Do I Need a Summer Internship?

by Crissy Iglesias, College Team Graduate Assistant

Summer internship season is here, and if you visit on Career Services on any given day, you’ll find students coming in to chat with one of our counselors looking for guidance on the summer internship and opportunities search. I recently had a discussion with some of my residents about how it seems like “everyone” had their summer internship already, and they were concerned about how to pursue their own path.

What is a summer internship?

In this post, I’ll use the phrase summer internship for brevity’s sake, but the term is more all -encompassing than that. “Summer internship” doesn’t just mean working for the corporate world. It can be a research experience working with a professor on a subject you’re passionate about, or it can be working for a non-profit or social impact organization. The term is as limited as your imagination. If you check out the Penn Internship Network, our database of Penn students and information about their summer experiences, you’ll see the depth and breadth of opportunities Penn students pursued over the past summer. Feel free to search by keyword or major and poke around – the results can be illuminating!

When should I get my internship?

This is probably the question I get most frequently in my appointments, and I’m always happy to clear up misconceptions about timelines. Honestly, as the search is a very individual endeavor, the answer varies by person and organization. If you check out our Career Plans Survey Report on Summer Internships for 2013, you’ll notice that the majority of Penn students received their summer internships in the time frame of February-May, with a noticeable peak in March-April. So if you’ve been worried about being behind in your search process, fear not! As past years clearly illustrate, there’s still plenty of time for a successful search.

What do I do now?

Use your spring break (and the next few weeks) as a time for some introspection and information gathering. Think about what you really want to get out of your summer. Is it that you want to explore a new or existing career interest? Do you want to volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about? Do you want to travel and experience a place you’ve never been before? In higher education, we only get one summer per year, so it’s important that you really reflect about what you want to gain from this period.

Once you’ve determined what paths you’d be interested in pursuing, it’s time for information gathering and research. Peruse the Penn Internship Network to see what Penn students have pursued in the past, or check out our Resources by Career Field page for industry-specific tips and search tools. Know a friend who did something interesting last summer, or someone who works in a field that you’d like to know more about? Ask if you can have an informational interview with them to get more insights into their experience, and find out how you can pursue something similar. (Never heard of informational interviewing? Find out more about what it means and how to go about it.)

What’s next?

If you’re not sure how to get started or if you need help with any part of your search, please connect with us to schedule an appointment or drop by for walk-ins. We’re always happy to provide guidance on resources, where to look for opportunities, and once you’ve identified some positions you’d like to pursue, how to craft that perfect resume or cover letter or nail that interview.

Happy searching!