The uphill climb of the internship search


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Finding yourself dry-eyed, slumped over your laptop with cramping fingers while you’re making your way through your fourth cup of coffee is usually what the internship hunt consists of. Students are often preached at that internships are the gateway to full-time jobs or the building blocks for their resume. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones with connections, finding an internship and even a full-time job after paying an outrageous amount of money for a piece of paper saying, “You did it” is usually the struggle for every college student.

The hard part for most students when finding an internship is not being sure where to look, competing with other students and getting ghosted by employers. No one wants to spend 45 minutes on an application with a detailed resume listing every professional project they’ve done since high school all to get completely curved by a potential employer.

Forbes suggests that the best places to look for internships are LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Google, a school’s job listing site (such as Handshake),,, YouTern, Idealist, Global Experiences and CoolWorks.

The issue with big sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Google is that students are competing against thousands of other students who also thought to use those sites. Don’t feel too bad about it; great minds think alike and we’re all going for a similar end goal.

Michael Elias is the director of internships in the College of Communication at DePaul.

Elias said he believes that the first step in finding an internship is to set a goal around the job functions you want to gain experience in. He also recommends meeting with an internship adviser to help articulate your goals.

While LinkedIn and Glassdoor are reputable, Elias suggests websites like Handshake that aim for smaller pools of applicants. Handshake also lets you connect with alumni who have worked at the company you’re applying to.

“Handshake is a great starting point for DePaul students, since many of the employers who post there are specifically targeting DePaul applicants,” he said. “Additionally, many academic departments have internship programs.”

The application process and waiting game after that are tough, but landing an internship is arguably the hardest part of getting your foot in the door of the professional world. Elias said the difficulty of landing one depends on what you’re applying for.

“This largely depends on how competitive a particular industry or company may be,” he said. “If your goal is to intern with the Chicago Cubs, you’re going to face greater competition than if you were targeting a smaller sports team or organization.”

Sometimes, you’ll stumble across the perfect internship description and everything in the world suddenly makes sense – until you see “unpaid” in bold letters at the bottom of the page.

Elias said most students prefer paid internships, but to not close yourself off to unpaid ones either.

“One perk of applying to unpaid roles is that the applicant pool is likely smaller, so you could be facing less competition,” he said.

No matter what the scenario is, no one likes to get ghosted. Getting ghosted by a potential employer might be the most painful form of ghosting. There are ways to deal with that.

“I always recommend following-up with employers via email, both to check the status of a position you’ve applied for and to restate your interest,” he said.

Elias also said some companies will only reach out to applicants they want to move forward with and to never hesitate to visit the Career Center at DePaul for help and advice.

Maha Bokhary is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is doing pre-law and she gets notified for internships through her school’s server.

Bokhary said the hardest part of applying for internships within the last year was her age.

“The hardest part was that I was applying to internships as a little freshman and they usually favor sophomores and above,” she said.

Bokhary also stresses that students shouldn’t take unpaid internships unless they have the time for them. If they don’t, it could be a lot to add onto their plate.

“Don’t worry about getting an internship ASAP; wait till the right one comes along,” she said.

Jack Warnik is a junior at Indiana University and he is in the Kelley School of Business.

Warnik worked hard for his current internship and past internships, but he said the hard part of finding them is making sure you find the right mix of location and industry.

He has advice for students seeking internships.

“Separate the emotion from the internship search,” he said. “It’s easier said than done but you have to know there are so many amazing companies out there. Just because they say no now doesn’t mean it’s no forever.”