How to Create Your Own Internship
Not all companies will list internship postings on their website, but it doesn’t mean that they do not offer internships. In fact, most do, or would be willing to, with the right proposal from a prospective intern. Do not be afraid to contact employers with your cover letter and resume to express your interest in an internship with their company. Follow our tips below for creating your own internship.
1. Show InitiativeMost InterExchange interns found their internships by doing just that—they emailed or called employers, expressed interest in being an intern, explained why they were a good fit, and then asked employers if they would be willing to offer an internship opportunity. Demonstrating an interest in interning or training with a company shows that you have researched and are a motivated candidate. There are many great reasons to find an internship on your own. By taking the initiative and suggesting an internship program to an employer, you are showing your creative ability and excitement about training with the company, as well as potentially creating a new opportunity that will fulfill your career objectives.
2. Define What You Want to DoDeciding what you’d like to do isn’t as easy as it sounds. Think about where you are now. In school? Working? Recently graduated? And then think about where you would like this internship to take you. Which specific skills do you want to learn or improve upon? What abilities do you already have that can be applied in a professional setting? Before you approach an employer about interning, you need to have a solid understanding of what specific tasks you would like to do and what you hope to take away from the experience. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Why do you want to do an internship?
- Is this internship required for school? Do you want to work on a particular skill? See what it’s like to work in the field?
- What responsibilities do you see yourself having? What would a typical day be like?
- If you are studying marketing, do you see yourself doing market research? Working directly with clients? Online marketing or a social media-related role?
3. Where Do You Want to Do It?
Once you have identified the type of internship you would like to have, you need to research the field in order to begin to identify companies who do the things you are interested in doing. What types of opportunities are available for someone with your interests and background? Here are some resources to help you research companies in your field:
- Social Networks: LinkedIn, Twitter
- Industry-specific blogs
- Online job boards
- General web searches
- Professional association websites
- Online business journals
- News articles
- Your school’s Career Center website, if they have one
Does your school have a Career Center or Career Advising Office? Make an appointment with an adviser to discuss some ideas. Where have students interned in the past? Are there alumni from your school currently working in the U.S. in your field?
Meet with professors. They are experts in the field, so they will likely have some ideas for you. They may even know a U.S. colleague who would be willing to hire an intern.
- This is where you can meet and network with other students or professionals like yourself. You can find out where they have had internships or brainstorm names or types of companies relevant to your mutual interests.
Friends and Family
- Discuss your interest in an internship with the people around you, especially if they have connections to your field or the U.S. For example, your family or friends may know people at companies with which you would like to intern or have ideas for identifying prospective companies. Networking is an important skill to have, and it is actually how most people find their jobs in the future, too. Friends and family members can sometimes send their colleagues your resume or maybe even help you get an interview.
Check out our guide on searching for internships for more specifics on the recommendations provided above.
4. Resume and Proposal
Your resume is pivotal when proposing an internship. Employers gauge your suitability through it. For tailoring your resume to U.S. standards, refer to InterExchange’s Career Training USA Resume Guide.
When approaching employers, attach an internship proposal—a specialized cover letter. Based on prior research, outline a specific internship role or project you suggest for the company. Be detailed about your objectives and skills. Employers prefer candidates with clear goals over those open to any assignment.
Remember, the J-1 Intern Visa mandates that your internship aligns with your academic field and limits clerical tasks to 20%. Over 20% of administrative duties, like filing or coffee runs, isn’t permissible.
Your proposal should feature:
- A concise role description you’re proposing.
- Reasons for choosing that company (tailored per company).
- Your internship goals and learning objectives.
- How the company benefits from your role.
- Your unique qualifications linked to your education/experience.
- Internship duration and commitment—J-1 internships demand a minimum of 32 hours weekly and can span 1-12 months (1-18 months for specific trainees).
- Stating whether it’s a paid or unpaid role (unpaid roles must meet Department of Labor criteria).
- Mention of InterExchange assisting with J-1 Visa sponsorship, enabling non-U.S. citizens to work legally.
Email your proposal to a known contact or the HR department. If unsure, find the right contact via the company’s website or LinkedIn. A week post-submission, follow up politely to confirm receipt.
5. Follow-up: Informational Interviews
If an employer can’t offer an internship, request an informational interview. This is a chance to learn about the industry and may lead to referrals for intern opportunities elsewhere.
An informational interview gives insight into a company or specific role, focusing on gathering career and industry advice. It’s not about securing a position immediately but understanding the company and preparing for future opportunities. Websites only reveal so much about a company; these interviews provide a deeper dive, allowing you to discuss potential internships, gather industry insights, and understand typical career paths.
When arranging an informational interview, research your contact to ensure a productive conversation. Some suggested questions include:
- How did you reach your current position?
- What do you love about your job, and what would you change?
- How can someone enter this field?
- Describe a typical career path in this industry.
- How do you stay updated in your field, and which associations should I join?
After the conversation, ask them to remember you for future internships or refer you elsewhere. Always send a thank-you note after the interview.
Creating your own internship is a great way to ensure a rewarding experience since the internship will be based on your own academic and professional interests and career goals. Proposing and developing an internship takes time, effort, and patience, and it is just one of many ways to find an internship in your field. Do not be discouraged if you don’t hear back from all employers or if you do not receive positive responses. Many companies just don’t have the resources or time to hire an intern at the time you apply, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to offer something in the future or refer you to someone else who could hire you. Be persistent and good luck!