Career Center M30

Internship Basics

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  • Career Center
    202-885-1804
    Fax: 202-885-1861
    careercenter@american.edu
    Butler Pavilion, Room 5th Floor

    Monday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Tuesday 9:00 am - 8:00 pm
    Wednesday 9:00 am - 8:00 pm
    Thursday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
    Friday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

    Fernando, Gihan S
    Executive Director-Career Center

Mailing Address

The Path to Internships

One of the greatest advantages to studying in Washington, D.C. is the unparalleled access that you have to internships. These opportunities enable you to enrich your education with hands-on experience and to apply lessons learned in the classroom to professional settings.

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Half of the time, interns report that their experiences affirm their career aspirations. However, learning what you dislike in a position, organization or industry is equally valuable. So too is developing new skills, expanding your list of achievements, and building relationships with professionals.

The more internship experience you have, the more qualified you will likely be for other internships and jobs. Therefore, start interning as early as you can and explore a wide variety of opportunities.

High Quality Employers

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In-depth Reflection

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Intern for credit guidelines

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Steps Along The Way

When applying for internships or weighing your options, determine the importance of the factors below and pursue opportunities that best match your interests, objectives, needs, and availability. You may also talk with your career advisor to better understand the process of securing an internship and making the most of it.

Substance

Although some administrative duties are still included, internships have come a long way from solely fetching coffee and photo copying. Most employers today offer students challenging assignments and valuable industry and organizational insights. If you excel in your position, you may walk away with tangible work samples, glowing recommendations, and even a job offer at the conclusion of your internship.

Academic Credit

AU students may earn academic credit for internships that are approved by faculty and academic advisors. This unique opportunity enables you to gain hands-on experience that directly relates to your course work and gives you a competitive advantage because some employers require students to earn academic credit but not all universities grant it.

Mentorship

Students who rave about their internship experiences often attribute their satisfaction to having great supervisors or mentors who coach them through projects, share industry knowledge, and provide constant encouragement. As an intern, seek out a mentor and build relationships with supervisors or colleagues who may serve as references or help you network to find your next internship or job.

Organizational Culture

Common aspects of an organization’s culture include its mission, goals, workplace values, and procedures. Interning offers you the opportunity to determine your likes and dislikes and prepares you to search for full-time employment with an organization in which you’ll fit. 

Compensation

Naturally, most students seek paid internships. On average, however, only 40% of internships offer hourly wages or stipends. If you can afford to accept an unpaid internship, search for opportunities that offer other benefits such as substantive projects, extensive training, access to special events, and free food or beverages in the office; Career Center advisors refer to these opportunities as "high quality internships." Also keep in mind that you may earn academic credit and compensation at the same time.

Down The Home Stretch

Landing an internship moves you in the right direction. Now, consider these additional tips to maximize your experience. 

Communicate

From your interview to your exit, actively listen and summarize what you hear, be inquisitive and ask questions for clarification, keep your supervisor informed about your progress and activities, seek feedback and receive it in a gracious, professional manner.

Initiate

Don’t wait for assignments during a lull. See what needs attention and offer to help.

Respect

From the executives on down, show respect for all of your colleagues and value each person’s contributions.

Reflect

Take the time to think about what you’re learning - not just about the organization, industry, or projects, but about yourself.

Thank

Appreciate the opportunities and support that you receive throughout your internship and always send a farewell message to your colleagues, not just your supervisor, extending your gratitude for the experience. In turn, your supervisor may show thanks to you by offering a letter of recommendation for you to share with future employers.