Internship Strategy

Internships are a great way to learn about your career options, meet professionals, and build resume and portfolio content. This guide will walk you through pointers for landing a great internship.

  • The Basics

    Timing

    Internships usually run on a semester basis (fall, spring, summer), and application deadlines can be anywhere from 1 – 6 months before the start of a semester. Hour requirements are usually from 20 – 40 hours a week, with 40 hours a week internships usually reserved for the summer. Companies prefer students who can dedicate chunks of time to them- so try to arrange your class schedule accordingly.

    Academic credit?

    Most junior and senior students have the option to receive internship credit for your internship. In some cases, companies may require that you receive credit. If so, you will work with your academic department to get the internship approved. Pre-requisites, hour requirements, and assignments vary slightly by department. If you want credit (or you’re still thinking about it), your first stop should be meeting with your internship coordinator.

    Paid or unpaid?

    Presently, many internships are not paid. You may have heard about some of the recent lawsuits surrounding internships- this has become a hot topic. The bottom line is that unpaid internships can be legal and can be worth your time. We think all internships should pay, but if yours does not, the internship must be a substantial learning experience for you.

  • Prepare and Search

    Internships can be quite competitive, so start to prepare early.

    Decide what you want to do

    Don’t say “anything”! Now is your chance to try out some different responsibilities and settings. Answer the question: “I want to do (type of work) for (type of company).” For example, “I want to do graphic design for an ad agency,” or “I want to learn more about editing at a post production house.” Our career research guides can help you generate some ideas. Also, brainstorm what you want to get out of it. What skills do you want to build? What functions do you want to learn about? What type of work samples do you want to generate?

    Materials you need

    Most companies will ask you to submit a resume and cover letter. Make sure your resume is different than the version you would use for part-time jobs. Some companies will require a portfolio, letters of recommendation, or an essay. Start your search early so you have plenty of time to compile your materials.

    Where to search

    If you do an internship for credit, your internship coordinator may provide you with a list of approved past internship sites. You have tons of options. Nearly all companies offer internships, so start with a list of companies you know you would be interested in working for. Next, use internship and jobs boards, including ColumbiaWorks, internships.com, internmatch.com, chicagoartistsresource.org/jobs, and more. Some companies never openly post internships, so directly contacting them or using your network will unearth some great options.

  • How the Portfolio Center Helps

    While we are not involved in the credit approval process, we can help you prepare for the search.

    Finding direction

    If you are unsure of your career path, or want ideas about where to intern, you can meet with a staff member in the Portfolio Center to brainstorm possibilities. We can also help you think about other ways of building experience before you are ready for an internship.

    Polishing your materials

    Portfolio Center staff can review your resume, cover letter, and portfolio to be sure they are ready to the internship search.

    Interviewing

    You will do an interview as part of the hiring process, so be sure you are ready to talk about yourself. PC staff can do a mock interview or portfolio review with you to get you polished up.