Many college students want an internship that can be a steppingstone to a job offer, perhaps in a place they’ve been longing to explore. Some hope to relocate after graduation, and an internship in a different region from where they live or attend school can jumpstart the search process.
Here’s some advice from experts about how to land an internship in an area with lots of opportunities in your field of study.
Visit Your Campus Career Center
If you’re thinking of finding a summer internship anywhere, the first step should be in the direction of your campus career center, says Mimi Collins, director of communications at the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
“Our data show that those who do use their campus career center are more likely to get a paid internship, and that people who have done paid internships get more job offers,” she says.
Career counselors typically are familiar not just with local internships, but also internships around the country and abroad, says Carolyn D. Jones, a career counselor and consultant and president-elect of the National Career Development Association.
“Doing internships anywhere is an option, and we can help,” Jones says.
Choose a Target: Position or an Employer?
Within your target locations, there’s another important decision to make – whether to target a specific position or a specific employer.
“If, say, you want to do graphic design, do you want to do it in a company focused on graphic design? Or do you want to work in the graphic design function at any large company?” says Lakeisha Mathews, director of the University of Baltimore‘s Career and Internship Center and current president of NCDA.
“This is important because if you limit your search to companies in your industry only, you limit the opportunities available,” she says. “Most companies, regardless of their industry or focus, have different types of jobs that help the organization achieve its goal. For instance, Pepsi sells beverages. However, Pepsi hires graphic designers, human resources professionals, accountants, etc.”
Be sure to check the job listings on specific companies’ websites, as well as their social media platforms and other job websites.
Prioritize Location or Company
If you’ll go wherever the best internships in your field are, you need to know the hub or hubs for that industry. Mathews cites several examples:
- New York City for fashion.
- Washington, D.C. for national politics, lobbying or any federal work.
- State capitals for state politics.
- Silicon Valley in Northern California and, increasingly, Texas for technology.
- New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and D.C. for broadcasting.
- New York and California for television and film.
STEM internships are plentiful everywhere, experts say.
When location matters most, target an area “and then look for the best companies,” Mathews advises. The top five cities of interest to recent college graduates are, in order, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Denver and Boston, according to the 2022 “Next Cities Index” poll by Axios and The Generation Lab, a D.C.-based data intelligence company.
Decide Between an In-Person and Hybrid Internship
During much of the COVID-19 pandemic, most internships were remote online. But now, internships can be in person, remote or hybrid, which is a mixture of remote and face to face. If your goal is to explore a location, you should choose either a face-to-face or hybrid internship, experts recommend.
“I think there’s more advantage to face to face, because there’s more to work than sitting in a Zoom meeting,” Jones says. “With remote work, you’re not able to walk down the hall to a colleague’s office to discuss what’s going on.”
At the same time, Mathews says, “If there’s a hybrid internship where you are building up your skill set, and where the company has built in a mentor, networking opportunities and check-ins, that internship can be as useful virtually as it would be in person.”
Ace the Interview
If the locations you are targeting for an internship are far away, it’s most likely that your job interview will be virtual. A successful virtual interview depends on what you do in advance, from checking your technology and preventing distractions to dressing and grooming professionally.
The first step toward doing well in a remote interview is role-playing, not only to help you anticipate possible questions but to help you become more at ease in front of the computer camera, Jones says.
“Eye contact is critical,” she says. “I had a student who was fearful, and his pattern was to look away. You can’t do that in a virtual interview.”
Mathews says it’s important to prepare in advance how to use appropriate facial expressions, especially students who are introverted.
“In person, you have your whole body to work with, but virtually, you only have neck up to work with,” Mathews says. “With technology, extroverts do better while people who are not big facial expressers have a disadvantage.”
Look Into Housing
Once you’ve landed an internship, you’re ready to find housing. There are cost considerations with interning far away, as well as in larger, more expensive metro areas.
“Every student does not have the financial resources to go out of state for an opportunity, but safe and affordable housing does exist,” says Mathews, citing InternHousing.com as a helpful resource.
Although many colleges reserve summer housing only for their own students, there is no uniform nationwide policy, so checking into housing at schools in the area where you will be interning may be another option, says Holly Stapleton, senior director of business operations and chief of staff at the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International.
Despite the struggling economy, employers project a 14.7% increase in hiring over 2022, according to the Job Outlook 2023 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And interning in a city that’s a recognized hub for your career field may improve your full-time employment chances, some experts say.
“Employers want to use internships as a way to bring new college graduates into their workforce,” Collins says. “They’re going to pay them, they’re going to give them real work to do, and their interns are going to be the first people they look at when they think about hiring.”