Seeking Internships

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.