How Internships Work

How to Find an Internship
Tons of websites provide options for internship seekers, and friends and family can also be helpful resources. Jed Share/Kaoru Share/Getty Images

When it comes to tracking down the right internships, different strategies work for different people. Some, like Shapiro, may have the best luck hitting up friends and family members, while others may opt for a more formal process.

"Often, the college and career center at a student's high school or college will have extensive listings of internship and work opportunities," Smith says. "Parents, friends of parents, and parents of friends can also be helpful resources. And although daunting, contacting university professors or businesses can provide some unexpected opportunities as well."

Plenty of websites also provide options for internship seekers, including LinkedIn. College Magazine ranked (It's basically the eHarmony of internship sites), and among the richest resources [source: Alvarado]. And don't discount a simple Google search.

Interns should seek out opportunities where they can work with smart and motivated individuals in the career field of their interest, as well. Selecting an internship with a small company that will provide access to mentors and networking opportunities might prove more useful than an internship with a larger business with less of those chances. And prospective interns should also consider the work they will walk away with after they leave. Will they work on projects and have proven new skills they can show prospective employers? These are all key to choosing the right internship.

And according to Smith, individuals shouldn't rule out companies and institutions in a variety of fields. "Facebook Summer Academy works with underserved students from East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, Redwood City and San Francisco, offering them phenomenal opportunities to be exposed to a number of different fields within the company," she says. "The San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation also offers opportunities for students, as do many hospitals and healthcare centers." Students should look for similar opportunities in their local communities.

Author's Note: How Internships Work

While getting my master's degree at the University of California Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, I completed an unconventional, non-newsroom internship at HelloGiggles. During my summer working for the website, I wrote an article about body image and fat shaming that remains the most "viral" of articles I've ever produced: At last count, it had 300,000 page views, 24,000 Facebook likes, 500 Tweets and 135 comments. Sadly, the piece is no longer up on their site, and the analytics are lost forever, but you can read it here!"

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More Great Links


  • Alvarado, Elizabeth. "The 10 Best Websites for Internships." College Magazine. Jul. 13, 2017 (Sept. 20, 2017).
  • Boyington, Briana. "Understand the Differences Between a Co-op, Internship." U.S. News & World Reports. Mar. 31, 2015 (Sept. 20, 2017).
  • Haire, Meaghan and Oloffson, Kristi. "A Brief History of Interns. Time. Jul. 30, 2009 (Sept. 20, 2017).,8599,1913474,00.html
  • Hopkins, Cassidy. "9 Stars Who Were Interns (and Where) Before They Made It Big." Hollywood Reporter. Sep. 25, 2015 (Sept. 20, 2017).
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  • Nagele-Piazza, Lisa. "Employers: Is Your Unpaid Internship Program Legal?" May 1, 2017 (Oct. 11. 2017)
  • National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). "The 2016 Internship & Co-op Survey Report." May 2016 (Sept. 20, 2017).
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  • Shapiro, Emilia Varshavsky. Personal correspondence. Sept. 18, 2017.
  • Smith, Irena. College Admissions Consultant. Personal correspondence. Sept. 11, 2017.
  • U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division. "Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act." Apr. 2010 (Sept. 20, 2017).
  • Zara, Christopher. Are Unpaid Internships Still Legal? Here's Why The Law Is Fuzzier Than Ever. July 18, 2016. (Oct. 11, 2017)