Special Report: Finding an Excellent Internship

How to Land an Excellent Business Internship
Michael P. Griffin
Internship Director
Charlton College of Business
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Internship programs at colleges are run by administrators - deans, department chairs, internship directors and career planning coordinators.  I am one of those administrators and when students at our business college want an internship they get in touch with me because I am the internship director. The question I often get from these students is: "Can you find me an internship?" My answer is usually something like: "No - but I can tell you how you can go about starting a process that may lead to you landing an internship." I cannot place students into internships.  There just aren't enough internships to go around and to find a suitable one takes some time and effort.
Researching and identifying an internship that might be suitable for a particular student is a process and usually requires more time and preparation than most students realize. You must remain patient and positive; great leads may come at any time and from a variety of sources.  Knowing what sources to look at and to tap into is half the battle and that is the purpose of this special report; learning how to utilize various sources of internship leads.
Use Your Imagination and Connect with Professionals
Imagine the various possibilities from which an internship lead may come. Find ways to be in touch; connected to employers. Be creative and take advantage of any opportunities that give you the chance to communicate with an employer. I encourage students to search on their own; to explore what is out there and to come back to me with proposals. One thing that all business students should know is that many employers are looking for interns and many others could be easily convinced that an internship is a good idea.
You can make your own luck with landing an internship by being aggressive in your search. In our region there is a beer maker by the name of Narragansett (www.narragansettbeer.com). A product of nearby Rhode Island, Narragansett Beer was very popular during the 1950s and 60s and was a sponsor of Boston Red Sox games on television.  I can still hear the advertising slogan, "Hi, Neighbor, have a 'Gansett!," most famously uttered by Boston Red Sox announcer Curt Gowdy.  During the later part of the 2oth century, Narragansett fell on tough times and the Rhode Island brewery was closed and brand was eventually acquired in 2005 by a team of local Rhode Island investors led by former CEO of Nantucket Nectars Mark D. Hellendrung.  I noticed that Mr. Hellendrung was giving a talk at one of our business events and ironically, a student contacted me about an internship with Narragansett.  I suggested that the student show up at Mr. Hellendrung's talk and the young man did just that. He listened to Hellendrung's discussion, asked great questions, and after the presentation approached Mr. Hellendrung with a business card and a request for an internship.  That type of behavior can land a student a dream internship.
If you want to maximize your chances of landing a great internship then don't wait for an opportunity to show up on your college's web site. A great number of successful internships happen because students find them by their own means. Sometimes we have almost nothing to do with students landing the perfect internships. Many times these are the best situations in part because the student digs to uncover them and then develops a real sense of ownership with the internship. I have had students work with our career resource center to find a good opportunity or send resumes to area companies. I have had students uncover great opportunities by leaving their resumes and our internship brochure with business back in their home towns.
One student landed an excellent fall semester accounting internship with a regional CPA firm that was about 30 miles from our campus. She was the first student from our school to successfully complete an internship with that firm and by Thanksgiving of her senior year, was assured a well paying full-time job with that firm. That’s a success story that I always recall when students ask me how to uncover good opportunities.
If you are interested in landing a great internship you will need to do some research and you will need to hustle. Internships are competitive situations. The opportunity probably won’t be handed to you. Professors, deans, internship directors and others at your school can sometimes advocate for you or recommend you to an employer for an internship position. However, don’t count on that. You need to be proactive, prepared, and eager.
Career Planning Office, Faculty, and Student Peers
It is true that local employers and sometimes national firms, contact university career planning offices, business deans and department chairs, and faculty with requests for interns. Area employers contact our college with internship opportunities almost weekly. In turn, these opportunities are promoted to business students via email, web site postings and word of mouth. Faculty make announcements in class and our student advisors point students in the right direction. So by a variety of communications, interested students are informed about the various internship opportunities. But the number of internship opportunities that show up at the doorstep of a college or university is never enough to meet the demand.  For example, our program grants credit to about 100 internships each year.  Our junior and senior business majors are eligible to do an internship for credit and there are about 800 of them.
Some schools such as the world famous Fuqua School of business at Duke University solicit the assistance of students who have already gone through the process of landing an internship. Each year the career management center at Duke selects sixty or so students that are career fellows—second-year students that have already been through the job-search process and have had successful summer internships. They work with the first-year students, by industry and functional area, on résumés, cover letters, and mock interviews. Peers helping interested students find solid internships are one possibility and Duke has mastered that approach in a very formal process.  Less formal processes of peer help can come about by active involvement in college clubs and associations.  More on the peer approach later in a subsequent section of this report.
If your school has an internship director, meet with him or her to find out how internship announcements are made. Are they blasted out via email, posted on a blog, entered into a software system, or set up on the web? If your college has a career resource center, visit the center and find out how they can help you land a good internship. There are people at your school that have a passion for internships. Identify who they are and begin to work with them to uncover great opportunities. But keep in mind that the most you can hope for is guidance. You will need to do most of the work.
Think about the type of internship that will help you meet your personal goals. Think about your reasons for wanting an internship. Make a list of your interests, skills, career aspirations, and what exactly you want to accomplish in the 15 weeks or so that you will be interning. For example, for an accounting student planning on a career in public accounting, an internship with a local CPA firm or a summer internship with one of the national firms makes sense. However, if an accounting major wants to go into management accounting, an internship as a staff accountant or internal auditor might make more sense.
Know What You Want
Know what you want in an internship.  Ask yourself some more questions:
  • What do I want to get out of an internship?
  • Do I want to work during the summer or the fall or spring semesters?
  • Can I afford an unpaid internship?
It may be that your search for an internship will have constraints. There may be a particular semester that makes the most sense or it might be that you need to be paid to keep afloat. Constraints are part of life. Identify your constraining factors and focus your search appropriately. If you give yourself enough time, utilize the right resources and work hard enough, you will find and opportunity that will match up well with what you want to accomplish.
Working Your Search
I can’t emphasize the need to be proactive in your search. Don’t wait for someone to find you an internship. One of the valuable aspects of an internship is that you call some of the shots. You have a chance to be proactive and shape your learning experience right from the start. Explore possibilities on your own. I tell students to review job listings in the Sunday classified ads of our local papers: the Boston Globe, Providence Journal, New Bedford Standard Times, and the Fall River Herald News. Those are the papers in our region that list job openings. Although companies rarely advertise internships in the newspaper, you may discover a contact person to whom you can send your own cover letter and resume inquiring or proposing an internship. Developing “leads” is a key to landing your own internship. Consider sending a letter of inquiry and your resume to prospective employers. An example inquiry letter is contained towards the end of this chapter.
Search online job banks for internships. Perhaps your career resource center can help you learn how to do this. A service such as MonsterTrak.com is a useful portal for students looking for the first job or an internship. Since online services are updated each day, you need to visit frequently and respond quickly to any internship opportunities that interest you.
Attend a career fair (on campus or off campus) and discuss your desire to land a great internship with recruiters. Some employers will be only interested in students who can work full-time or who are on the verge of graduating. However, some employers will recognize talent when they see it and be open to developing an internship. Keep in mind that companies that participate in job fairs are trying to recruit talent and an internship is definitely a recruiting tool; and a low risk one at that. Follow-up any potential leads that you cultivate at a job fair with a resume and cover letter.
Let your business professors, your parents, and your parents’ colleagues, friends, and neighbors know that you are looking for an internship. They know people in the industry who may be looking for an intern. Accounting professors know practitioners, operations management faculty know people who run factories, and marketing professors know people who run advertising agencies. These are valuable contacts and part of a faculty member’s job should be to connect students with the business community.
By getting the word out to your network of contacts, which includes your parents and any working adult that you know, you increase your odds of finding the right internship. Many business professors have contacts with businesses and nonprofits and your parents and other working adults have networks of contacts that can come up with internships.
Student Peers as a Source of Internship Leads
Talk to other students who have completed internships. Your peers are a great source of information regarding internships. They can give you firsthand knowledge about the employer and whether they think the experience was worth the time and effort. Networking through fellow students, parents, and friends can be the best way to land a great internship. This is a powerful internship network at our college. Students who complete successful internships tell their friends. I receive countless emails and phone calls from students who tell me their friend completed an internship at XYZ Corporation and recommended the experience.
Have Business Cards Made
Have business cards made that you can hand out to people that you meet.  Despite all the publicity about Facebook and LinkedIn and how connecting with people is effective through the virtual world, the old fashion practice of giving out a business card is still an effective means of making a contact. Companies like Vista Print (www.vistaprint.com) and Staples Office Supply stores periodically offer free business cards. Vista print typical gives away 250 copies of a basic business card as a way of introducing customers to its online services.  A business card and a well done resume is an absolute must for your bag of tricks.
Subscribe to email Alerts
Subscribe to an email alert service that can tell you when an internship posting has been made on the web. I subscribe to one through a web site called Indeed.com and it has been quite fruitful. They send me an email once a day based on the keywords. For example, I receive an email alert for any web job posting that included the words: “Internships in Massachusetts.” As a result, I have been able to alert our business students to internship openings with companies such as State Street Bank, Proctor and Gamble, the New England Patriots, Nike, Reebok, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, just to name a few.
Prepare Your Own Mailing List
If you are interested in finding your own internship, one strategy you can try is to send a letter of inquiry and your resume to companies and organizations in the region. Finding a mailing list of companies is the key. You can use the yellow pages but be careful to identify organizations that are likely to offer internships. Some business oriented newspapers offer a book of lists. Check to see if there is such a list in your region.  You may want to consult with the reference librarian. For example, our business librarian alerted me to the fact that in our region there is a newspaper called the Providence Business News (PBN). Providence, RI is the largest metropolitan area within a 30 mile radius of our University.  Annually, PBN publishes its Book of Lists. These lists include the largest organizations in the region in such categories as Accounting Firms, Advertising Agencies, Banks, Hospitals, Manufacturers, and Insurance companies. By perusing that publication, students my come upon a company that is of interest to them or perhaps they may have friends or family members who work for one of the companies and may be able to connect them an internship sponsor.
I have also suggested that students look at lists of the largest employers within a fifty mile radius of our campus. That type of information can be found on the web or perhaps obtained from local chambers of commerce and in some cases, from the Career Resource Center of your school. Our internship program is operated out of our college of business but in some schools, the Career Resource Center takes a more active role in identifying possible internship providers. In addition, many colleges and universities are successful in connecting alumni with current students for internship match making. Your school’s alumni office might have ideas on how you can make such a connection.
Tap into Alumni
Duke University has a service called DukeConnect which allows students who are interested in doing an internship, to connect with Duke Alumni in the same field. Duke undergrads are able to locate Duke alumni who are willing to hire them as interns and mentor them through the process. My experience with alumni from our business school is that many are eager to share their knowledge and to help students land internships and in some cases, permanent jobs. DukeConnect is an awesome database of over 5,000 professionals. Your college may not have such a service although more and more schools are building such databases to help with the search for jobs and internships.  If your school doesn't have a formal alumni connect system, keep in mind that connecting with alumni is still possible. Watch for alumni events that you can participate in.  Many student associations and clubs invite alumni to participate as speakers or panel members.  Attend those events and introduce yourself to as many professionals as possible.
One of the great things about an internship provider who is an alumnus of your college is that they will be a great advocate for you within the organization. This will help increase the chances that your internship experience will be an excellent one. In addition, alumni guided internships are usually re-occurring. We are fortunate to have several accounting and finance alumni working at the international conglomerate known as Textron. Textron's headquarters are located in Providence, RI - about 1/2 commute from our campus. Each year, Textron executives get in touch with me and request an intern.  This same situation is also happening with local banks, CPA firms, and one well known manufacturer. I feel so confident that these internships will always work out to be the best work experiences for our students.
Join Student Clubs and Associations
Over the years, many students at my business college have landed business internships after meeting an employer at a student club or association dinner or meeting. For example, at the Charlton College of Business, we have an accounting association. Its purpose is to introduce students to the profession of accounting and to practitioners of accounting. I know of several students who have attended such gatherings and have impressed participants from the public accounting world and from management accounting areas and have landed excellent internships. Other popular clubs and associations include investment clubs, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), NetImpact (a network of emerging business leaders dedicated to using the power of business to create a better world), and the Advertising Association.
The Washington Center (TWC)
 If you are looking for an internship in business or government and want to have your experience in the Washington D.D. area, they this should be number one on your top ten list. We have had several students complete Washington Center internships and I have visited internship sites in the DC area and am nothing but impressed with the program.
Our university has a great relationship with the Washington Center, the premier provider of internships in Washington, DC. Twice each year, the Washington Center representative visits our campus to discuss their excellent programs. TWC helps you find internships in government, nonprofits, and the profit sectors in DC. If you are interested in TWC, visit their web site: www.twc.edu and then see if your campus has a representative – a liaison who can help you learn more about how this excellent program works.
Local Nonprofits
Don’t ignore local nonprofits. Many are eager to get some good interns on board. In our area (Southeastern Massachusetts), the Southcoast Hospital Group is the largest employer and they have shown great interest in getting our students in as interns. We also have relied on The New Bedford Whaling Museum, Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, CEDC (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program), the Fall River and New Bedford Chambers of Commerce as they have all utilized interns in the past. Nonprofits usually don’t pay interns (although a small percentage of nonprofits do pay interns, usually at minimum wage rates). Especially during tough economic times, a nonprofit might be your best bet for an excellent internship experience.
Doing an internship for a nonprofit organization is quite different than working in a for profit organization. In a nonprofit, there are no stockholders and no one shares in the annual profits or losses. Instead there are stakeholders, entities that interact and sometimes benefit from the works of the nonprofit. Nonprofit organizations include charities, universities, government agencies, religious organizations, and some hospitals.
Prepare a Cover Letter
If you come up with some solid internship leads, send a letter and resume to show your interest and follow-up with a phone call a few days later.  The follow-up is very important.  Don't hesitate to let the employer know that you are interested in interning at their company.  Some of my students hesitate to follow-up but I insist that they make the call or send follow-up emails.  An effective strategy is to show up at the employer and ask to talk to a human resources representative.
Below is a form letter that I give to our students to use in a search for an internship. I encourage them to customize this template to meet their specific needs.

Your Name
Street Address
City, State Zip
Phone Number
email address

Company Name
Name and Title of Person
Street Address
City, State Zip
Dear _________:
I am a (junior or senior) (accounting, finance, marketing, MIS, management) major at the Charlton College of Business, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. My program allows me to earn three business elective credits by interning at a local company or agency. I am interested in developing an internship with your organization and have included my resume for your review.
Internships-for-credit require a minimum of 9 hours per week for a total of 135 hours on the job along with the completion of an internship course. My internship will be monitored by a business professor and I will be required to complete several assignments, including a term paper, as part of my internship course.
You can learn more about the Charlton College of Business internship program by visiting:

I would also be happy to meet with you or another representative of your company to explore this possibility. I can be reached at (telephone number) or by email at (email address).


Your name

Prepare a Proposal
All the internship positions that I post on my blog are approved internships.  But often students find internships and need to submit them for my approval.  I must approve all internships-for-credit.
Once you have found an internship, depending on the policies and procedures of your school, you may need to present the internship to a sponsoring professor or your internship director for approval. Some schools require that you prepare an internship proposal that describes the job or project that you will be working on. The proposal must contain enough information for your professor or internship director to make a decision as to the creditworthiness of the opportunity. Be sure to include within your proposal all of the following (and please check to see if other information is required by your school):
  • Description of the company including the mission, location, sales and market coverage. Please include your web URL (if you have it):
  • Overview of the internship objectives.
  • Primary duties and responsibilities.
  • What you will learn from this experience.
  • Job title.
  • Compensation.
  • Skills required.
  • Hours of work.
  • Start and end dates.
  • Name of primary supervisor
  • How will the student(s) be evaluated?
  • Additional company contacts (if applicable).
  • Name and title of the person providing this information (information should be gathered in collaboration with someone from the internship providing organization).
There are a number of books and web resources that might be of value to a college student searching for a great business internship. Unfortunately, these publications usually cover all types of internships and don’t provide a focus on business internships. They also rarely provide information on local smaller companies and nonprofits that are looking for internships so my advice to students is to utilize these publications but also use other strategies for landing a great internship.
Vault Guide to Top Internships
by Rebecca Rose, Samer Madeh, Mark Oldman and the staff of Vault.
This guide is published annually by Vault Inc. and is available through bookstores and Amazon.com. It profiles hundreds of internships and includes an annual top ten list of the best internships in America, however the guide offers no explanation as to how the ranking is determined and many of their top internships are not business oriented. The 2010 edition of the book ranked the top ten internships as follows alphabetical order:

  • Capital Fellows Programs
  • Garmin International
  • GE
  • Google, Inc.
  • INROADS, Inc.
  • J.P. Morgan's Investment Bank
  • KPMG
  • Nickelodeon Animation Studios
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Vault also ranks the top finance internships. Here they are for 2010:
  • Goldman Sachs & Co.
  • J.P. Morgan's Investment Bank
  • KPMG
  • Lazard
  • McGladrey
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Northwestern Mutual Financial Network
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Sponsors for Educational Opportunity
  • The Boston Consulting Group
Source: www.vault.com
What Color is Your Parachute
A book that I first read over 25 years ago and is still relevant today when you are trying to find a suitable career path is What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.  It us written by Richard N. Bolles and is a classic.  It sits on my book case in my office and I refer to it often.  Make it part of your career development library. It has great suggestions such as how to use informational interviewing to land you a great internship and possibly a permanent job that matches with your aptitudes.
Business Week
Bloomberg Business Week publishes an annual list of the Best Internships and ranks the leading programs according to data such as pay and the percentage of interns who get full-time jobs. To compile the 2009 list, BusinessWeek judged employers based on survey data from 60 career services directors around the country and a separate survey completed by each employer. They also consider how each employer fared in the annual Best Places to Launch a Career ranking of top U.S. entry-level employers released in September of 2009 by BusinessWeek. The top ten programs of the 2009 list were follows:
  1. Deloitte
  2. KPMG
  3. Ernst and Young
  4. Proctor and Gamble
  5. PriceWaterhouseCoopers
  6. Goldman Sachs
  7. Target
  8. UBS
  9. Accenture
  10. General Electric
Indeed.com is a search engine for jobs, allowing job seekers to find jobs posted on thousands of company career sites and job boards. One very useful feature of Indeed.com and one that I use and recommend to students is the ability to construct email alerts based on searches. Therefore, if you were looking for an internship in Boston, you can have Indeed.com send you daily email alerts showing internship postings by Boston-area employers. Many of my students have found internship via Indeed.com and the daily email alerts that I receive from this service have helped me target good opportunities for our business majors.  I use key word searches that combine functional areas of business such as accounting, finance, MIS, or marketing with geographical preferences (Boston, Springfield, Providence, RI, etc.) I suggest to students that they try several combinations of key word searches for a few days to see what kind of yield they get and when they are satisfied with the e-harvest of internship postings, set the email alert feature.
Founded by Jennifer Floren who had a vision of a better way for college students to prepare career paths and hunt for jobs, Experience is the leading provider of career services for students and alumni. Over 3 million students and alumni use Experience to find unique jobs and over 100,000 employers and alumni post job and internship opportunities at experience.com. Check with your Career resource center or placement office to see if your school subscribes to Experience.com. Recently (Spring 2012), Experience.com has partnered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and set up a new portal called Mass Stay Here to help students learn about internship opportunities in the state of Massachusetts: (http://ma.experience.com/experience/login)
This portal claims to be the "world's largest internship marketplace." On one of my visits to the site, Internships.com stated that it had 40,667 internship positions from 12,700 companies located in 1,616 cities across all 50 states. For $20 per year, a student can get a premium subscription that includes such services as a resume review and an "iCertified badge" for your Internships.com profile; a type of internship certification as a result of completing an online workshop on what is expected of interns. According to Internships.com, such a certification is attractive to prospective employers.
If you are not a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth or a college or university nearby, my blogs and tweets will probably not help you land a specific internship. Most of the opportunities I describe in my blog entries or the daily tweets I send out are located within a 50 mile radius of North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. However, you are welcome to visit my blogs or follow me on @bizinternship (Twitter). I maintain two blogs that disseminate information on internships. One of the blogs - www.businessinternships.blogspot.com - provides mostly postings of current open internship positions that have come to my attention either through direct contact or from my web searches. A second blog, www.internshipyak.blogspot.com, provides information, tips, and advice on how to land a business internship (college). I also post positive experiences of interns just as they have completed their assignments. By reading those comments, other students learn about good opportunities, the possible benefits of landing a great internship and sticking it out to a final positive conclusion.
Checklist: Finding a Good Internship
  • Search for internships using college resources such as Career Development Centers and online data bases of internship postings such as Experience.com and Internships.com.
  • Search for internships on such services as Indeed.com and set up email alerts so you can be notified when internships matching your keyword searches hit the web.
  • Prepare a resume and cover letter and drop them off at the human resources department at local businesses that interest you. Follow up in a few days with a phone call.
  • Let your business professors, your parents, and your parents’ colleagues, friends, and neighbors know that you are looking for an internship. They know people in the industry who may be looking for an intern.
  • Talk to other students who have completed internships. Your peers are a great source of information regarding internships.
  • Attend college sponsored events that attract alumni and be ready to introduce yourself and inquire about internship opportunities.

About the Author
Mr. Griffin is a graduate of Providence College (BS 1980) and Bryant University (formerly Bryant College) (MBA 1982). He is also the Internship Director for the college. Mr. Griffin has worked for a number of employers including Fleet National Bank, E.F. Hutton and Company, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. Joining the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 1986, Mike served as Assistant to the Dean in the College of Business and Industry while teaching in the Accounting and Finance department. He has also taught in the Marketing/Business Information Systems department for five years and served as Assistant Dean for two years. His current course load includes Principles of Accounting, Cost Accounting, and the Internship course.
He is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and a Certified Financial Manager (CFM), both designations are awarded by the Institute of Management Accountants. In addition, Michael holds the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation from the American College and is a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Mr. Griffin is the author of many business books and has developed several software packages both for commercial and academic use. His latest book, MBA Fundamentals: Accounting and Finance was published by Kaplan Publishing. His latest educational tools are study sheets published by BarCharts Publishing Inc. (Accounting 2, Cost Accounting, Accounting Formulas and Equations) and Kaplan Publishing (Accounting Basics). His articles on such topics as internships, small business, and proposal writing have been published in such periodicals as Strategic Finance, The Accountant, International Journal of Enterprise Information Systems and International Journal of Production Research. He has been a content consultant to a number of textbook publishers, including McGraw-Hill, Irwin, Addison Wesley, Pearson Education and Prentice Hall and has developed for software for many software publishers including KMT Software Inc. Corel, Canon and Templatezone.com.
Michael is a past recipient of the Thomas J. Higgins Award for Excellence in Teaching Award, the 2011 Provost Best Practices Innovative Use of Technology Award, and the Walter Cass Faculty Recognition Award.
Internship Book
I have written a book called Business Internships. This book can be used as a basic internship course book or as a how to manual for anyone wanting to setup a successful internship experience. Whether you are looking to land a great internship or already have an internship and want to increase the odds that it will be an excellent learning experience, this book can help  It is available at: www.lulu.com, search on Business internships.  The ISBN is 978-1-4357-9016-2, copyright 2011, Michael P. Griffin.

How to Land an Excellent Business Internship © 2012 Michael P. Griffin. All rights reserved. Mr. Griffin can be reached at 508.910.6947 or by email:  mgriffin@umassd.edu.  Griffin maintains an internship which provides listings of current internship postings of interest to UMASS Dartmouth students. You can view the business internship blog at:www.businessinternships.blogspot.com. The book, Business Internships by Michael P. Griffin can be ordered by visiting Lulu.com or by contacting Professor Griffin directly.