Updated for 2018: Yes, Internships!

It’s the time of year when internships opportunities for the fall semester start cropping up again: paid, unpaid, in the community, around campus, and even right here in the English department.

Should you apply for internships?

YES: Professional experience while you’re still in college can help in three ways: (1) building your skills, (2) helping you explore your career options, and (3) giving you evidence to present to employers of your value.

BUT: Much depends on what your goals are and what the internship offers. An internship isn’t a magic key that unlocks the door of full-time post-college employment. It’s one of many ways to get professional experience.

SO: Read internship descriptions carefully. Think about what you want to get out of an internship and the goals you have. If your goal is simply to get some experience so that you can figure out what career goals you WANT, then it makes sense to apply broadly. If you already have some ideas about your career plans, then target your efforts towards opportunities that will move you along your chosen path. AND: Keep in mind that paid part-time employment, volunteer work, student involvement, and thoughtful networking can help you in all the ways an internship can. If you can’t find the right internship, there are lots of other paths to professional experience and career exploration.

How do you apply for internships? Click the links, and follow the instructions. Follow them carefully. Often the first step in screening applicants is to eliminate the people who didn’t pay enough attention to follow the instructions. If you are asked for references for campus or local internships, contact the people you’ll be using to get their okay before you use their names. Professors or teachers who know you well or previous work supervisors are good choices. People who know you through your work for a club, school organization, sports team, babysitting/yard care, or religious group are also suitable. Try to avoid family members or people who ONLY know you as a personal friend. You’ll probably need a resume. Here’s some advice about how to write one, if you haven’t had to do so before.

How does course credit work for internships? Course credit is sometimes presented as an alternative to payment for student internships. The Department of English offers course credit for unpaid internships through ENGL 199-INT, an eight-week, one-credit online course offered in the second eight weeks of the semester (CRN 63954, begins Oct. 22, 2018). The course does involve some written work, but the time commitment takes account of the hours that the internship itself requires. If you want to take this course to get course credit for an unpaid internship, you should first secure the internship, then contact Kirstin Wilcox (kwilcox@illinois.edu) to get permission to add the course. You can also take this course if you have a paid internship. Students who have internships with Department of English publications like American Literary History, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, and Ninth Letter are REQUIRED to take the course as part of the internship.

When should you apply for internships?  If you are interested in having a fall 2017 internship, right now is a good time, though opportunities will continue to arise until classes start. If you’re wondering more generally when, in your college career, you should try to do an internship, there is no one right answer. Much depends on the intensity of your course schedule, your summer commitments, the nature of your career interests. Some people do internships their freshman or sophomore year, so that they have some knowledge and experience to build on in identifying the right junior- or senior-year opportunities. Others prefer to get some initial work experience in student or volunteer organizations as freshman/sophomores so that they can qualify for paid internships as they get closer to graduation. A few patterns to note, however:

  • Well paid summer corporate internships generally go to rising seniors or juniors, and those kinds of opportunities start getting advertised in August, continuing through the beginning of the spring semester. Many corporate employers seek interns at the Gies Business Career Fair, which takes place this year on September 17 and 18. You don’t have to be a business major to take advantage of these employment opportunities.
  • The LAS and ACES Career Fair on October 4 is also a good place to look into internships and draws a wide range of for-profit and non-profit organizations.
  • Summer publishing and editing internships around the country (many unpaid) will start getting advertised after winter break (though it doesn’t hurt to start looking before then to make sure you don’t miss anything).
  • Part-time local and campus internships during the school year come up all the time, generally a few weeks or  months before the semester begins (although some are on a more complicated year-round cycle).
  • Illinois in Washington connects U of Illinois students with internships in Washington and supplies housing and course credit. For students unable to relocate to DC for a semester (but interested in working for the federal government, there are  virtual internships.

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