How Many Internships Should I Apply To?

Learn some helpful tips and advice on how many internships you should apply to, according to experts.

Here are their insights:

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

Kirk Hazlett

Adjunct Professor of Communication, University of Tampa

Do multiple internships and do them in different industries

As a former executive recruiter and public relations professional, now a public relations professor and, yes, public affairs intern, I am often asked by students, “Why do I need an internship?” Their question usually stems from their perception of “I’ve taken all the required courses. Why do I need this ‘extra’ work?”

My response is, invariably, “An internship will help you get a better sense of what you are good at doing as an up-and-coming professional.”

This insight comes from my own experience starting out in the government (U.S. Army civil service) public affairs field. While I had a previous eight years’ experience as an audiovisual media specialist in the U.S. Air Force, and a total of two bachelor’s degrees and an M.B.A., I had absolutely no idea what “public affairs” (the government’s name for “public relations”) entailed.

Still, the opportunity to enter the field as a paid intern was intriguing.

Thankfully, in the 18 months of my training, I had the opportunity to experience every single aspect of public relations. And I learned quickly what I liked to do, what I was very good at going, and what I really would prefer not to do!

This insight is what I offer students today. As I (semi-seriously) have told students who have come to me for advice and guidance as they are charting out their futures, “One internship, you meet the curriculum requirements. Two internships, I’ll remember your name. Three internships, I’ll speak to you in the hallway. Four internships, I’ll buy you lunch. Five internships, I’ll introduce you to your new boss!”

I encourage students to do multiple internships and do them in different industries:

  • Public relations firm
  • Nonprofit organization
  • Corporate setting

See which “feels” best and, in the process, look for different job requirements.

Find out, as I did, what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at doing, and what you don’t like to do. I tell them that this process will help tremendously when it comes down to the actual job search.

As I have seen countless times when my student/advisee does at least two or three internships, his or her productivity will be noted by management and often will lead to an offer of permanent employment upon graduation. The intern’s work ethic and potential have been evaluated in a “real-life” scenario, and a decision can be made.

Related: How to Ask for Full-Time Position After Internship (+ Email Samples)

Finally, even if an internship doesn’t lead to a job offer, and most of them don’t, the student now has hands-on job experience that can be listed on a resume — a key “selling point” for a hiring manager.

I say this based on my own experience as a hiring manager in multiple organizational settings as well as an executive recruiter evaluating resumes for clients.

Countless managers have told me over the years that, in their eyes, internships qualify as “job experience,” maybe not the nitty-gritty of an actual full-time job, but the student, in their eyes, at least has an understanding of how the workplace functions and what the expectations are should they be hired.

So, to you students who are pondering the “to intern or not to intern” question, this is your opportunity to fine-tune your own pre-professional skills and make yourself stand out in the inevitable crowd.

Don’t hesitate to turn to your faculty adviser or someone who is a member of a professional organization related to your interest area for advice and guidance. That’s what we’re there for!

Mian Muneer ud din

Mian Muneer ud din

Managing Partner, Beaufort Associates

Focus on 2-5 companies when choosing internships to apply to

There is no single answer to this question, but it’s better to think about quality over quantity and focus on 2-5 companies when choosing internships to apply to.

Internships give you a chance to use the knowledge you gained in a classroom in a real-world setting and learn job-specific skills that can help you land your dream job. That’s why you should follow your passion and apply for internships in companies that are:

  • Directly aligned with your dream career
  • There is an opportunity to learn something new
  • They hold a lot of weight in your chosen field

It’s crucial to learn everything about the companies you apply to, so you should do research, look through their social media profiles to understand their culture, and look for the previous interns’ stories.

You should apply and follow up in a few days to emphasize that you want to work for that company and are really interested in the role. This way, you can increase the chances that the employer will take a closer look at your application.

Andrew Fennell

Andrew Fennell

Director and Careers Expert, StandOut CV

You should aim to make at least 20 internship applications

As someone who has hired many graduates for both small and large businesses, the question of internships and their importance comes up every year.

We advise prospective interns to do their research and identify those opportunities which match up well with their interests and career objectives. There is likely to be a high level of competition for such internships, particularly across industries such as:

  • Healthcare
  • Law
  • Media
  • Education

It’s well worth making speculative applications as well as contacting those businesses with established internships.

You should aim to make at least 20 internship applications. However, time should be spent researching the companies and tailoring applications to give a clear idea of what you have to offer.

A few tailored applications is better than a lot of generic ones.

Create a spreadsheet for the organization of your applications and hone in on the credentials sure to be of greatest interest to the prospective employers. Don’t be afraid to follow up if you don’t hear anything back within five to seven days of making an application.

Also, only cut back on the number of applications once you start landing interviews.

Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES

Kyle Elliott

Founder and Career Coach, Caffeinated Kyle

Before diving into your internship search, recognize that companies have various application requirements. Some companies require you to be a current student or recent graduate to participate in their internship programs, while other companies are more flexible with their requirements.

Conduct your due diligence on each company and requisition to see if you meet the minimum application requirements. Whether you are currently in college, just graduated, or using an internship to pivot in your career, networking is critical to landing your next internship.

Related: How to Get an Internship

Focus your internship search efforts on networking with people who currently hold or previously held your dream internship.

Reach out via LinkedIn and request an informational interview to learn more about the:

  • Application process
  • Interview best practices
  • Company culture

If your conversation goes well, your new contact may introduce you to the hiring manager for an internship interview.

Your interview is an opportunity to demonstrate how your experience, skills, and passion will translate to the company. Remember that experience extends beyond paid experience.

This is particularly true with internships where you may have limited paid work experience. Speak to your extracurricular activities, volunteer engagements, and community involvement.

The key to a successful internship interview is to demonstrate how you will replicate past success for your next company.

After you land your next internship, be sure to thank the people who provided you support with your internship search. Take time to write and send hand-written thank you notes to your network.

Also, keep your network up-to-date on your accomplishments as you progress through your internship.

Arash Fayz

Arash Fayz

Co-Founder and Executive Director, LA Tutors 123

Internships, like many other aspects of the collegiate process, have moved largely to the virtual mode. This means internships can be more competitive, as more students can access internships that are posted.

There are also fewer in number, as some internships have not been converted to a virtual format yet. The benefit to those struggling to find an internship is that a searcher is not restricted by location.

If a student is struggling to find an internship, they will want to consider different locations; they are no longer limited to their home or campus area. Internships can be found throughout the country and in different countries.

Companies that may have never considered internships due to their remote locations could be approached, and the possibility discussed.

I would suggest that a student struggling to find an internship would benefit from having a strong knowledge of themselves and of the type of internship that they would like, so that they can find or create one off the usual pathway.

Alternatives to internships include:

  • Mentoring
  • Part-time or seasonal jobs
  • Volunteering

Students can check their college (or other colleges) for opportunities but don’t need to be limited to that.

Virtual communication requires less time, so mentors may be more open to accepting students. Part-time and seasonal jobs or volunteer positions put students in contact with professionals in their potential field who can answer questions and write recommendations.

Although the situation has changed, opportunities are available for resourceful college students looking to advance their professional progress.

Cale Loken

Cale Loken

CEO, 301consulting

Internships are an important part of your career development and growth. I usually recommend students to intern at companies during their college/university time so that they have a good foundation set for themselves for when they actually start job hunting.

My suggestion to students is to apply for at least a minimum of 20 internships.

The best way to go about this is by making an excel sheet which contains the details of at least 50 companies. Now, identify the opportunities which you deem as most valuable for yourself and shortlist 20 internships.

All that you need to do next is to send in your applications and wait for the employer to get back to you.

Edit your cover letter for each application: I’ve seen quite a lot of students and even professionals doing this. They send the same cover letter with each job application.

You may not realize it, but this is not the best move to make when applying for internships or a full-time job. Every job has different criteria. Each employer requires a different skillset and you’re applying for varying positions.

Considering this, your cover letter needs to be edited for every opportunity that you apply for; it should be aligned with the position and job description. Both the cover letter and resume should be customized for every opportunity that you plan to lay your hands on.

Related: What Is the Difference Between a Resume and Cover Letter?

Stefan Chekanov

Stefan Chekanov

CEO, Brosix

Apply for at least five internships

The most important thing with internships is not to rely on a single application. Because there are so many candidates applying, the chances of being chosen after just one application seem quite impossible.

In my opinion, you should apply at least for five internships, depending on the industry and type of work you’d be doing. If the competition is very high, you can apply to even more programs.

In case you don’t get the desired response, keep applying for new internships. It’s important not to be passive for too long, which is why you need to constantly refresh your applications.

Dana Case

Dana Case

Director of Operations,

If you are a young, recent grad or know you will be a soon-to-be graduate who still needs a few internships on their resume, I would suggest applying to as many internships that interest you as you are able.

The key is the word interest.

Ideally, these should be roles in fields or industries you’d like to pursue full-time in your career and not be so far outside your comfort zone, or skill set, that you have no idea what’s going on.

Do not apply for internships that will ultimately prove not to be a fit for your skill sets. Seek out roles that are a fit for what you’re interested in and are in industries you’d like to learn more about.

William Taylor

William Taylor

Senior Recruitment Advisor, VelvetJobs

There is no right number of companies for you to apply for an internship, but it is greatly encouraged that you venture out and apply for more than 5-10 companies.

Here, you are given the opportunity to cancel out or rank them. There isn’t any assurance that these companies will respond to your application — consider that you have competition.

One important thing to consider when choosing is the assurance that these companies will give you much exposure to the nature of your profession. Along with that, be confident that you are able to meet the qualifications and leave a good impression on the recruiters and the company itself.

This will give you a secure position in the company once you are through with college.

Frequently Asked Questions

How important is networking when it comes to finding an internship?

Networking is integral to the internship search because it can help you gain valuable insight, advice, and connections. Here are some networking tips:

Attend career fairs: Career fairs are a great way to meet potential employers and learn more about internship opportunities. Come prepared with copies of your resume and a list of questions to ask employers.

Reach out to alumni: Reach out to alumni from your university who work in your desired field or industry. They may be able to give you advice or connections that can help you find an internship.

Use social media: Use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your desired field. Contact them to introduce yourself and ask if they’d be willing to mentor or advise you.

Remember that networking isn’t just about asking for job or internship opportunities but also about building relationships and gaining valuable insight and advice. Keep an open mind and be willing to learn from others.

Should I only apply for paid internships?

Ideally, you should apply for paid internships because they provide valuable work experience and a source of income. But not all internships are paid, and sometimes unpaid internships can offer other benefits, such as:

• finding a mentor
• getting hands-on experience
• gaining insight into a particular industry

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to apply for a paid or unpaid internship:

Financial situation: If you need to support yourself, applying for a paid internship may be more practical. Unpaid internships can be expensive, as you’ll have to pay for expenses such as transportation, lodging, and food.

Value of experience: Consider the value of the experience you will gain in the internship. If the internship gives you valuable skills and connections that will help you advance your career, it may be worth doing, even if it’s unpaid.

Company culture: Research the company culture and values to determine if the company offers a positive work environment and supportive mentoring. This can help you decide if the internship is worth your time and effort.

What should I do if I don’t get an internship?

It’s normal to feel disappointed if you don’t get an internship, but it’s important not to get discouraged. Here are some steps you can take:

Ask for feedback: Reach out to the company for feedback on your application. This can help you identify areas for improvement and make your future applications stronger.

Keep applying: Don’t give up applying for internships. Keep looking for opportunities and apply to jobs that match your interests and career goals.

Consider alternative options: If you are having difficulty getting an internship, consider alternative options such as volunteering, freelancing, or taking on a part-time job in your desired field. These experiences can help you build your skills and make your resume stand out to future employers.

Remember that an internship is just one step on your career path. If you continue to work hard and pursue your passions, new opportunities will come your way.

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