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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Tracewell

What is an internship and how can I get one?

You might have heard from your advisor or school counselor about the importance of an internship, and this can be a scary word! It might sound intimidating, but it's just a job — well, sort of!

An internship is a learning experience.

An internship can be paid work or unpaid work, it can be full-time or part-time, one-time-only, or repeated work experiences, for example, a job you do over consecutive summers. The main thing that makes an internship more than just a job is this:

An internship includes a specific learning objective to give students exposure to a particular industry or field. It's more than a job, it's a learning experience.

A typical internship is a short-term work experience offered by a company that is willing to invest in students and young adults to give them real-world experience in their field and can sometimes lead to a job offer. The hours vary, but a summer internship is often 40 hours a week for 6-12 weeks, and a fall or spring internship during the school year is almost always part-time.

Any work experience looks good on a resume, but an internship stands out due to its focused attention on career exploration and development. If you're working at your local coffee shop whipping up lattes, it's a job. If you're working at your local coffee shop learning about the supply chain of coffee farming and how fair trade is supporting indigenous populations, it's an internship.

Internships are important for your personal and professional development as well as for your resume.

The chance to get your boots on the ground in an industry you may want to work in can be life-changing! Interns get to work side-by-side with industry professionals and get a front-row seat as to what this job is like on a daily basis. You're learning from the pros, you're learning from your co-workers and fellow interns, and you're also networking — often the key to future jobs. Companies bring on interns not only to fill short-term staffing needs in a cost-effective way but also to create a constant pipeline of future employees. On the flip side, internships are just as important for helping you figure out what you don't want to do in a very low-risk way. One friend shared how she was positive she wanted to be a nurse until her hospital internship made her realize she was queasy at the sight of blood. Now she's a social worker instead.

And what about your resume? Internships have grown in popularity over the past decade, and college admissions committees, as well as employers, are hoping to see them on resumes. You are a much more competitive applicant if you have relevant internship experience in your chosen or possible field of study.

An internship shows that you have a special passion, it shows extra initiative in achieving your learning goals, it indicates curiosity, and finally, it demonstrates that you are open to receiving guidance and feedback.

What should I do to start?

The first steps toward finding an internship are similar to the first steps for any job seeker: get your resume and cover letter together, practice interview skills, and prepare yourself for success with basic job skills.

We have a step-by-step guide here for building a great resume, and the jobs site Indeed has a group of free resume templates that we recommend. They also have free cover letter templates and related articles!

As far as interview skills, The Balance Careers says it best: Taking sufficient time to prepare for an interview can help you secure a job offer. You should spend at least seven hours preparing, actually! This time is spent on everything from researching the company, making a list of your skills that match the job, doing practice interviews with friends and family, deciding what to wear and how to style your hair (really!), and knowing what to bring and not to bring to an interview. Gum — no. Extra copies of resume — yes.

So, where can I find an internship in my area?

Finding an internship can feel daunting, but there are many amazing resources that can help! Even in these challenging times, there are opportunities for these real-world experiences. Start with who you already know and local companies you're interested in. Don't be shy about reaching out and inquiring if they have a student intern program in place.

If you're unsure about where to begin, the websites and search engines below are a good starting point in finding an internship in your field of interest, and are separated by region.

Portland Metro area

Saturday Academy (Portland/ Salem/ Eugene)

McMinnville Career Bound Program - internships for graduating seniors; apply now


Salem Inspire Foundation - Volunteer Leadership Internships

Salem Chamber of Commerce - always a good choice to call your local chamber if you can't find exactly what you're looking for!

Central Oregon

Youth CareerConnect serves the Central Oregon communities of Deschutes, Jefferson, and parts of Crook County, pairing students with jobs in local industry. Students can schedule meetings with the director through the YCC website. From the homepage, simply click the Schedule Meeting button and get started on finding an internship!

Eastern Oregon

Southern Oregon

Recruit Hippo serves students in Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties who are seeking internships with local companies and non-profit organizations. This fantastic organization is dedicated to helping connect students with meaningful work experiences in Southern Oregon. From the Students tab, click the Setup Meeting button to get started!

Statewide/Nationwide Internship Searches

Chegg Internships - enter your location and search!

Stanford STEM internships - all remote work! Deadline March 5

NASA Intern - be at least 16 years old and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Deadline March 5

If you need support or have questions, schedule a meeting with your college/career advisor or counselor and we can help you get started on this next step toward finding an internship.

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