Finding an Internship

Internship Benefits
Prepare Your Documents

Identify Your Priorities

Finding Opportunities
Identify Your Skills
Set Your Timeline

Internship Benefits 

Individuals participate in internships for a wide variety of reasons. Internships can help you to:

  • Gain valuable work experience and learn new skills.
  • Explore different career options.
  • Learn more about your skills, values and special talents, as well as likes and dislikes in a work environment.
  • Network and learn from professionals in the field(s) you are considering.
  • Obtain valuable work references for future employment - maybe even get a permanent job offer!

Identify Your Priorities

Be sure to focus your search through self-analysis. Narrowing the scope of your search will focus your efforts as you research internship options and can assist you in breaking your search into manageable pieces. What do you want from the internship?

  • An opportunity to learn more about a particular field or industry?
  • Experience with a particular employer?
  • Work in a certain geographic region?
  • The chance to provide community service and/or public service?
  • Earning enough money to pay for tuition?

Identify Your Skills

What do you have to offer a prospective employer?

  • Skills: analytical, verbal, graphic, design, quantitative, artistic, interpersonal, linguistic, technological, etc.
  • Qualities: cheerful, diligent, reflective, energetic, compassionate, patient, etc.
  • Experiences: work experiences, extracurricular activities, travel, volunteer work, etc.

Set Your Timeline

  • Industries vary greatly in when they start to recruit for interns.  Many fields, such as communications, law, research, politics, arts and culture, etc. generally start application the process at the beginning of the spring semester or slightly later in the semester (generally before spring break). 
  • Businesses and technical organizations (including many banks, consulting firms, and technology firms) have increasingly been recruiting in the fall for interns to start the following summer. Investment banks particularly have started recruiting extremely early (often opening applications during the summer BEFORE the internship) so students should be sure to explore the timelines for the industries of interest to them. Most on-campus recruiting interviews for internships will take place in October and November, although employers are welcome to interview on campus during the spring semester if they would like. Because of the early timeline for internship interviews, many employers have begun hosting information sessions and coffee chats for students in the spring semester before the interviews. (In other words, over a year before the actual start of the internships.)  Students (particularly sophomores) should try to attend these on-campus sessions if possible to begin to build relationships with employers of interest to them. 
  • We continue to receive internship announcements throughout the year, so it is possible to find internships as late as May and June. Don't give up looking even if it is later in the season.

Prepare Your Documents


  • Your resume is the keystone of your internship application. It is a one-page document that presents your educational background, work and volunteer experiences, extracurricular activities, and skills. To get started, visit our online resume guide and/or view our online resume workshop at your convenience.

Cover Letter

  • This is a one-page business-style letter that accompanies (nearly) every resume you send to prospective employers. It serves as an introduction, telling the employer who you are and why you are sending a resume. Your letter enables you to highlight the special features of your education and experience that qualify you for a particular position or organization, as well as communicate why you are interested in a position with a specific employer and/or in a particular field. It also serves to demonstrate your writing skills. Once you send your materials, be sure to follow up with a phone call or email a week or two later to confirm the receipt of your materials, reiterate your interest in the position, and inquire about interview opportunities and/or the employer's hiring timeline. To get started, visit our online cover letter guide.  


  • Some employers request transcripts (official or unofficial). For an unofficial transcript, visit your Penn-In-Touch account and cut and paste your unofficial transcript onto a new Word document. Be sure to add your name to each page, and do not alter anything on the document. For an official transcript, visit the Registrar's Office.

Writing Samples

  • Unless indicated otherwise, writing samples should be brief (a 2-5 page paper or project, a 2-5 page excerpt from a paper or project, a newspaper article, etc.) and relate in theme and/or style to the internship opportunity. More information on writing samples click here.

List of References

  • On this document, include names, titles, contact information, and the nature of your relationship with people who know you well and can speak to your abilities, character, and interests. You only need to include these with your initial application if requested.  Typically references are only checked for the finalists for a position.

 Finding Opportunities

Online Job Listings

  • Career Services' online databases Handshake (job and internship database for Penn only) and iNet (a consortium of peer schools that share internship listings) are excellent places to start your search.
  • On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) is also a great place to find internship opportunities. Employers visit campus most freqently in October and November to recruit directly for summer positions, although some opt to come during the spring semester. OCR is generally most heavily used by business-related or technical organizations.
  • Other great resources on the Career Services homepage include the Digital Career Resources link from the Career Services homepage. (Internship specific online resources include access to and
  • Try keyword searching on a job aggregator such as which allows you to search by keyword ("marketing intern") and location "Washington, DC).


  • Connecting with people you know or have contact with is one of the best methods for conducting any type of job search. Information about internship opportunities is often spread by word-of-mouth.
  • Utilize the large network you already have in place: family, friends, neighbors, professors, TAs, classmates, alumni, former employers, members of professional organizations, etc. Contact people in your network, let them know what you're looking for, and seek their guidance and advice.
  • Remember that you're not asking for an internship, but rather, for suggestions and ideas for connecting with employers and organizations. Be sure to let your contacts know the results of any suggestions you followed and thank them for their time.
  • The QuakerNet Alumni Directory is an excellent source of alumni contacts and is searchable be a variety of parameters.  Students may also want to try the alumni search on LinkedIn ( to find alumni in their field(s) of interest. 
  • Use the Penn Internship Network which lists students willing to speak with others about their internship experiences.


Directly contacting employers to inquire about summer opportunities is another method to find an internship. Here are some tips:

  • Identify organizations of interest including those you've heard about in the news or in classes, encountered in research, or learned about through experience with their products or services.
  • Conduct research on the employer through informational interviewing, reading employer literature and websites, and/or researching the employer in the news. For tips on informational interviews, visit our Networking page.
  • Think about the ways your education, skills, and abilities could match well with the needs of the employer.
  • Call the organization or review their website to determine the name of the person to whom to send your resume and cover letter. This person may be in the human resources department or in the functional area in which you wish to work (for example, the marketing director).
  • Prepare a personalized cover letter and follow up with a phone call or email once the employer has received your materials.



  • Contact the people with whom you've networked to find out what they know about the organization for which you want to work, or the specific position you've seen posted.
  • Contact the company to find out more information about the position and job application procedure(s). If appropriate, call the organization for which you hope to work, or one that has listed a position (as long as it doesn't say "no phone calls") to find out more about the position. If you do not have a contact name, call Human Resources, or go directly to the department or unit that interests you. Prepare a thoughtful list of questions that you'd like to have answered. Be prepared to talk about yourself and your qualifications.


  • Finalize your resume and cover letter. Armed with a depth of understanding about the organization and the position, along with the name of the right person to write to, you will need to prepare an individualized cover letter for every position you apply for. The Career Services Web site has excellent information on writing cover letters. You might also consider tailoring your resume to emphasize your skills and experiences that will speak most directly to the specific jobs for which you apply. We'll be happy to critique your materials as you need us to.


  • Figure out who is the best person to send your resume and cover letter to. If the contact name or recruiter is not stated on a job listing, generally you want to address your resume to the senior-most person who is in the position to make a hiring decision. Typically, this will be a department head, manager, etc., which you discover through the "identifying employers" phase of your search. Sometimes this will be the Human Resources Department, but often is not. Use the organization's website or contact the organization to determine whom should be the recipient of your letter.
  • Send out your cover letter and resume to those employers you've identified through networking, library research, and job listings. Often these applications can be sent via email unless otherwise noted.  Many employers now request that applicants for both full-time jobs and internships apply via their websites.  If so, make sure to follow-their instructions.


  • Follow up your cover letter and resume with either a phone call or email one to two weeks after they've been received. Confirm that your materials arrived and express interest in the opportunity. As appropriate (i.e. the employer may not have the time to go into depth during your call or in an email), inquire about the position, the employer's timeframe, interview opportunities, etc.


  • Prepare in advance for your interview. Check out Interviewing Tips from the Career Services website. Attend an interviewing workshop and consider scheduling a mock interview with a Career Services advisor.
  • Write thank-you notes. Follow up every informational interview, telephone interview, and actual job interview with a thank-you note. If you want us to, we'll be happy to review drafts. Tip: Though this may seem burdensome, thank-you notes make a big difference and are always received positively. You may send them via US mail or email.

Remember Career Services is here to help!

  • Contact the Career Services Office to meet with a career advisor.  (Click here for contact information.) During an appointment with a Career Advisor, you can go over search strategies or any questions you have about the internship search process. We also offer mock interviews, critiques of resumes and cover letters, workshops and programs on career fields and job searches, and much more.