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Nontraditional Internships

An internship is your opportunity to obtain valuable work experience in your chosen career field while you are in school. You will gain knowledge and skills and establish connections that will help you stand out from the crowd when you’re ready to start your career.

If you are a military spouse, you are probably a nontraditional student, meaning you have outside considerations besides your education. You have a spouse, possibly a family and perhaps a part-time or full-time job, so traditional internship opportunities may not work for you. You may be in school for the first time, going back to school for additional education or possibly switching careers. No matter your status, an internship is important to assist you in gaining work experience in your career field and easing your entry into the workforce when you finish school.

Finding internship opportunities

To find internship opportunities, start by checking with your school’s career office for internships that match your interests and skills. Internships may last three to six months, so juggling your personal and professional responsibilities may be difficult. You may need to consider more flexible or short-term learning options like volunteering or job shadowing to help build your skills.

Consider following these steps to secure an internship.

  • Prepare a great resume to submit when you find opportunities or to hand out when you’re asking for a referral.
  • Search the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search using the advanced search, typing ‘internship’ as the job title and entering your location.
  • Research sites such as Monster.com or Idealist.org to find possible internship opportunities.
  • Make a list of local companies that offer positions in your field and determine if those organizations post internships on their websites or company social media pages. Contact organizations you have an interest in for possible internships or volunteer opportunities.
  • Networking is one of the best ways to learn about opportunities. Attend career fairs and networking events and visit your local chamber of commerce to ask for introductions. Let the contacts you make know you are looking for an internship or other type of opportunity to gain on-the-job experience.
  • Search for school alumni working at companies you’re interested in and connect with them to see if they can provide tips or advice.
  • Realize you may have to create your own internship. Research companies where you might like to work, and then contact a department head and explain your situation. Suggest ideas for providing services to solve a business problem, such as covering for maternity leave or filling in during vacations, to help get your foot in the door on a short-term or flexible basis.
  • Consider signing up to work for a temporary agency that handles clients in your field to make contacts and gain experience.
  • Look for federal internship and employment opportunities through the USAJOBS Pathways Program.
  • Find a mentor and expand your networking resources through Spouse Ambassador Network organizations.

Importance of internships

Although some companies have hiring programs specifically for new college graduates, many organizations hope to hire graduates with a minimum of one year of work experience in the field. Even as a nontraditional student, you should complete at least one, and possibly several internships, while you are in school to gain experience and references. Other reasons for internships include the following:

  • Many employers hire interns who have participated in their internship programs.
  • You may earn college credit toward your degree.
  • You may earn money during your internship.
  • Your internship experience may help you get a higher starting salary when you graduate.
  • You may find your career niche, perhaps focusing on public relations instead of marketing, for example.
  • You may discover you need additional skills or coursework to be more successful in your career.
  • You can practice your communication, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving skills in a work environment.
  • You will gain confidence to step from school to employment because you’ve proven your skills and knowledge during the internship.
  • You will have the opportunity to make great networking connections.
  • You can add essential experience to your resume.

Understanding the importance of internships as a means to gain experience and learning different ideas on how to get an internship should help you when you’re ready to find an opportunity. Make sure you use available resources and be persistent in your search.

Next steps

Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach to learn more about locating and acquiring internships and externships. Coaches are available to discuss options, suggest recommendations and assist you with all aspects of your career or education.

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