Using professors to help your search

By Colleen Sabatino, The Intern Coach

You may be in your freshman or sophomore year, but you already have a few favorite professors whom you admire. And you may also have a few classes that inspire you to find out more about a particular area of study. Create a list of your favorite professors and classes and make a game plan to talk to the teachers and teaching assistants, too, about potential internships. Professors have lots of contacts outside of the university with colleagues, professional associations, publishers, and specialists in related fields. Teaching assistants usually have had internships and also have professional connections.

First, set up an appointment with each person, requesting advice. Arrive with a list of questions and take notes. If the professor or teaching assistant mentions names of contacts, be sure to ask if you can use the professor or teaching assistant as a reference in making the contact. During your appointment, refrain from talking too much or staying too long. You’ll be more welcome the next time. Before you leave, give the person a copy of your resume and ask if he/she would give you some feedback on it. You may want to make a follow-up appointment to continue the discussion. And write or email a thank-you message immediately to show your appreciation. If the professor or teaching assistant has been extremely helpful, you could consider taking him/her to a casual lunch or giving an inexpensive gift.

Another approach to enlisting a professor’s help is to volunteer to assist him/her on a project. Most professors are engaged in projects based on grants and need help to finish the projects on time. You might be able to perform research or compile reports, facilitating the process and earning the professor’s goodwill in helping you find an internship. Such volunteer efforts might also be good additions to your resume when you’re going for an internship.