I expect that few graduate students embark on a Master’s or PhD degree without having an occupational end-goal in mind. We here at Gradifying have been focused this month on writing about career preparation. Career Week here at Queen’s finished this month, and Jeremy summarized some of the tips that he walked away with. Although Career Week can’t possibly be expected to make as many headlines as Homecoming, it was a success this year, and I hope some of our readers were inspired to take in a couple talks. In several graduate programs, there is an extra step between thesis defence and graduation – internship. Today’s post is going to suggest some ways to be the best internship applicant you can be.
For professional programs, internships are a critical part of getting the training you need for your prospective career. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, desirable internships in many programs are getting more difficult acquire. This means that to be a strong candidate, you will need to begin preparing long before you start filling out applications. Here are some tips to consider to prepare yourself for internship well in advance.
Choose your track. Many programs have different tracks. In my program (Clinical Psych), we eventually need to declare whether we will be working with adults or children and adolescents (or both). There are also a number of different areas of specialization, and various internship sites typically reflect these different areas. Once you have decided on your area, you can begin tailoring your activities. For example, you can find out how many hours you should log and the types of experiences needed to be a good candidate in that area. Your program will likely have required practica. Select these according to your internship goals.
Track your hours. Applications usually want to know, not only your experience, but also how many hours you have completed. Learn early in your program which types of hours are program-sanctioned and how those hours are divided, and keep good track of them. After several years of work, it can be a daunting task to sort it all out (… I should know).
Once you start getting ready to begin the application process…
Learn about the Internship sites. Look at your career goals and find the internship programs that will best help you meet those goals. Go to their websites and download their internship brochures. You may want to know more about their site than is available in their brief brochure. Contact the programs you are interested in early to request additional information you would like to have about them.
Apply Broadly. You want the best internship site for you. That being said, you want to get an internship, so make sure that you are not only applying to the most competitive internship sites. If your top choices are highly sought-after, you will want to apply for some less competitive sites for more assurance that you will have a successful application.
Create an application timeline. You may be applying to between 10 and 25 internship programs, which means you need to be organized. Make a chart with all of the tasks that are required for each program and when the applications are due. It’s not a lot different from every other project we do, but the stakes are high so you don’t want to leave anything to the last minute.
Contact References in advance. “Hi Dr. Smith. I have 15 internship applications due in a couple weeks and I was hoping you would be a reference for me,” is not going to make you look like a shining star. Contacting potential referees early (several months in advance) is good for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it gives the impression that you are on top of things.
Start early! There are usually several essays to write, you will need to update your CV, and there are likely many other documents you will need to prepare. Give yourself enough time to write several drafts of these documents and ask your colleagues and supervisor for feedback.
Prep for Interviews! If your program has an interview process, create a list of questions you think you might be asked and come up with point-form answers. Read over your answers and practice with colleagues, friends, and faculty members.
Lower your Workload. The application for internship is a monster process, so plan to take time off of other commitments. It’s more effective to allow focused application time than to spread it out.
Every stage of the graduate process is a challenging one, but applying for internship is one of the last challenges before you start working in the career you have been training for! If you have any comments that might help your fellow readers in the internship application process, please comment below!