To the incoming (or relatively new) undergraduate student, the mere idea of applying to an internship can seem daunting — particularly for those who haven’t decided on their majors yet. Speaking from personal experience, I spent the majority of my freshman and sophomore years just trying to wrap my head around which subjects to study. Only afterward did I think about applying to internships.
However, a student doesn’t even really need to be in their major yet to start thinking about finding internships. In fact, I would encourage pre-major students to start looking for them immediately just to get a sense of what sort of marketable skills and traits are desired by employers. Recruiters don’t just look at a student’s major, they also look at their skills, qualifications, and work experience.
This is not to say that students should start applying to internships haphazardly. Instead, start going through the motions of finding one to get familiar with the process, so you can then improve your chances of success in the future.
Luckily, there are a plethora of resources available to UW students that can help you get started.
1) Career & Internship Center
The UW’s Career & Internship Center, located in Mary Gates Hall room 134, is the perfect place for both pre-major students and students already in their majors to start developing their paths to future careers. It’s a one-stop shop for all your career-building needs.
There is an abundance of insightful career development resources available to students, such as drop-in or by-appointment one-on-one career coaching sessions, small group coaching sessions, online resume reviews, meetings with UW alumni via LinkedIn or in-person, and various other workshops and events held every week.
Jon Olivera, a career coach at the UW Career & Internship Center, reinforced the idea that it was better for students to start thinking about internship opportunities as soon as possible.
“It’s better for students to just take the initiative and come to a drop-in session at the career & internship center to demystify the process,” Olivera said. “It’s worth noting that there are employers who want to recruit freshmen and sophomores as well.”
The Career & Internship Center utilizes the career networking website Handshake, which functions as the intersection between recruiters, career centers, and students. It’s the flagship platform for finding internships at the UW, and for good reason. Handshake lets universities and employers connect with a single click via a quick-apply option, potentially leading to high-quality networking opportunities for students and employers.
2) Internships via your major
It’s important to note that while most major programs offer internships in some form or another (i.e. internship boards or e-mail notifications about opportunities), not every program offers guided career development assistance. There are only two undergraduate majors at the UW — business and engineering — that offer services via their career centers.
Both the EY Center for Undergraduate Career Advancement at the Foster School of Business and the Career Center @ Engineering at the UW College of Engineering offertheir students a large selection of services that include counseling, career exploration, portfolio and resume guidance, networking opportunities, and career-related skill development through a variety of workshops and events. Both of these career centers encourage the use of Handshake accompanied by their career-building practices.
According to the EY Center for Career Advancement business development manager, Chris Milliken, there are 98 career-related events for employers just at Foster alone — 23 of those being virtual events.
“The earlier that we can help get students exposed to career exploration, the better off they will be once they do start exploring these options,” Milliken said. “By attending these events, students have the opportunity to stand out among their peers by making valuable, genuine connections.”
The Career Center @ Engineering also houses theEngineering Internship Program, which allows students and employers to connect for real-world experience prior to graduation.
While not every major has a dedicated career center, students shouldn’t be discouraged, almost every major offers internship opportunities, along with undergraduate advisers that can help you learn more about where and how to find them.
3) Third-party career networking websites
Of course, there is no reason to only use the resources made available by the UW. With a quick Google search of “career networking websites,” you’ll find that there is no shortage of opportunities for students to seek out and find jobs and internships. Many career networking websites, such as Indeed or Monster even report salaries based on your desired career. Other websites such as, LinkedIn or ZipRecruiter, have quick-apply options that allow users to send their resume to recruiters with just a few clicks of a button.
4) Career fairs
Finally, it’s time to put your skills to the test. Once you’ve prepared your resume and have received sufficient knowledge on how to market yourself to potential employers, you can start talking to recruiters. Career fairs present great networking opportunities, so you should treat these events as if they were real job interviews and not simply a place to gauge your interest in a company. Luckily, there is no shortage of career fairs at the UW. On the Seattle campus alone, there are over 40 career fairs offered per year, which can be found on the Career & Internship Center event page.
Don’t be afraid to try something that you’re unfamiliar with. The point of career exploration is to get out of your comfort zone and to start viewing yourself as a potential employee. Don’t rush through the process. Take time to build your resume, get yourself exposed to different companies and industries, and find out what truly ignites your passion.
Reach contributing writer Daniel Ko at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @__danielko
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