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Finding an Internship

What is an internship?

  • An internship is an on-site work experience that is directly related to either your major or your career interest.
  • It can be paid or non-paid, full-time or part-time, and may be eligible for academic credit.

Why do you need an internship?
An internship gives you the opportunity to:

  • Gain valuable work experience before you graduate
  • Develop new skills and refine others
  • Apply knowledge from coursework to on-the-job situations
  • Reality-test tentative career choices
  • Meet and work with professionals, establish contacts for letters of reference and networking
  • Experience new work environments
  • Earn money for tuition and expenses (depending on site)

Comments from past interns

  • “I feel very thankful that I had the opportunity to complete this internship. I could not ask for a better way to combine my English minor with my Public Relations major. I consider my summer internship to have been an extraordinary experience; I have learned things here that I never would be able to in the classroom.”
  • “Now I have a clear understanding of what courses I need to take to help me in my prospective job. It also enabled me to decided where my interests lie.”
  • “This internship has tremendously affected my experience and way of thinking in such a positive light. The position has helped me improve my interpersonal skills, but also prepared me for my future job and strengthened my interest in attending graduate school.”

Five Important Aspects of Your Internship Search

1. Determine your goals
Ask yourself:

Why do you want an internship?
What do you hope to learn?
In what field(s) are you trying to gain experience?

2. Personal “check-in”
Once you figure out your broader goals for the internship, ask yourself the following questions to further focus your search:

What type of experience do I want?
What type of work setting?
What type of daily duties?
What locations do I prefer?
What is my timetable?

3. Research employers and career fields
Talk to people in your field of interest. Talk to your professors, advisors, peers, ect., participate in the e-mentoring program.

Study the current trends in the field. Read the business section of the newspaper, the US Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, etc., visit Saint Mary's Hall Room 136 for related material.

Review the types of available internships and entry-level jobs. These are available in the Internship Office. Also, check out the handouts titled “What can I do with a major in…” for ideas.

4. Tools of the Trade

  • Create a great resume and cover letter. If you need additional help, stop by Career Services.
  • Polish your interviewing skills.
  • Maintain a record of organizations you applied to and when you applied to them so you can follow up with the employers.

5. Timing

  • Start early. Some summer internship programs have deadlines as early as November or December.
  • Avoid procrastination
  • Do tasks in small increments
  • Employers offer internships year around, but it is generally best to begin your internship search the semester prior to your desired placement.

Starting Your Internship Search
Check out our internship listings, events and programs:

  • Cardinal Job and Internship LINK: Access jobs and internships marketed to SMU students. 
  • Searching the Internet: The internet is a great resource for researching specific companies and organizations. For students who are seeking internships and who wish to see what opportunities can be found on the internet, use a search engine by typing in the word internships along with qualifiers like career field or geographic location. For example: professional sports marketing internships or graphic design internships boston.
  • Internship Binders: Availble in the Internship Office
  • Internship Directories: National and local internship directories are available in the office.
  • Career & Internship Fairs: These events provide a great opportunity to network with employers and internship sites. Most of the fairs are located in Winona, the Twin Cities and Chicago.

Other Internship Search Resources:

  • Consult faculty members in your area of interest and talk to friends, family members and acquaintances about your leads. Ask for advice, information, and names of organizations and people to contact.
  • Use SMU Alumni within your field or geographic interest. For more information about this service, call extension 6695.
  •  Use other resources such as the Yellow Pages (, Chamber of Commerce Directories, other college and university websites and newspapers.
  • Think creatively. What are some organizations in which you could build the skills you are interested in developing? For example, if you are interested in helping people, organizations that might offer internships are youth centers, local hospitals, treatment centers, social services agencies, local churches, ect. If you are interested in museum work, how about the local historical society or a restoration project?

Making the Contact
Once you have a few places you are interested in interning, the next step is contacting those places to learn about availability and opportunity. The initial contact you make with potential sites is important since it's the first impression of yourself that you are giving to a company or organization. There are several ways to do this.

Telephone Calls
Before you make the call, be sure that you can pronounce the contact person's name with ease. Sometimes it's impossible to know if you are pronouncing a name correctly but do your best with the information you have. If you aren't able to find the name of the contact person, ask for the person who coordinates the internships for the organization or company.

Be sure you have your resume in front of you when placing the call. This is important for several reasons. First, your site contact may ask you questions about your experience, glancing at your resume will help you recall some of the classes you've taken or work you've done. Also, a potential site may want you to send a copy of your resume to them quickly and they'll be impressed if you have one prepared and ready to send out at a moment's notice.

You want your call to sound professional, so find a quiet time and area to make the call, preferably when roommates are not around and without the distraction of the TV and radio. Remember to project enthusiasm on the phone to ensure that the site contact person can detect your interest. Posture helps. If you sit or stand up straight, you'll sound more professional than if you're lounging or laying down.

It is helpful to practice what you are going to say before contacting your potential internship sites. Read the example below for an idea of what to say. Think about what you are going to say before you get on the phone.

When making the call, identify yourself and explain why you are calling.

“Hi. My name is _________. I attend Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. Can you tell me who I should talk to about doing an internship at _____________(company name)?”

“Hello, my name is ____________, from Saint Mary's University and I'm inquiring about an internship with _____________(company name). May I speak with _____________(contact name)?”

Have a notepad ready. Ask for the spelling of the person's name. Once the contact person is on the phone, repeat your introduction and clarify your interest.

“Hello, ___________(contact name) my name is _______________ and I'm a junior media communications major at Saint Mary's University. I'm inquiring about an internship in the communications department. Are you still looking for interns this semester/summer?”

If you have not reached the appropriate person to speak to he/she will most likely forward you to the correct individual. Make sure you ask this person if he/she would like you to submit a resume or would like you to come in for an interview. Sometime during the conversation, you should mention whether you would like to do the internship for credit or not for credit. This may be important information for some companies. Also, be prepared to talk about the time frame in which you would like to do your internship (i.e., fall, spring, summer semester), if you want to do a full-time or part-time internship, how many hours you will be able to work each week, and other specific information they may need to know before they can determine if you are a potential candidate for an internship position.

Letters of Inquiry
Another way to make contact with a site is by sending a letter of inquiry. The letter should introduce yourself, state where you are a student, what you are studying, and the type of internship you are seeking. The letter should be addressed to the person at the site who can respond to your inquiry. Be sure the name is spelled correctly and the proper title is used. Ask someone to proofread it. If you include your resume with this letter, refer to it in the body of the letter.

Finally, state in the last paragraph that you will call the person in a few days to discuss the internship. Be sure to call the person two or three days after he/she has received your letter. If you wait too long, the person may have trouble recalling your letter. Also, it will appear that you are not interested enough to follow-up promptly and are therefore not a good risk for the site to accept you for an internship position.

700 Terrace Heights
Winona MN 55987

March 10, 2010

Name of Contact
Job Title
Name of Employer
City, State, Zip

Dear Mr./Ms. Contact Person,

I am a sophomore at Saint Mary's University studying Finance. I am interested in acquiring an internship with an investment firm to learn more about portfolio management and investment strategies. My coursework so far has included Introduction to Finance, Accounting, International Marketing and Investment Strategies.

The internship I seek is for three credits and is to last eight weeks beginning anytime after final exams end on May 10. I will appreciate the chance to speak with you and to give you more details about the internship program at Saint Mary's University.

A copy of my resume is enclosed. I will contact you in a few days to discuss internship opportunities with [Name of Employer]. If you prefer to contact me, I can be reached at [Telephone Number] or [Email Address].

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Stephen Student

You may also choose to email the site your letter of inquiry and resume. Be aware that unexpected and uninvited email can sometimes be flagged as spam, some busy people delete these messages without opening them. For this reason, always follow up with a phone call.

Unscheduled Visits
Dropping in is another way to make contact. You will be able to see the site and learn the name of, or possibly meet the person responsible for internship students. Also, you can pick up any application materials the sponsor may require.

If the contact person would like more information about the internship program at Saint Mary's University, let us know. We can send them information or call them if they have specific questions.

Good luck with your search!