The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Internships 101: Effective Strategies for Securing Your Dream Internship

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Written by student program assistant Brandon DeBot ’14 and Rockefeller Center Staff, the following is a post to help to provide resources on effective strategies for securing internships. Though this post was written with Dartmouth College students in mind, it is advice that anyone searching for an internship experience can reference. Think about the equivalent office, department or academic center on your campus.

What strategies are the most effective for finding your ideal internship?  Over the past year, we polled Rockefeller Center funded interns and asked them a variety of questions about how they landed their leave-term internship.  We hope that the findings from our surveys will help you as you find and secure an upcoming opportunity.

The key takeaways and techniques from our survey results are below.  As always, visit the Rocky website and past Rocky blog posts for additional tips and information:>>Internships 101: Use the Winter Break to Land an Upcoming Internship>>Internships 101: Find It. Fund It.

  • Start Early - The majority of Rocky-funded students recommended beginning your internship search at least 5 months in advance, and none found their internships less than 2 months before their leave term.  This means that if you are planning to intern this summer and you have not begun your search, start now!
  • Know What You Want – Rocky-funded interns typically had an idea of where they wanted to work when they began their search.  Thinking about what type of organization you want to work at, specific policy areas, and your geographic preference will help narrow your search from the beginning.  Past interns noted that their applications were more effective when they were limited from the beginning to only organizations they were truly interested in.  To help narrow down your choices and focus on your interests, use the drop-in hours at the Dartmouth Career Services Office to speak to a career advisor, or take advantage of office hours to discuss your interests with a faculty member.
  • Keyword Searches Are the Most Effective – Internet searches with specific keywords were one of the most frequently cited ways that respondents found their internships.  Searches are both a good way to learn about internship opportunities and to find specific organizations that you want to apply to.  Use keywords including the specific policy and geographic areas you want to work in to begin your search.
  • Find the Networking Strategy That’s Right for You – Most students used some form of networking, including direct networking, contacts, or word-of-mouth to secure their internships, but they referenced a variety of different resources to get to this point.  It is a good idea to use alumni, faculty, students, past employers, or other contacts in your internship search, but not all of them may be necessary for your search, so find the most appropriate for the policy area and organization you are applying to.
  • Know When to Follow Up - You may be asking, “Should I contact the organization ahead of time, or should I just submit my application?  After that, should I contact them or wait for the organization to contact me?”  It may be helpful to know that more than two-thirds of past interns did not contact the organization before applying.  Those who did contact the organization typically had an explicit reason to do so, such as inquiring into whether the organization has an internship program.  Larger internship programs often ask students not to contact them directly, but if the organization does not have a stated internship program, then it may be a good idea to contact them with an inquiry. After the application is submitted, past Rocky interns recommended not following-up for at least one week after the application deadline.  Following-up is generally more important for small organizations, where applications tend to be more personal, than larger organizations, which often request that applicants do not contact them.
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences