Don’t Crack Under the Pressure of Finding an Internship


I have met with several students this semester who have to complete an internship as part of their majors or minors. Some of these discussions have been tough. It’s definitely not the least stressful experience to know that you have to find and secure a very specific work opportunity or risk delaying graduation. As someone who also had to complete an internship as a requirement of grad school, I can feel their pain.

Take away the university requirements for some students to complete an internship and add the societal pressure for ALL students to have some form of career-related work experience prior to graduation. Even if you aren’t in a major or minor that requires an internship, you likely feel some level of pressure to engage in the experience. As time ticks by, be that months or years, the pressure mounts and makes it feel like something you have to do.

On the plus side, completing an internship gives you an advantage. You will have at least one career-related work experience on your resume as you go off into the post-grad job search, definitely making you more competitive against graduates with no such experience. On the downside, the real or implied requirement makes the process of finding or being placed in an internship stressful. You might wind up taking any ol’ opportunity, maybe one you’re not excited about, and approaching it focused on just getting it over with.

In life, there are lots of things that we have to do and things that we want to do. Obviously, we find more motivation to do the things we want to do. So how do you handle the real or implied “have to” to engage in an internship?

  • Seek help. You are not alone when it comes to finding an internship. If you are in a situation where an internship is required for your major or minor, your first point of contact is the faculty internship coordinator in your major/minor department. He/she can discuss potential options for completing the internship – current opportunities or past internship sites. If you aren’t in this requirement situation or if you feel like you need more help than what your faculty internship coordinator can give you, then talk with someone in Career & Leadership Development. We have information on current opportunities and other search resources. We can help you develop a strategy for securing the type of internship you want. Don’t go it alone – we’re here to help.
  • Remember what an internship should be. An internship is a learning experience. Ask yourself what you would want to get out of the experience – besides credit, resume filler, or slack from your parents. If you have gotten caught up in the pressure of securing an internship, take a step back and remember what it’s all about in the first place. You want to gain valuable experience. You want to learn more about the profession. You want to feel more confident about life after graduation. You want to make connections with professionals and build your network. You want to have fun.
  • Listen to other students’ internship stories for inspiration, motivation, or ideas. If you have a friend or classmate who has been an intern and had a great experience, ask him or her some questions about it. If you don’t know anyone who has completed an internship, you can find inspiring stories from UW-W students and beyond:

We are moving into that time of year when “have to” becomes the mantra. You have to buy presents, you have to celebrate a holiday, you have to take exams, etc. While you might actually have to or feel like you have to find an internship, you still have a choice. Think about why you personally would like to engage in an internship. Think about why an internship experience is particularly important in your field. Think about the incredible experiences other students have had. You can have this, too!

Where are you in your internship search?

What challenges are you facing in finding an opportunity?

What keeps you motivated to find an internship?

Photo by 1Happysnapper ( / CC BY 2.0)