When to Start Looking for Summer Internships (Updated for 2018)

It’s a question we get a lot here in English Advising:

when should one start looking for summer internships?  

The answer? Yes.

Which is to say, it’s never too soon to start

  •  thinking about what kind of a summer internship you want;
  • considering your options: can you manage on an unpaid internship or do you need a summer income? Do you need to live at home or can you relocate for the summer?
  •  researching the existing internship opportunities with companies you know you want to work with;
  • following various job boards and seeing what opportunities come up; and
  • preparing your resume(s).

English and Creative Writing, unlike some other majors, have no set time-frame for finding internships. How could they? Narrower, more career-focused majors channel students towards a handful of corporations that aggressively recruit students for specific entry-level positions. In these fields, internships have evolved as a cost-effective way for companies to identify potential long-term hires.

Some English and creative-writing majors choose to compete for those kinds of internship programs. A degree in English doesn’t limit you, however, to large-scale corporate recruiting opportunities. You have choices that are not always available to students in other majors, about how and where you want to apply your skills. Nonprofits? Small start-ups? Large foundations? An in-house communications department? A marketing/PR consultancy? A small or midsize business? Do you want to solve the world’s problems? Make a lot of money? Do a job when you’re always learning? Work one-on-one helping people?

The internships you seek will vary, depending on your goals, and so will their deadlines.

  • Post a weekly reminder to yourself to follow the advice below. You’re more likely to find the right internship if you’re looking consistently and steadily throughout the year.
  • Some employers (like State Farm at Research Park) are already posting summer 2019 internship openings, but many are not. The “Big Five” publishing houses, for example, generally don’t post their internships until winter (after the new year). Local and campus employers will be posting internship opportunities all the way through spring semester.
  • Review the employers who are coming to Gies Business Career Fair and the LAS and ACES Career Fair to identify a few with internships you could apply for (you’ll see a lot of things you can’t or don’t want to apply for — but don’t let that worry you — if you can find three to five employers you want to talk to at any one fair, that’s plenty).
  • If you are willing to relocate for the summer, make a list of your dream employers and start checking the “Careers” section of their websites. Internships at media, publishing, and entertainment companies that you’ve heard of tend to be highly competitive, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t make the attempt.
  • Check Bookjobs.com and Publisher’s Marketplace for internships in the publishing industry.
  • Check Idealist.org for summer internships at nonprofits.
  • 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 or the summer (but interested in working for the federal government), there are virtual internships.
  • Is there an organization you’d like to work for that doesn’t have an internship program? Some places may be open to working with you to create an opportunity.
  • If any internship looks appealing to you, and you’re pretty sure you could do it if it were offered, go ahead and apply. The employer will decide if you’re a suitable applicant, and there’s no merit in ruling yourself out before the employer has a chance to.

Internships are not the only path to professional experience. They can be a great way to explore your options and start networking, but other summer activities may better equip you for your particular goals: a part-time or summer job that builds your skills, volunteer work with an organization that interests you, intensive involvement in your RSO, or time devoted to a project of your own.


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