Internships for Students and Grads

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Feb 7, 2011 in , , , , , | No Comments

This is the first of an extensive three part post regarding internships. The second post will appear on Wednesday, the third on Thursday.

Internship experience is an excellent way to begin your career.

Whether getting your foot in the door at your dream job, or using as a stepping stone to discovery, internships are the way to go.

What is an internship? Basically, a short-term work experience that emphasizes hands-on learning.

Internships provide context for what you have learned as a student, putting that knowledge to good use. As an intern, you apply your academic work to a professional setting. By doing this, you are free to explore certain career opportunities.

Make a Difference

Many nonprofit organizations are seeking out new talent and provide a “learning laboratory” for students and recent grads. Do you have a specific cause you find interesting? Perhaps you are concerned about the welfare of animals, or want to learn more about assisting children in developing countries. Whatever your interests, there’s a nonprofit looking for someone with your passion, skills and enthusiasm to work for their cause.

What Nonprofits Provide

The following is from Shelly Cryer’s book, The Nonprofit Career Guide, which I highly recommend.

A nonprofit sector internship allows you to:

?Build knowledge about the nonprofit sector and its interaction with the public through the direct services it provides and other work it performs

?Understand structure and functions of a given nonprofit organization, including its mission, programs, policies, financial base and administrative structure, and method of service delivery

?Acquire specific skills and experiences that will enhance your value to a potential nonprofit sector employer

?Study leadership models that will prepare you for a career in the sector

What Nonprofits Need

Nonprofits seek people who are dedicated, are goal oriented, professional, and show they are willing to learn the ropes. Your internship could potentially turn into a full-time position after initially proving yourself. Many successful people have started as interns/volunteers and found successful careers from those experiences.

Salary and a Future

Nonprofits have sometimes gotten a bad name for not keeping up with public sector salaries. But in recent reports ( and, it shows many nonprofits are keeping pace with public sector salaries. The only area that seems to be deficient is faith based nonprofits, historically, their salaries are lower.

Your future is bright working in the nonprofit sector. Most employees are long-term and list that they are “happy” doing their jobs. There is something fulfilling about knowing your efforts are being directed at a cause you believe in, as opposed to the bottom line in the for-profit sector.

Where to Begin

First, determine what interests you most, then set about researching the many nonprofits listed under that heading. For example, if you log onto the nonprofit sites listed below, you will find a wealth of information available under specific headings in the links: Alliance for Justice, Foundation Center, Dot.Org Jobs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Council on Foundations, National Organizers Alliance, and YouTern (this particular website will be discussed Thursday).

Next, check out Shelly Cryer’s book from your school or local library. Read how other students and grads entered the nonprofit sector, look over job descriptions the author highlights, see what directors look for in job applicants and discover how vast this sector truly is–from food banks–to blood banks.

One Step Closer

With jobs difficult to come by, internships are an intelligent way to put your foot in the door. As the economy picks up, nonprofits will be hiring more.  By becoming an intern, you are one step closer to a paid position in the near future. Don’t miss Wednesday and Thursday’s posts, which further discuss your options and internships!

©2010 Judy Anne Cavey, who resides in the S.F. Bay Area of California, is a credentialed, certified, higher education instructor who taught Work Experience/Cooperative Education and ESL at three community colleges. She is also a freelance writer and grant writer currently authoring a textbook, has designed other learning programs, and worked with several nonprofits. Her Edublog, “Work Experience”, is a not-for-profit endeavor designed to assist job seekers of all ages.