How to get your first internship in college

Internships are an important tool you can use to grow your career before you even graduate. Learn some tips and tricks to land your first internship!

Two students in hard hats and reflective vests consult iPads and a clipboard at a field of solar panels

How to get your first internship in college

Internships are an important tool you can use to grow your career before you even graduate. Learn some tips and tricks to land your first internship!

Two students in hard hats and reflective vests consult iPads and a clipboard at a field of solar panels

The basics: Why get an internship?

Internships are short bursts of job experiences that you can find in any job field. They usually last between eight and sixteen weeks and are available for the fall, spring and summer.

Claudia Cruz is the Director of Internships and Experiential Learning at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. She’s an expert at helping students find internships, perfect their resumes and prepare them to go into the workforce.

“Internships are important for college students in their career because many students don't know what they want to do in life,” Cruz said. “That's usually a really good amount of time to become immersed in an environment, learn new skills. And then realize, I want to learn more about this place or okay, I think I want to try something different.”

Many colleges have a running internships page where they post jobs available at the school and in the community. Some colleges will also have a career services center to help students find jobs and review resumes. Cruz also suggests looking at Google, LinkedIn, Indeed and Handshake to find both paid and unpaid opportunities.

It's never too early to consider internships

It’s important to gain as much experience as you can while you’re in college. The more internships you have, the fuller your resume will be!

“I will definitely say that it’s important to start considering internships as soon as you get to college,” Cruz said. “I think the best time to do internships are summers. They are really key moments because if you try some internships, then you know what you like and you can keep gaining more expertise in an area."

Hiring managers usually expect first-year students to have less experience than students who are about to graduate. Use that to your advantage to get internships in fields you’re interested in. That way, when you’re a senior you’ll have lots of experience to draw on and you’ll have made professional connections at your previous jobs.

Cruz also emphasized the importance of having experience outside of your major. You’ll never know what jobs will be available when you graduate, so having many skills in related fields make you more employable.

Extracurriculars can also provide valuable experience

If you don’t have any previous job experience, look to your extracurriculars for marketable skills. Cruz suggests highlighting skills that you’ve gained or positions you’ve held in clubs and other organizations. If you were the president or treasurer of a club, that’s experience in leadership or accounting. Creating a poster for your fraternity or sorority could go into a marketing or graphic design portfolio.

Professors are also great people to connect with when looking for an internship. Many professors have connections at the college and in the greater community. If you’re interested in a specific field, find a professor who’s worked there and get to know them. Professors can also serve as references when you’re applying to jobs.

Finally, remember that not every job is going to be the internship of your dreams. However, working as a server or in retail is still experience you’ve gained. Cruz suggests you emphasize the important skills you used and see how you can apply them to internships in your desired field.

“The point is, don't sit around and wait for things to happen for you,” Cruz said. “You have to make things happen and that's how you build a resume. That's how you build the network that's going to be your references. For your cover letter, that's how you get things to write about.”

 Now it’s time for you to take these tips and start applying to internships! Good luck!


Catherine SchofieldCatherine Schofield is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno. She will be graduating in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and dual minors in information systems and women’s studies. She is currently interning with the Office of Marketing and Communications and serving as social media manager for two Reynolds Media Lab accounts, The Reynolds Sandbox and Our Town Reno. She is passionate about new media and challenging herself to get more young people engaged with news online.

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