Should You Apply for a Post-College Internship?

You may think of internships as something that only college students do. But you shouldn’t rule out internships as an option after you graduate. They can be a great start to your post-graduate career.

Why You Should Consider It

A post-graduate internship can be especially useful if you are graduating at an unusual time — in the winter instead of the spring — or if you are changing your career focus. Perhaps you were a biology major and now seek to launch a career in public relations, for example. Or maybe you have been unable to find a full-time job in the industry of your college major.

In such circumstances, a post-graduate internship can be very useful. An internship will allow you to spend some time experiencing a new field or career without the commitments and expectations that a full-time position would entail. If you find that you enjoy working with your internship employer, moreover, you will be well-positioned to nab a full-time job, should one present itself. Even if you do not ultimately work full-time for your internship employer — either by choice or by lack of available job opportunities — the contacts you make and the experience you gain in your internship will be helpful as you begin your career.

Opportunities to Look for

For most college students, an entry-level position is the best place to start. Not only do these opportunities offer wages, but they also offer employee benefits.

If you are having difficulty finding an entry-level opening, keep in mind that some companies explicitly extend their official internship opportunities to recent college graduates. These opportunities may be found with organizations as varied as Turner Broadcasting and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as with smaller startups like Noodle.

Even if an internship does not explicitly say that it is open to recent graduates, it may well be, provided that the position does not specify “college credit only” or “current students only.” When you apply, make sure you explain your reasons for seeking out an internship instead of a standard entry-level position.

Keep in mind that, if your goal is to secure a full-time job with your internship employer, your chances are better if the internship is paid. A 2013 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that while 63.1 percent of paid interns receive at least one job offer, only 37 percent of individuals with unpaid internships receive an offer. In fact, the latter group fared just two percentage points better than those with no internships at all.

Another thing to consider is that internships often do not offer health insurance. If you are under 26, you can still be under your parents plan. If your parent doesn’t have a plan, or if you are 26+ years old, you can consider purchasing an individual or family health care plan.

Finding an Internship

You can start by exploring positions on internship search engines, such as Indeed, Idealist, MediaBistro, or Noodle’s own internship search engine. Online internship search engines are a good place to begin when looking for a position. Noodle, among others, offers an internship search tool that aggregates listings from job boards, such as Indeed.com. Knowing what type of experience you’re seeking will help you use the location, pay, and field filters more effectively.

You should also talk to people who have worked or are working in companies that are interesting to you. You can search on LinkedIn or company websites for contact information, and send a polite email requesting an informational interview — i.e., a short meeting so you can learn more about a position, company, or field. The person you meet with can give you an idea of what it is like to explore a career in her field and what your next steps should be. Note that the purpose of this meeting is not to ask for a job or internship outright, but to get more information about how you should proceed.

Professors can be a great resource if you are struggling to find opportunities. Set up a meeting with a professor who works in a department relevant to your desired field, and ask what her students have usually done to break into the job market.

If you are having a difficult time finding the right internship opportunity, you can look for other kinds of experiences to get your resume internship ready. For example, reach out to a company you are interested in and ask if you could volunteer or shadow someone. You can also seek an externship — a short training program that may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Getting a foot in the door can be the most crucial part of the post-college job search. An internship, externship, or volunteer position can ensure that you will be poised to take the next big step down your career path.