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Thread: Is anyone else finding it impossible to land an internship??

  1. #1
    Jul 2008
    Fly Over States

    Is anyone else finding it impossible to land an internship??


    I've been out of school about a year or so and the only thing separating me from my BA in Urban Studies (emphasis in Sustainable Urban design/development) is a 1 credit internship!! ACK!

    I acknowledge that my program was pretty anemic. I wasn't required to take any CAD courses for example. It consisted almost entirely of lecture, writing papers, small projects, etc. But potential employers don't seem interested at all in that kind of experience.

    Therefore to beef up my resume and create my own work-related experience (to fill in the gaps), I've spent a lot of time researching and participating in open design competitions - currently working on a submission for TA's "Designing the 21st Century Street" competition. I know this kind of experience can look good to potential employers (and keep me from getting rusty).

    But still no takers

    I feel stalled - i can't get my diploma or attend grad school until i complete this requirement. (To boot, my dept prides itself on NOT helping students get internships.)

    I know the economy sucks balls right now, but i figure all the more reason for a firm to jump at the chance of scoring some free labor - especially free labor with sustainability experience.

    Any words of wisdom??

  2. #2
    Dec 2006
    Couple of things:

    1. Do not wait until the last minute to look for internships, especially if it will keep you from earning your diploma (and don't limit them to just summer positions either). The more internships/related jobs you have = the more experience you gain = greater chance of landing full time work. Try to find internships, part time jobs, etc., even if they are unpaid, during the school year. When I graduated college with a bachelors in planning, I had completed 6 (in planing, GIS, economic development). Several of these were during the year and were part-time jobs (some working up to 20-30 hours of week). My resume was already 2 pages and I had a decent size portfolio by the time I graduated.
    2. If you only have time to do internships during the summer, start looking early. I would recommend January. As soon as you see a position pop up, apply immediately. Do not waste time. A lot of students like to fall back on comfy summer jobs that they had in high school (lifeguard, the mall, etc.). Don't fall into this trap. Unless you are going to be a professional lifeguard, store manager, etc., you should go out and find a good internship. Illinoisplanner had an internship with a public sector planning department throughout college and plans on working there after he graduates.
    3. You have sustainability coursework, which is very important, but it is not to be confused with experience.

    Hope this helps-

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Feb 2007
    Playing at a movie theater near you
    are you looking to get paid? That makes a big difference. Try cold calling municipalities and arrange meetings with directors or senior planners and try to find out what they are behind on. I know one of my clients is hurting right now because he has no one to go back and and check the zoning ordinance for changes based on approved projects, with a back-log of over 2 plus years. This is the type of nitty gritty work that an intern can easily do while getting some valuable work experience. I agree with what Nick said to start looking early. You need to take the extra step to get an internship and make yourself available to everything and anything.
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  4. #4
    Jul 2008
    Illinois as of 1/1/09
    I had an unpaid internship for two semesters in a neighboring town. I was the only one who applied (presumably) because everyone wanted a paid internship.

    A good idea is to talk to people in your city and see if they need help with administrative tasks and other "low-level" stuff. That can be your internship if you put in enough hours. In fact, just an internship in a housing department is good enough. You don't need to dive right into code revisions and PUDs to learn about the office. You WILL learn from just hearing whats going on and asking questions while doing non-related housing stuff PLUS you can always put down on your resume that you've been cross-trained and have experience in several areas of the Community Development Department.

  5. #5
    Apr 2008
    American South
    IMO, it really reflects poorly on your school/department that it has not done a good enough job of establishing relationships with nearby municipalities in order for you to get the experience the school/department requires for graduation.

    Keep this experience in mind when looking at graduate schools. When you visit a prospective school, ask the program director about the program's ties to local government and other organizations.

    Best wishes.

  6. #6
    Jan 2008
    Atlanta, Ga


    The others provided some great advice for you, and I would also say that you should ask students from other schools about internships. I recented changed my undergrad major to planning. And through a indirect contact from a friend at Columbia, I found out about a summer planning research internship at MIT in a program that normally only supports engineers. The program has been pretty good, and I've learned a lot of information (Especially concerning how much more Econ, Stat, and Comp Sci classes I need), and made a few great entries for my portfolio.

    During the year, I basically hustled my way into an internship at a local development agency. I just showed up to their office everyday and bugged them and asked for work, and I went from volunteer, to extern, to paid intern in about a month. I wouldn't recommend this, as it was a last resort choice for me, but it might work for you.

    I was in a similar situation at the start of the spring semester (required internship for dept., no help from department, few offerings available), so I wish you luck

  7. #7
    Aug 2008
    Nashua, NH
    During my internship hunt I found that it was easier to contact places that you'd be interested in working the most. Currently, I have a full-time paid summer internship which is truly awesome, I never expected to find something so perfect for myself. But I've done "internship" work at another Town Hall near my school. The people I worked with there told me that they're willing to take free help all the time. Another place I'm thinking of doing an unpaid internship for my final semester has said the same thing.

    People I know interning now, or in the past, have all said they had to contact Town Halls to see if they're looking for paid or free help, more often the latter.

    Good luck in the hunt.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
    May 2005
    Blog entries
    I got an internship straight out of high school (yes, high school) simply by calling up a few municipal planning departments, explaining how I want to get experience, and asking them if they could use any help. The kicker that got me in...I offered to work unpaid for about 10-20 hours a week. Really, who's going to turn away someone willing to come in and file and do other small projects for free? However, during that time, I proved myself to them, displayed my knowledge, my willingness to work on whatever was needed, and sure enough, they paid me the next summer. I've been there now, interning for several years now, and getting lots of experience. Almost to the point where I'm practically doing the work of an entry or mid-level planner.

    Really, don't bother looking at job listings. Just get on the horn and start calling places you might want to intern at and get your foot in the door. Prove yourself to the place that you are worthy of being paid after they see what your capable of doing for a few months. And if they can't pay you at that point, at least you can go and find a paid intership elsewhere, this time with experience under your belt.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

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