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Preparing for an Internship

Where do I start in planning for my internship?

1. Begin your search early.

If possible, begin your search process a couple months prior to the term you are taking PSY493 so that you are ready to start your internship at the beginning of the term. The process of calling, leaving messages, and waiting for responses to your messages usually takes time. If you have less time, don’t panic. Students have found appropriate internships in shorter periods of time, but it does take time.

2. Start with your interests!

Brainstorm about types of learning experiences you are interested in. Are there career paths or job settings you would like to find out more about? Job skills you are interested in learning? Settings that would help further your goals for job plans or graduate school? Some basic questions you might consider include:

  • What type of work am I interested in exploring?
  • Am I interested in working with any particular group of people (e.g. children, teens, women, seniors, single mothers, homeless individuals, refugees, etc.)?
  • What type of setting am I interested in working in (e.g. church, business, school, nonprofit, etc.)?

You will be spending at least 135 hours working at your internship site, so don’t settle for the first opening just because it is available. There are some concrete steps you can take to explore where you would like to do your internship. Take 10 minutes to browse the Psychology Career Development page on the Psychology Department web site at: http://cas.bethel.edu/dept/psychology/career

In the "For psychology majors especially” section you will find some very useful links to web sites about career information. Set up an appointment with Career Services to aid in thinking through different options.

3. Check out resources for potential internship sites.

To begin exploring potential internship sites there are a number of good resources you might check out.

  • The list of internships provided on the Psychology Department web site is a good place to start.
  • Do an online search for possible sites in the area. United Way 211 has an extensive list of Community Resource agencies in the metro area that you might consider.
  • Check out your own personal network to see if there are some good possibilities. 
  • Check with other psychology majors that have done internships for possibilities and find out what their internship was like.
  • Think more broadly than specific internships. Often with a little negotiation and creativity, good internship experiences can be fashioned out of part-time employment opportunities.
  • While the responsibility for finding an internship is yours, feel free to consult with the Psychology Department Coordinator or Psy493 instructor if you have questions or are stuck.

4. Prepare your resume.

Put together a resume and cover letter to send out to potential internship sites (the Office of Career Services is a good resource for help with resumes). Don't let this step drag on. If you are rushed, it is better to start calling places.

5. Contact potential sites.

Begin phoning potential sites to find out more about the site, whether they are accepting interns, what type of application materials they may need, etc. Another approach is to first send out a resume but it may save you some time to first make a brief inquiry over the phone or via email.

6. Get instructor approval for your site.

Ultimately, your internship needs to be approved of by your PSY493 instructor. When you find a site that you are seriously considering, you can email the instructor with a description of the site and what type of work you think you would be doing to get approval. Before starting the internship, complete a Contract for Psychology Department Internship, following instructions on this form. This contract will be available in your Moodle course or from your instructor.

What have students gotten out of their internships?

Here are some student comments on what they got out of their internship experience:

  • It has given me a chance to connect what I have been learning about psychology in my classes with the “real world” (and vice versa).
  • It helped me to understand better what kind of work I like (and don’t like) which has been helpful for me in sorting out possible career directions.
  • It challenged me to become more assertive and develop more self-confidence working with others.
  • It gave me a chance to integrate my faith and psychology in my internship.
  • It exposed me to people from backgrounds very different from my own which was an eye opening, growing experience!
  • It helped me get a job! They liked me as an intern and offered me a position, which I gladly accepted!
  • It helped me in my job search after graduation by giving me some valuable new job experience and skills I could put on my vita. I was able to list my supervisor as a positive reference.