Internships are ways to test-drive a possible career, to get your foot in the door and start building a professional network. They give you a chance to build your skill set and make career decisions based on first-hand experience for your preferences regarding careers. As a Liberal Arts major, you have strong communication and analytical skills as a foundation, and it’s up to you where you decide to apply those skills – which industry, which job field, etc. What better way to make that decision than by doing multiple internships, so you can test out a few different options?! Internships, combined with undergraduate research, a study abroad experience that helps you with developing your intercultural communication and/or language skills, and a mentor to coach you and to help you build your network equals an educated, prepared Liberal Arts graduate.
Step 1: Getting Started
Mention your plans/interest to your academic adviser. S/he can help you with determining the best semester to do an internship and with figuring out how internship credits may meet specific degree requirements. Think about the type of experience you’re interested in and when you’re available. Summer internships are very competitive, so you should consider a fall or spring internship and discuss the possibility with your adviser.
Step 2: Register with Network Symplicity
Network Symplicity is a web-based program specifically for Liberal Arts majors. You can create an account, complete your profile, upload a resume draft (or cover letter) for review, and search for opportunities. You will get feedback on your resume, and you can schedule an appointment with a Network staff member if you would like to talk about your resume or your specific career interests. Positions posted in Network Symplicity are typically one semester in advance of the start of the position, so summer positions are posted in spring, for example.
Step 3: Access Other Resources
Don’t confine your search to one resource, since you have so many available to you! Penn State Career Services and sponsoring colleges coordinate a number of career fairs throughout the year. Be sure to research the organizations attending and make a plan for meeting your top three to five potential employers to learn more about them and the opportunities they have available for students with your skills and interests. When seeking a position, think about what you want to do, not what your major is, since the beauty of a Liberal Arts degree is that you have many transferable skills.
Career Services also offers the Nittany Lion Career Network, a posting system similar to Network Symplicity, but typically more focused on full-time, permanent positions. They do sometimes have internships too though, so it’s worth making it a point to visit the site periodically. They also host a range of programs throughout the academic year to introduce you to various industries, meet with alumni, etc., so check out their calendar for upcoming events.
The Career Enrichment Network will be hosting a range of professional development sessions throughout the academic year, so be sure to check the calendar in Network Symplicity to identify opportunities to meet and to interact with potential employers. Participation in the Alumni Networking event, department-based networking events, and other College-sponsored activities can connect you with alumni and employers who may have opportunities for you. Always approach these events as possible networking opportunities – whether with an alumnus/a or a fellow student who may have an interesting lead or opportunity to share with you!
Also be sure to check in with your academic department, either through your adviser or the Undergraduate Studies office, to ask if there are department-specific resources or contacts you should be aware of. Many departments have internship coordinators who may be able to share suggestions for possible internship sites.
Step 4: Apply and Interview
Once you’ve uploaded your resume to Network Symplicity and implemented any feedback, you’re ready to start applying for positions. (Resume samples and advice are available under the Resources tab of your Network Symplicity account.) Some organizations require you to apply via their organization web sites, while others will work directly with the Career Enrichment Network to receive resumes and other application materials. Please read the application instructions for each position carefully and ask a Network staff member if you’re unsure about how to apply. In some cases where you must apply via the organization’s web site, you’ll also be asked to “apply” via your Network Symplicity account. This is for tracking purposes, since if we know who has applied to a position, we can have a more productive conversation with the recruitment representative about your candidacy. If we don’t know you applied, then we can’t answer questions or advocate for you!
If you’re contacted for an interview, please contact a Network staff member to notify them and also to ask any questions you may have about the interview process. Interview resources are available under the Resources tab of your Network Symplicity account, in addition to the Penn State Career Guide.
Please note that there are several other resume and cover letter review options available to Penn State students. If you are writing a personal statement for an internship, you can request a personal statement tutorial from Penn State Learning. Career counselors are also available at Penn State's Career Services for drop-in and individual career counseling, including resume and cover letter reviews.
Step 5: Academic Credit (optional depending on internship site)
Once you’ve been offered and have accepted a position, it’s time to decide about academic credit. Some internship opportunities require students to earn academic credit, while for others, academic credit is optional. Each department and major has different requirements regarding how internship credits can be used toward degree requirements, so it's a good idea to talk with your academic adviser to decide how many credits would be appropriate for your experience. To earn academic credit, you must complete the required academic assignments, in addition to performing your assigned internship duties.
Students in the College of the Liberal Arts have some flexibility regarding their internship credits. In cases where the internship is very closely related to your academic major, you should check with your department internship coordinator to discuss your assignment and registration for the department-based internship course.
If your internship does not meet the requirements for earning credit through your specific department, you may request registration for the College (non-department specific) internship course section of LA 495. Essentially, academic credit is available for all legitimate internships that we consider to have a significant and valuable career and educational component.