Summer internship search already underway

By Andrew Shull

Even with snow on the ground and the temperature hovering around the freezing point, students… Even with snow on the ground and the temperature hovering around the freezing point, students planning on landing summer internships should have already started looking.

Internships can be valuable learning experiences, and summer affords many students the opportunity to look for a full-time internship — something they probably don’t have time for during the school year. The application process begins early, but students can expect many benefits from a summer internship.

Applying early

Alyson Kavalukas, the internship coordinator of Pitt’s Career Development Office, said that applications for most internship programs operate a semester in advance.

“A lot of the best opportunities [for the summer] will expire by mid- to late February,” she said in an email.

Even absent of those deadlines, many students start searching for openings early.

Lauren Chapman, the regional communications officer for the southwestern Pennsylvania region of the American Red Cross, said the deadline for applying for the nonprofit’s summer internships is April 15, but the group receives applications as early as December.

She recommended that students thoroughly research the organization to which they’re applying and show a passion for what they want to do.

“If you really want to intern there, it is going to put you far above everyone else,” she said.

Kavalukas said that internships are unique from jobs in that a persistent student can work with an employer to forge a custom internship where one might not have previously existed.

For existing positions, the Career Development Office offers a number of services to aid students in their search. Kavalukas said that students should set up an appointment with a career counselor who can help them find internship opportunities that suit them.

The Office of Career Development also runs FutureLinks, a website that allows students to send their resumés directly to a number of job and internship listings.

Additionally, Pitt’s Office of Student Employment and Placement Assistance will hold a “Summer Survival” Career Fair on April 4. This event, which seeks to pair students with summer jobs and internships, will host 75 different organizations and be open only to Pitt students.

But a potential intern shouldn’t limit herself to the resources on campus. Kavalukas recommends using other Web searches and old-fashioned networking to find an internship.

“Students should be aware that interning does entail certain sacrifices. Most are unpaid positions, and to take an internship for credit over the summer, normal tuition fees apply,” Kavalukas said.

Benefits of the summer internship

Depending on the opportunity, internships can be highly competitive, but once they’re attained they can also be highly beneficial.

Tracy Gray, the public and media relations manager at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, manages interns in her department.

She said that they receive hundreds of applications for 10 to 25 unpaid positions for both office- and animal-based internships.

Gray said that the zoo and aquarium have retained many interns for permanent employment, but, absent of that, students can reap a number of benefits from internships.

“Hopefully they get a good understanding of the field, experience that can help when they graduate and great contacts,” she said.

Kavalukas noted how beneficial internships are for building resumés and getting recommendations, but she also said the experience gives students the opportunity to gauge how well they will do in a given field.

Kavalukas said internships aren’t just one-way; interns should expect certain things out of their employers as well. Employers must provide students with a learning experience and students should expect professionalism and guidance from their supervisors.

Chapman said that she tries to avoid giving interns “typical intern-type tasks,” and instead focuses on teaching. “You want an internship to be a two-way street,” she said. “I think that [student interns] should expect that they will get a valuable experience, but they’re going to contribute.”

Gray was also cognisant of the employer’s responsibility to an intern.

“I think we need to adhere to what we promise them, teach them as much as possible and make them ready. If the employer doesn’t follow through on that, the employer loses and so does the intern,” she said.