Not Just for Students
Internships are not solely for undergraduate students or recent grads. These demographics may make up the majority of intern applicants, but professionals further along in their careers also find internships valuable. Many of these professionals are either looking to change fields or have returned to graduate school and are using an internship for experience or academic credit. One of NCIV's interns we both worked with, Mory Pagel, had more than five years of experience in the field of international exchange before applying to NCIV. He had recently returned to graduate school to study international communication and sought an internship to provide him with a professional experience as well as academic credit. It is important, however, for nontraditional internship seekers to read the fine print of internship postings and make inquiries when necessary. Some internship programs accept only current students and recent graduates.
Finding an Internship
Just as you would in a regular job search, cast the net wide when searching for internships. By exploring the full range of internship possibilities, you will know what to look for in terms of tasks, what to settle for in terms of compensation, and be able to better weed out the duds from the true, substantive opportunities. Apply early and often. Application deadlines can often be fluid, so if you see a posting on a database or website such as Idealist.org, check with the specific organization to make sure the details and deadlines haven't changed. Tailor your cover letter and resume to match each specific internship application. If you're applying for a government internship, remember that many positions require a security clearance, which may take anywhere from eight months to a year. Start your search and application process early.
Just as there are a plethora of job sites and search engines that have bloomed on the Web, the websites devoted to helping you find an internship—at home or abroad—have also expanded. Internships .com and Internabroad.com are examples. Many job websites also contain internship listings and will allow you to refine your search to identify them. But are these broad, more generic internship sites the best resources for helping you find your ideal internship in international education, exchange, and development? In much the same manner as your job search, these search engines are a great tool for seeing the range of options. They will help you get a handle on the great breadth of internship opportunities that exist. They will also allow you to search using several different terms or a combination of terms, or, if you have the patience, to scan everything that is listed.
In most cases, however, websites and search engines more closely aligned with your specific internship interests will yield better, more efficient results. For example, if you're interested in an internship with an international nonprofit organization, use Idealist.org. For those interested in international education, the NAFSA.org job and internship registry is an essential resource. If internships in foreign policy or on Capitol Hill are your primary focus, try the Foreign Policy Association's job board or look on HillZoo.com. Inter Action's publication Monthly Developments is a must in the field of international development. Your undergraduate or graduate university e-mail listservs or career center job boards are invaluable sources of internship information.
Of course, direct contact with specific organizations that interest you is irreplaceable. Most organizations list internship opportunities as well as application procedures on their own websites. If an organization with a mission that attracts you does not have internships available, contact them anyway; they may be able to direct you to similar organizations in the field that do.