Planning to Get an Internship

Ann Forsyth's picture

It's winter break for many northern hemisphere planning students so time to start planning for next summer's internship. I have previously blogged about "making the most of an internship": Here I briefly talk about the practicalities of getting one.

The first step is to scout options. The end of fall semester is the time of year to visit the career services office at your college or university. They may have internship listings already. But also consider finding out about alumni in the locations or subject areas that you are investigating for an internship. Think of alumni from your department but also those from other fields-like engineering, architecture, or public policy-that might hire planners.

I am a proponent of selective informational interviewing-setting up a half hour conversation with someone to find out about opportunities in the area, what they look for in employees, and to gain general advice about how to prepare for the work world. The winter break is a great time to do this. Don't expect everyone to  be prepared to give you such an interview, however, as it's quite time consuming. Your university's career services office may know of people who are more willing to do this; your faculty members might also be good sources for names. Such interviews can give you local information and if you do well the person may remember you in the future and pass along opportunities.

Then in the first part of the spring semester it's time to follow up on leads. Some internships may be advertised. You may have leads from your informational interview. You can also polish your resume.

By spring break you may have interviews for potential internships. If not you can also do a second round of informational interviews and extend your search into April and May. If the internship looks like it will be unpaid you can start to organize course credit for it and paid work to keep you afloat. I have also previously blogged that paid work in a factory or office may be better than a loosely supervised internship in terms of your long-term plans. Such work can demonstrate important work skills like team spirit, responsibility, and communications: These are all part of a core planning skill set: Either way it's good to start early enough to have options lined up by late spring.

This is November's post, rather late.


Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.


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