ll be ready when opportunities arise.