January is a great time to start thinking about summer internships, as many internship application cycles open this time of year. The right internship can have a lot to offer you as a graduate student. These short-term, hands-on experiences are a great way to explore potential career paths by trying out a role, organization, or industry. Internships can also be a strategic way to build the experience and connections needed to launch your career.
UChicagoGRAD’s GRAD Global Impact (GGI) “Pitch” internship program is one of the many internship programs with a winter application cycle. The pitch program allows UChicago graduate students to work with organizations of their choice to create custom, self-directed summer internship projects. Students then apply to receive $6,000 in funding from UChicagoGRAD to support their projects. UChicagoGRAD will be hosting information sessions about the pitch program on January 15 and 16, 2020. For more information on the program, please click here.
Still uncertain about whether an internship is right for you? Consider the unique benefits that graduate-level internships provide:
- You will have opportunities to use your academic training to make a broader impact. Unlike undergraduate internships that focus more on building general skills, graduate-level internships are typically project-based experiences that allow you to apply your theoretical knowledge to professional settings. An anthropologist could use their ethnographic training to design studies to help a company become more inclusive; an art historian could utilize their understanding of visual arts to assist with independent film production; or a linguist’s knowledge of multiple languages could help a publishing house translate their texts and grow their readership. At the end of any graduate-level internship, you will have used your academic skillset to contribute meaningfully to your host organization.
- You can become a better researcher/scholar. Are you hesitant about doing an internship because you think it will distract from your research? An internship can actually help you develop your research skills and expertise. Consider looking for internships that build upon the methodological or analytical skills that you are already developing via your disciplinary training. For example, if your research involves work with archives, an internship at a local research library or records repository might help you hone your archival research skills. Internships can also be a valuable way to understand the broader implications of your research, which might in turn affect how you pursue that research in the future. Finally, internships can deepen your expertise in a specific field of study. Whether you intern at a think tank, scientific institute, or museum, you can learn from and network with experts to gain new perspective on your work.
- You will build transferable professional skills. Employers representing over twenty industries recently created a list of key competencies of career readiness. These competencies include critical thinking, communication, teamwork/collaboration, leadership, and professionalism. Sometimes defined as “soft skills,” these professional skills are highly valued in many fields. Academic training helps you develop some of these competencies, but perhaps not all of them. Internships afford you excellent opportunities to round out your skillset. For instance, academic research can be independent, rather than collaborative, in nature. However, most careers outside of academia require you to work with a team of individuals with various strengths. The collaboration and teamwork experience you gain during an internship will help you show employers that you can work well with others at their organization.
- You will make yourself more attractive to a variety of future employers. Whether you currently plan to pursue careers in academia, industry, nonprofits, or government, you likely understand the benefits of having more than one viable option available to you upon graduation. While some internships lead to full-time job offers with host organizations, almost allinternships put you in a better position for attracting future employers. Having graduate-level internship experience on your resume signals a few important things to employers:(1) you have learned and applied skills that are relevant to their sector; (2) you have experience working and interacting in an (often team-based) environment that resembles most workplaces; and (3) you have—unlike some of your peers—put legitimate effort into branching out beyond your academic research.
- You will have opportunities to build your network. Internships are an easy way to establish valuable relationships with professionals in your field. You canmake excellent use of your internship time by conducting internal networking at your host organization. Introduce yourself to people you do not know by the water cooler and ask to learn more about their work over coffee. You can also ask your supervisor to introduce you to coworkers in other departments. And, of course, you can build relationships with your fellow interns. Even after finishing your internship, you can stay in touch with your new connections and perhaps be the first to know when your ideal job comes open. These kinds of professional connections can be an important source of support for everything from career advice to job recommendations in the years to come.