Paid and unpaid engineering internships can be helpful at many stages of a career. Most internships are geared towards undergraduate, graduate, or MBA students, but many technical internships also accept technically focused people with relevant educational background.
Even if the work is unpaid, there are several important reasons to consider an internship: to obtain experience working in different environments before graduating, to get to know the feel of a company or agency before accepting a job there, and to make contacts that may be helpful throughout your career.
Locating an internship isn’t as difficult as applying to a university, seeking scholarships, or finding a permanent job, as many groups are eager to work with bright, motivated people in their field in the current economy.
Searching online with specific terms helps locate relevant internship programs, but your best approach is to network and ask people you already know. Now is the time to submit applications for summer 2011, with most application deadlines in the first quarter. Here are several ways to locate programs, and a few avenues to consider.
Search individual company websites for internship opportunities, as most are listed on company job search pages and contain a category for internships. Large companies offer more opportunities than small companies, and are more likely to have formal internship programs.
Search job boards, such as SimplyHired.com or Indeed.com using keywords “renewable internship” or “solar internship.”
You May Be Surprised Who You Already Know
Professors and your school guidance counselor or career department can help point you towards specific companies with programs, in your home town or the same town as your school. Ask representatives at engineering career fairs about internships.
Friends who may have worked in an internship previously or are employed in a similar field can point you towards (or recommend you steer away from) their companies and older students in groups or clubs you participate in may also have recommendations.
Another form of networking is through online resources like LinkedIn. Create a LinkedIn profile and join up to 50 groups early in your professional career; it can be useful for locating internship programs. It is free to contact anyone within your network or in the groups you join. There are hundreds of renewable energy groups available and many of them post jobs or discussions about internships. You can also pose quick questions to groups, for example: “Is anyone working in Polysilicon for PV solar cells offering summer internships this year?” The shorter the question, the more likely you are to get replies.
National laboratories and government agencies have many undergraduate and graduate engineering internship programs for technology development related to renewables. Even if there aren’t specific programs tailored for renewable energy, consult the sponsoring agency to see if researchers in your field of interest participate. Non-profit agencies are very likely to offer technical internship programs as well.
Debbie Sniderman is CEO of VI Ventures LLC, a technical consulting company.
Locating an internship isn’t as difficult as applying to a university, seeking scholarships, or finding a permanent job, as many groups are eager to work with bright, motivated people in their field.