Internship Do’s and Don’ts for College Students

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

The value of one or more internships to college students cannot be overstated. Internships have simply become a must for all college students. Internships help you better understand your field, help cement (or at times change) your career goals, and give you the experience employers demand — even of college graduates.

What follows are the key rules, tips, and guidelines that college students need to understand to obtain and make the most of any and all internships.

  • Do try at obtain at least one internship during your college years. And do try to get multiple internships.
  • Do set specific goals for yourself and each internship. Know what you want to accomplish with each internship.
  • Don’t expect all internships to be paid. We wish they all were, but many are not. And do at least consider accepting both paid and nonpaid internships; some of the best internships may not be paid.
  • Do expect to be treated professionally. And do act professionally at all times.
  • Don’t expect internships to just be handed to you; internships must be earned, as with any job.
  • Do utilize your network of family and friends to the fullest to get leads on internships.
  • Do try and schedule regular meetings with your internship supervisor.
  • Don’t pass up opportunities to have experiences beyond the regular scope of the internship that lead to chances to learn more about the company or industry.
  • Do get as much exposure throughout the internship organization as possible.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And do be open to learning new skills and methodologies.
  • Do find a mentor within the organization, whether it’s your internship supervisor or some other manager.
  • Do make sure you leave your internship with new skills, a better understanding of your field, and tangible accomplishments.
  • Do take advantage of job and career fairs to scout possible internship opportunities.
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of the career services office at your college — they typically have leads to numerous internship opportunities.
  • Do be sure you have a dynamic cover letter, a superior resume, and polished interviewing techniques.
  • Do send thank you letters to all people who interview you — and all the people who help you find an internship.
  • Don’t ever give up in your internship quest. And do exhaust all possible internship leads.
  • Do enjoy your internship — even when you are doing the inevitable grunt work many interns do as part of “paying your dues.”
  • Don’t burn any bridges — even if your internship was not the best.
  • Do keep in touch with key coworkers from your internships — and do cultivate them to become part of your network.
  • Do read our article, How to Find Your Ideal Internship.
  • Do read our article, Making the Most of Your Internship(s).

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of He is also founder of and He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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