From the Archives… Resource Spotlight: Idealist

Originally published April 13, 2009

It’s been awhile since I highlighted a resource for your internship search; it’s about time I changed that. The first resource that I touched on was [Hawk Jobs], UW-Whitewater’s internship/job database. In this post, I want to highlight Idealist, a project of the nonprofit organization Action Without Borders.

Nonprofit organizations, charities, NGOs, government agencies, and universities all use Idealist to post internships. You can search for internship opportunities based on organizations’ area of focus, ranging from children and youth to economic development. The internships listed are located all across the United States and around the globe, with the bulk of opportunities located in the US. You can even perform an advanced search for opportunities and subscribe to an RSS feed of that search. You can then use a feed reader to get updates on new items that meet your search terms.

You can also find volunteer opportunities on Idealist. Volunteer work can be just as valuable as an internship, and it might be the primary way to obtain relevant experience as an undergraduate in some fields (ex. human services).

As I mentioned before, in addition to finding domestic opportunities, you can search for internships and volunteer work all over the world. International experience not only has the potential to be great life experience, but it also enhances your marketability come time to find a full-time job after graduation. A new resource on Idealist is their International Volunteerism Resource Center (IVRC) where they provide information to help you make informed decisions about volunteering abroad. And since the idea of an internship doesn’t always exist in the same way in other countries, volunteering abroad can be an ideal way to gain international work experience. You can also access Idealist in 11 different languages, so you can practice your Spanish language comprehension if you’d like. Maybe I’ll challenge myself to use the site in French from now on.

Idealist is not only a search resource, but it’s an interactive website where organizations and individuals can connect, exchange information and ideas, and learn more about community action. They [support info centers] for a variety of [topics], such as Graduate School and Nonprofit Careers. You can also [connect with Idealist through social media:]


Idealist is in the list of General Internship Search Resources on our Student Internships site.

Internships for Psychology Students

lol-psycat - clinical psycat

Psychology is a popular field to study and it can lead students down a variety of career paths. For some, studying psychology simply lays the foundation for work outside of the human services realm. For others, pursuing a career the human/social services field is the goal. For those pursuing a career in psychology, graduate school is a necessity, not an option.

However, relevant experience as an undergrad is still important. It can help you decide if a career in psychology is right for you. It can help support your application for graduate study. And of course, it’s an important resume-builder that sets the stage for your career.

The trouble is that finding an “internship” in psychology or counseling while an undergraduate student is a challenge. For the most part, “internships” in the field are for grad students only. So what are you to do?

  • Don’t get hung up on titles! The word “internship” has taken on far too much importance. “Internship” is just another way of saying “career-related experience.” If you look at it from that perspective, the types of opportunities you discover will grow. In fact, many small non-profit organizations offer what many would consider to be internships; they just don’t call them by that name. If you disregard opportunities categorized as “volunteer,” you are eliminating a lot of potentially relevant experiences.
  • Look at community service opportunities. More specifically, seek out long-term volunteer placements. Long-term experiences tend to span a full semester or summer, just like an “internship.” Organizations like the UWW Center for Students with Disabilities and the Whitewater area schools offer longer volunteer assignments. It’s nice for them to have continuity in their volunteers, and it’s great for someone looking for a more in-depth experience. You can find opportunities through the UWW Volunteer Clearinghouse.
  • Don’t completely rule out internship postings. Organizations like Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, Community Action, and the Boys & Girls Club often post internships on Hawk Jobs. Some organizations post information on their own websites, so see our growing list of field-specific resources for Nonprofits and Human & Social Services.
  • Conduct some employer sourcing, network, or create your own “internship.” Identify organizations you’d like to work with, through basic research or through your network, and reach out directly to discuss the potential of setting up an internship or volunteer assignment.

While your “internship” might be called something different or be found in a slightly different way, the purpose remains the same. Find an opportunity to perform work related to the work you hope to do as a future professional.

Photo by Kelly Garbato

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Washington DC Is a Fantastic Place for an Internship

Fourth of July in DC - Sarah Suter
Fourth of July in DC

The first month and a half of my internship experience has been amazing! I am continually learning new things and helping others to learn as well. My supervisors as well as other staff at the department are always so encouraging and open to my ideas. There are very few interns from D3 schools such as UW-Whitewater, in fact most interns are attendants of Harvard, Stanford, and Berkley. I was assigned to a team on a different floor of the department, and after doing a great deal of work with them they asked where I attended school. After hearing UW-Whitewater and learning more about it, they were shocked at the work quality and ethic that I had. Literally, they told me that there was not a single intern working on their floor that wasn’t from Harvard or Stanford and that they had pulled me from the Office of the Secretary to do this work because of my previous work quality. It really makes me feel great and proud of my education at UW-Whitewater!

The team and project I have been working on very much falls under the US Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation grant. I have been filing, entering, and redistributing applications for individuals interested in being peer reviewers for this grant process. The grant, in the end, will provide funding to schools that want to invest in their district to move forward for success. I sit in on important meetings and play a rather large role in these meetings because I am the one working behind the scenes, knowing the process and at what stage applications are at.

Sarah Suter's DC Internship - Lincoln Memorial
Sight Seeing – The Lincoln Memorial

Washington DC is a fantastic place for an internship. No matter how long you’ve been in the area working, there are always new things to do or places to see. I still spend weekends sight seeing with my new intern friends. The days can get quite hot, but that’s when a museum always makes for a great option. The one thing that I did venture into while here in DC was flying trapeze lessons. Yes it sounds crazy and quite circus-like, but it honestly is so much fun! A friend convinced me to go and I have gone twice since–I highly recommend it, even if you have a fear of heights like myself!

Sarah Suter on the Trapeze

The most exciting time so far this summer was most definitely the Fourth of July! What could be better than spending the Nation’s birthday near the capital? My friend from home came to visit for the weekend and we spent the day watching the parade, partaking in Fourth of July festivities, and ending the night to the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen!!

In case you missed it, read Sarah’s first post about her DC internship!


Confessions of a Summer Intern: Getting a Virtual Internship

Bored at Work

In her second post, Alysondra Milano shares her tips for finding and securing a virtual internship. Alysondra is currently “virtually” interning with Time at the Table, a nonprofit organization working to promote the reconnection of families around the dinner table. If you missed “meeting” Alysondra, read her introduction post.

In my last post, I went through what virtual internships are and what they can offer you. Let’s go through how to actually get the internship.

Start by searching on websites like you would for any other internship. Some of my favorite places to look include Hawk Jobs and Companies post their internships on these sites and will indicate if they are virtual. Send in your resume but make sure that it is error free since you are applying for a position that will require you to be able to communicate well through writing.

It always helps to connect with something that you like to do. If you are doing work for a cause or brand that you really believe in, it will make it a lot easier to schedule in time to complete your work for them. This is also another great way to find an internship. If you work with a nonprofit or know of a small local company that is having a hard time doing something that you could do from home, offer your services to them.

For example, my [current] internship is in social media. I approached a nonprofit recently about allowing me to do their social media for them. I told them about my experience with Time at the Table (the virtual internship that I have now) and explained how my work there could be applied to their cause. Just ask if you can do the work for free in exchange for college credit and a way to build your resume. The process to get credit is not very hard and takes just a few forms, the consent of an instructor and the consent of the person who will oversee you as an intern.

Also, write, write, write! Since you will not necessarily have a formal interview, most companies ask you to provide them with a writing sample. A great way to have some writing samples on hand is to start blogging. This will keep your writing skills sharp, and blogging may be one thing that the company will expect that you will already be able to do.

Please do your homework as well! When you send your resume, tailor it to the company that you are sending it to. These things may matter even more when they are basing who they will hire off of what they see from your online correspondence. This also shows your attention (or lack thereof) to detail. The company may set up an interview with you (and other candidates) online via Skype. If you know many different platforms, come with ideas tailored to their brand, and know their key messages and values, you will stand out among the competition.

Remember that since you are applying for a position where a brick and mortar presence is not required, that opens the field up to applicants from all over the world – applicants that will be our competition. You would not believe how many people do not follow through on the research portion. I was told after I secured my virtual internship that I was one of only two candidates who applied that took it upon themselves to research the organization and what they stood for. That can make a huge difference and secure you a position over someone who may have more experience, but doesn’t have the follow through that you were able to show!

As long as you show your desire, what services you can provide, and go above and beyond the other candidates, securing that internship will be just the beginning!

Photo Source

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Meet Sarah Suter

Sarah Suter

Sarah Suter will graduate from UW-Whitewater in August 2011 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She starts graduate school at UW-W in the fall, working towards a master’s degree in Professional Development with an emphasis in Educational Leadership. Sarah is interning with the US Department of Education in the Office of the Secretary. Her main internship advisor is Jo Anderson, Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of Education.

I have been a strong advocate for and minor leader in education since at least high school. My dream and goal for the past two years was to be an intern for the US Department of Education. I didn’t care in what office or what specific projects I’d be working on, just the initial experience would be enough.

Through conferences attended and conversations had, putting my passion for this internship out there for leaders in education to know about, I was able to get connected with my current supervisor at the Department of Education, Jo Anderson. I had no idea when I emailed him for the first time how big of a deal he was. After many email correspondences, a couple of conference calls, and a breakfast in Milwaukee, here I am today in Washington, DC! The vital part of getting the internship that you really want is to make the necessary connections and do what it takes. Don’t settle for less if you’re truly keen on attaining it.

My experience has been more that amazing thus far. My first week was a little hectic in the office with the Department of Education having more interns this summer than ever before along with many big meetings and projects going on. Staff was, however, extremely welcoming and enthusiastic for us to begin. Like any other intern, I was extremely anxious, but SO excited to begin my work.

I am three weeks in and have about five co-supervisors in addition to my main supervisor. I am a part of many different teams within the department, such as Early Learning, Labor Management Collaboration, Investing in Innovation, State News, and more. Much of the work I do is confidential since it is yet to be publicized information. It’s a great feeling when you are a part of these teams and all members treat you as a key component of these teams as well. You are adding very important information to the meetings and the teams work to help move the project/initiation, and essentially the department, forward. After sometimes long days, it’s always rewarding to know that I’m doing my part and giving input to help better the education system for America’s youth.

The Lyndon B. Johnson US Department of Education Building
LBJ US Dept of Education Building

At work!
Sarah at Work

Outside of the working hours, which are generally Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm, I have been keeping very busy! Washington, DC is such a beautiful and energetic city with a wide range of things to do and see.

Sarah with Washington Monument

Sarah Site Seeing

Aside from the hours of site seeing and museum touring, interns in the Office of the Secretary like to get together after work on Thursday evenings for “Intern Bonding.” We pick a different “neighborhood” within DC and go to a random restaurant and relax from the workplace. I have also met many friends at the upperclassman dorm I am living in for summer, George Washington University’s City Hall.

Taking the metro everywhere has been an interesting experience, but I finally have it down! You can get near pretty much anywhere you need to get in DC, and the price isn’t too bad either.

The Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro that I take to work each morning.
Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro

Technology has played a huge factor in keeping in touch back home. Thanks to Skype for being able to talk to over 20 family members one night while they were all at my grandpa’s 77th birthday party!


Sarah proves that you can “stay close” – through technology, but still go far!