Myths and Facts About Applying for Internships

There are a lot of opinions swirling around how, when and why to get an internship. For this series of articles, the College of Engineering teamed up with the Career Center to address some important myths or assumptions that might be steering you off course. You may also want to read about the value of internships, and some tips from Engineering grad students.

Myth: Internships are only available in the summer.

Fact: Not true! Many companies offer internships throughout the school year. Take advantage of living and studying in Silicon Valley, and start your internship early. Be sure to check out opportunities on Handshake so you don’t miss out on submission deadlines.

Myth: I shouldn’t apply for an internship until I’m a junior.

Fact: Not always true. While some companies require junior and senior class standing, others are looking for talent at all academic levels. Read the internship requirements carefully and if you qualify--go for it! If the job opportunity does not specify class level, apply.

Myth: I’ll apply for a lab internship in the spring.generic group of young interns

Fact: You might miss out. Lab internships are advertised (in Handshake) from the Fall through May, but government-related labs are typically finalized by December. When you see an opportunity in a government lab in the fall, apply right away.

Myth: You get an internship at the Career Fair, or you look for one online.

Fact: Those are great places to start but there is more to the internship search process. You also need to learn the hiring cycle of your target company. And network, network, network! You already have a personal network -- talk to family, friends, club members and your professors about what you’re looking for, then follow up with any leads.

Myth: Having an internship might interfere with my schoolwork.

Fact: Internships can actually help improve your academic performance. You can apply your classroom knowledge to real-world problems, and bring your internship experience to classwork. Furthermore, companies do not expect interns to put in full-time work, although you do need to make sure you can balance the internship with the other demands in your life. Best of all, in addition to learning professional skills the internship allows you to build a professional network -- and possibly a future career with the company.

Myth: I have a resume, so I can easily get an internship.

Fact: Not so fast. A resume alone will not land you the internship or job. (And quality counts too. Generic resume templates with grammar or spelling errors won’t cut it.) You need to be able to tell your story with comfort, look people in the eye and explain what makes you unique and valuable. Connect with the Career Center to make sure your total interviewing package (including professional pitch, resume, and LinkedIn profile) looks good.

Myth: I didn’t get an internship, so my summer is wasted.

Fact: False. Not everyone gets an internship, but everyone has a chance to shine. Build an app. Work on a project. Set yourself apart by working with a community who needs your special skills. Create something for your portfolio, and your time will not be wasted.

Challenge: Transportation to an internship can be difficult.

Fact: Yes, it can be. One workaround is to look for on-campus research projects. Your professors and department may have some leads for you.