During winter break, students can get ahead in summer internship hunt

December 13, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Although college students may want to view winter break as a time to relax and unwind from the stresses of fall semester, savvy students know better. They use those weeks off to be productive and proactive about finalizing details of an ever-present topic in the back of students' minds: internships.

"It’s never too early to start looking for summer internship positions," said Bob Orndorff, associate director of Penn State Career Services and affiliate assistant professor of counselor education. "Over winter break is the latest you should be starting."

"I suggest beginning the internship search in late November or early December by researching different companies that you would like to work for and what the different internship programs have to offer," said Kristin DeRosa, a senior majoring in public relations from Freehold, N.J., and current president of Penn State’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. "It's a good time to spend doing the research and trying to find the right fit." Last summer she completed a paid internship with a healthcare public relations firm in New York City.

"Try to pull together as much information as possible, and finalize resumes, recommendations and writing samples during winter break so that you can submit the final applications while we have a break from classes," DeRosa added. "By having the internship applications completed over winter break, you can come back to school and start the spring semester off waiting to hear about interviews."

The break from classes is the ideal opportunity for students to complete what Orndorff calls a "targeted, proactive email campaign."

"We recommend students research their top 10 company choices big-time," Orndorff said. "Determine what are the company’s core values and where has the company appeared in the news, then use this information to craft an individualized and targeted email regarding an internship position you’re interested in. Be proactive by including your resume and cover letter and state that you will follow up with a phone call. This will help set you apart from other candidates interested in the same internship position."

Penn State students, connected to the largest living alumni association in the country, have networking opportunities to a vast number of alumni contacts in varied fields of interest.

"Students can use winter break to network with Penn State alumni in an exploratory meeting," said Orndorff. "Before leaving campus, students can utilize one of our career counselors to assist in finding an alumnus or alumna in a local alumni chapter who has experience in their field of interest. Students should view the alumni meeting as exploratory and informational and use this as a time to ask questions and receive advice. Toward the end of the meeting, using a soft approach, students can inquire about possible internship opportunities the alum may be aware of."

DeRosa agreed that students should take advantage of the Penn State alumni network. "There are so many people that students can connect with who will help them with career advice and professional development," she said. "I've surrounded myself with a solid group of Penn State alumni who are doing what I want to be doing one day, and it's a great feeling to have strong connections and mentors who are helping me prepare for my future."

Over the years, Penn State Career Services staff have compiled a wealth of accessible, free resources and information to help students complete internship searches from start to finish. Individual staff resources range from the career librarian, who will assist in finding internship opportunities all over the country and world, to career counselors, who provide internship advice and cover letter and resume guidance.

Following recent news events affecting Penn State, some students have expressed concern about the effect it may have on their internship opportunities. However, Orndorff says at this point, he is not aware of any student who has lost an internship offer for that reason. He provided students with suggestions for how to respond to interview questions related to the scandal.

"This situation has not changed the quality of the faculty and students at Penn State and has reaffirmed the importance of honesty in every situation," Orndorff said. "Obviously, the actions of a few individuals do not define the university nor its students."

For further information about Penn State Career Services, visit http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/career/ online.

(Media Contacts)

Kelly Newburg

Last Updated December 13, 2011