Finding or Getting Ready for a Summer Internship

May is here! The semester is almost over — hang in there! Congratulations if you landed a summer intern role, and don’t panic if you haven’t determined your plans yet. Make sure to check our job & internship page for regularly updated opportunities and schedule a career advising session to strategize.

If you’re searching for an internship, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What are my larger career goals?

It is perfectly fine if you’re not sure where you want to end up at this point. To begin, consider: what is something that gets you excited? It could be survey work, food policy, program management — anything! Try to break down this idea further. What are one or two skill(s) you want to get from an internship? Internships can also be good places for initiating career change. Does this internship get you closer to the field you want to be in? Asking yourself these questions could give you a better idea for which summer internships to pursue.

  1. Am I looking for “perfect?”

No position is 100% perfect, and that’s okay! An internship’s value can be calculated in different ways: the compensation/other benefits, skill development, work environment, networking possibilities, and the degree to which you enjoy the everyday tasks. What do you care about the most? What is a lesser priority? While it may be hard to find a position that checks all the boxes, many times you’ll find positions that provide you with what you want the most.

  1. Do I enjoy working with a particular group of people?

During the interview, HR will screen for strong candidates. The process goes both ways. Did you enjoy the conversation? Could you see yourself working for this organization/company?

  1. Am I nervous about money conversations?

It’s fine to incorporate salary/stipend questions into your discussions with organizations, particularly if you’re speaking with an HR rep, a.k.a. the person most likely to have that info at hand. You can use resources such as our job posting site or Glassdoor to get a sense of the average wage for a given position. In this way, you will have better idea of HR’s standard/baseline before any benefit negotiation sessions.

If you already have an internship, here are some ways to prepare:

  1. Set goals for your internship.

Earlier we talked about ways to measure an internship’s value: compensation/other benefits, skill development, work environment, networking possibilities, and the degree to which you enjoy the everyday tasks. Let’s say you took a program coordinator intern role in Seattle. Your skill development goal might be: “I want to feel comfortable writing grants.” For networking, it might be: “I want to stay connected with other NGOs in the Seattle area.”

  1. Own your projects and take initiative.

As an intern, you might feel like you have limited control over your projects. And yes, finishing what is assigned should be the priority. But also, if there are other interesting projects in the organization/company, ask if you can get involved. This could potentially be a good way to branch out, explore more career opportunities, and build your network.

  1. Continually evaluate your progress.

Depending on where you work, the evaluation loop could look different. It might be beneficial to set at least a couple of checkpoints throughout your internship. These could be every week or once or twice per month. Ask yourself: is this internship helping me reach my goals? If not, why not? What can I do to fix that? Sometimes, the solution lies with you, sometimes you need help from others, and often, it’s a combination of both!

The Block Career Center wishes you the best as you wrap up finals. Good luck!


By Fangruo (Ingrid) Zhou
Fangruo (Ingrid) Zhou Student Ambassador