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How do I create my own internship opportunity?

This summer I want to pursue an internship in government or nonprofits. In my local area there aren't a lot of opportunities for me, a first year college student. What would be the best way to approach some of the places and people I am interested in working with to create my own internship experience?
Would I draft my own idea of what I would be doing first, or would that step come after reaching out to the different offices and organizations that I am interested in working with?

internships government nonprofits experience social-work civic-and-social-organization community-outreach

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Suzanne’s Answer

Hi Deana - That's great that you're thinking about taking the initiative and reaching out to nonprofits or departments that you're interested in. I would first take the time to think about the skills that you would be able to provide the nonprofit or government agency.

Do you have any prior work, volunteering or school experience that you could share? For example, I volunteered with a nonprofit organization focused on homelessness and helped them build their tracking system for members and suggested ideas for new volunteer orientations. Those were skills I didn't have as a result of my major (accounting) but projects that I worked on and skills I developed that could be used for future employment.

When you have your list of skills, do some research (news, their website, social media) on the organizations you're interested in. Reach out to those organizations and explain the skills that you have and a few projects you could help them with. Take a look at for some ideas of Career Planning in the social impact space.

Best of luck!

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Alexis’s Answer

Hello Deana! Great questions. The fact that you're thinking about these things and are eager to get an internship shows you have a bright future. To answer your questions:

1) The best way to approach these organizations is "to be a squeaky wheel". "The squeaky wheel gets the oil" is an old saying but this piece of advice has opened so many doors for me throughout my career. Just because they don't post an internship opportunity doesn't mean they wouldn't love some extra help. All you have to do is ask.

2) Here are my suggested steps for you to take:

1- Write down what skills and experiences you already have and what skills you'd like to learn and grow

2- Research local organizations (go on their website, look at any articles they've been mentioned in).

3- First see if anyone you know knows someone at that organization and could give you a warm introduction. If you don't have a connection to the organization, that's completely fine! A lot of organizations will still be happy to hear from you.

4-Email them and explain your situation. Ask to meet in person.

5- When you meet in person, talk about their programs that you researched and how you'd like to help with them. They'll be impressed that you did your research. Even though you did your research and came up with your own ideas—also talk about how you'd be happy to do whatever other work they need help with.

Hope this helps! Best of luck!

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Andrea’s Answer

That's fantastic that you want to create your own opportunity! If I wanted to create my own internship opportunity I would begin by identifying companies that I would like to intern with. After doing so, I would create a web page that showcases my talents (both academic and community) and send the link to the web page along with a letter introducing you and what you hope to accomplish with that company.

Andrea recommends the following next steps:

Create a web page about you
Create a resume