For Students Seeking Internships

Employers expect new graduates to demonstrate skills through six to 12 months of hands-on, relevant experiences. Internships are ranked as the most desired form of experiences based on employer surveys.

Start with two simple steps to help you plan for your internship:

  1. Decide what experience you want. Meet with Career Services and your Academic Advisor to help you plan
  2. Use the most effective job search strategies (in Step 2 below). Start with Handshake

How do I find an internship?

Step One: Decide what experience you want

Knowing what types of internships you want is the first step to a successful search, and a meaningful experience. Use the My Job/Internship Target worksheet to help you.

Determine what you hope to get from the experience, such as:

  • Exploring a career path you find interesting
  • Building your resume by gaining professional experience
  • Growing your professional network for references and future opportunities
  • Developing special skills
  • Scoring a “Big Name” position
  • Earning academic credit and/or a salary
  • Other factors might include the organization’s location, compensation, organization size, work environment, culture, mission, and vision.

Step Two: Develop an effective search strategy

  • See your Career Advisor to build a strategy for finding an internship
  • Enroll in UNIV 320: Internship Readiness
  • Complete your profile in Handshake, Mason's source for jobs, internships, employment advice, and career fair details
  • Apply for the Scholarship for Unpaid Internships through University Career Services if you can’t afford to take on an unpaid internship
  • Use your Mason resources (Networking events, Job and Internship Fairs, LinkedIn)
  • Begin networking by asking professors, Mason alumni, family, and friends for opportunities. Use the My Network and Career Advisory Board sheet to help you decide where to start. 
  • Use job/internship sites specific for your industry/career field
  • Attend career fairs and other career events
  • Professional Associations – find the organizations that represent the kinds of work you want to do on the Career Services industry-specific resource pages.
  • Ask your professors and academic advisors about internships other students with your career interests might have had.

Ensuring Internship Success

Starting your internship means a shift in perspective from that of student to peer and colleague. You are in the internship to contribute to the organization while learning to apply your knowledge and skills in a practical setting. 

Many organizations look to their interns when they have full-time openings to fill. Standing out during an internship experience will not only allow you to get the most out of the experience and secure a positive recommendation from a site supervisor, it will also position you well if a full-time opportunity does become available at the completion of your internship. 

Connect with co-workers  

  • Build strong relationships with your supervisor and co-workers
  • Identify possible mentors
  • Develop strategies for staying connected after the internship 
  • Get recommendations as you complete the internship 

Set goals for your Career & Self-Development 

  • Set goals for your learning, including an internship learning agreement. What do you hope to learn? What skills do you want to develop? 
  • Seek opportunities to learn; initiate and embrace development opportunities
  • Assume duties or positions that will help you advance your skills and progress professionally
  • Volunteer for further education, training, or other professional development opportunities 

Reflect on the Experience  

  • Document and reflect on your experiences and learning regularly. Keep an active, detailed list of your accomplishments and responsibilities 
  • Seek honest feedback from your supervisor 
  • Complete a careful self-reflection on the internship experience. Articulate lessons learned. If your internship course does not provide this, here is an example 

Communicate the experience  

  • Document evidence of competencies developed
  • Shape the internship story for resume and interview enhancements. Use the Create a Resume page of the University Career Services website for help
  • Update LinkedIn and other online profiles

Each semester, hundreds, even thousands, of Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia employers seek interns in writing, editing, publishing, and related research. The tasks these employers assign to interns might include doing archival research; writing content for paper or online publications; editing for content and correctness; doing media research; creating publicity materials; managing a web page or web site; blogging about specific topics; writing grant proposals; writing technical procedures or specifications; writing cultural criticism; creating summaries or descriptions of various works of art; helping to establish intra-organizational writing styles or protocols; coordinating content and design elements for publication; or many, many other kinds of work.

Employers know that GMU students seeking internships have many strengths, including their motivation, professionalism, diverse skills and viewpoints, and work ethic. But that doesn’t mean that internships simply fall out of trees. GMU students who find satisfying internships are those who treat the search process as they would a search for an after-college job. They understand that: 1) internships are just as valuable for employers as they are for interns themselves; 2) professionalism counts; and 3) internships are not always listed on some central website. Students willing to do a little independent research and contact organizations directly have a distinct advantage.

The wide variety of organizations offering internships can be grouped into four general categories: 1) for-profit companies, 2) non-profit organizations, 3) governmental agencies, and 4) media, entertainment, and cultural organizations. The best way to begin your search for an internship is not necessarily to check a list of links or to think about what you want to do, but rather to think what kind of environment you’d like to work in and what kinds of content or subject matter interest you most.

Web sites such as craigslist and can be helpful, but many excellent internships are listed only on the web sites of the employers themselves, if they are listed at all. Many an internship is procured through word of mouth or by a student “cold calling” an organization and simply asking about internships. Finally, GMU’s Career Services office has a useful database of jobs and internship listings called Handshake; students can register online


As you begin your search for internships, be sure that you've updated your resume and that you have a draft version of both a query letter and a cover letter at hand. It's crucial that these documents be formatted simply and effectively, professional in tone, full of usable information, and free of grammatical and mechancial errors. The Career Services office at GMU offers review and workshop sessions on these kinds of documents, as well as help in preparing for interviews. If you're wondering, a "query letter" is a half-page unsolicited letter sent to gauge an organization's interest in discussing internship opportunities; a "cover letter" is a full-page letter, sent at the organization's request as part of a standard appplication process. Both a query letter and cover letter may be sent electronically or in paper form, depending on the specific situation.


Internship Resources from University Career Services

For students seeking an internship, University Career Services offers the following resources. 

Search for internships through Handshake

Make an appointment with University Career Services

Enroll in UNIV 320 Internship Readiness to help with your internship search

Apply for the Scholarship for Unpaid Internships through University Career Services if you can’t afford to take on an unpaid internship