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May 22 2017
by Diana Pope

How to Get an Internship in Public Policy

By Diana Pope - May 22 2017

The internship process can be incredibly difficult to understand at first — you have to figure out who to reach out to, where to apply, what materials to send in and how to meet the appropriate deadlines with little help. Although the application season for summer public policy internships has already ended, you can still learn some valuable advice so you're ready to apply for internships in winter, spring or next summer. If you're worried about the internship process, here are ten tips to help you along. 

Internship Search

1. Get a LinkedIn Profile

Esther Vargas via Flickr Creative Commons

This is probably the easiest step in the internship process. LinkedIn allows you to post any educational, professional or volunteer experience online so that you can showcase your qualifications to employers.  This social network also allows you to connect with classmates, professors and prior employers so that you can gain information about potential job opportunities. 

If you get a LinkedIn, always post a professional portrait for your profile image. Employers do pay attention to this. 

2. Reach out to Contacts

If you know any former friends, teachers or mentors who have some interest in your specialty, make sure to reach out to them. Sometimes close contacts can provide the best advice and give you valuable connections that can lead to internship opportunities. 

3. Look at Your College's Advising Options 

Your dean or chair can often be the best resource when it comes to the internship process — so ask your school's advisors if they know about possible internships in public policy. It is literally their job to know this information, so seek out their help. Also, many colleges have job fairs so that students can find employers who are eager to hire interns; go to these events and learn how to deliver a proper elevator pitch. Finally, most colleges also have a career and professional development office. Utilize this to gain help with the internship process. 

4. Contact Local Public Officials 

Many mayors, state representatives and senators are always eager to hire new interns. For instance, the New York Mayor's Office is known for hiring a host of interns each summer. Send an email and/or letter to any public officials so they'll know you're interested in a future internship. Even if they reject you, they can direct you to other possible internship opportunities. 

Send in the Right Materials

Charlotwest via Flickr Creative Commons

1. Spend Time on a Cover Letter

You have to send in a cover letter each time you apply for an internship. Your cover letter indicates why you are interested in the internship and why you are a worthy candidate for the position. If you are contacting a public official, make sure to discuss your volunteer experience and work in the community. You should always list your contact information so employers can reach out to you, and you should always say that you are available for an interview. 

2. Work Hard on Your Resume

Create a resume that lists your professional history, academic background, achievements and volunteer work. Make sure your proofread your resume at least a few times — employers will notice if you make spelling or grammatical mistakes. If you have a LinkedIn, include the link to your LinkedIn at the top of your resume. Most universities also have offices that can help you craft a resume specific to your discipline, as well as online materials and templates. Be sure to take advantage of these. 

3. Find a Few Writing Samples 

Sending in a few writing samples can help a lot with the application process, because they allow you to demonstrate your level of expertise with professional writing. Prior academic papers are the best writing samples to send to employers. In addition, you can also send in writing samples from other publications as well. If you've written for a website or newspaper, employers also like to see this as well. 

Other Advice

1. Ask your Employers for Additional Requirements

In addition to your cover letter and resume, employers may have additional requirements (such as interviews) in the hiring process. Always be sure to ask if they need anything else from you. 

2. Watch Your Deadlines

Make sure that you apply to each internship a couple of months before the deadline. Employers will need time to evaluate your application, and you will not be at the bottom of the pile if you apply early for an internship. 

3. Keep Busy in the Meantime 

While you are waiting to hear back from internships, try to find other opportunities for personal growth. If everyone else has an internship and you do not, focus on ways to improve yourself so that you will be ready for the next application season. Gain volunteer experience or focus on your academics; you never know where each experience will lead you. 

Overall, the internship process is quite intimidating to anyone with minimal experience. However, with hard work and dedication, you can finally get an amazing internship that you'll love. And, even if you don't get an internship, you can still learn a lot from the application and interview process for future jobs. 

Lead Image Credit: Maryland GovPics via Flickr Creative Commons 

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Diana Pope - University of Tennessee Knoxville

Diana is a political science major who also enjoys journalism, history, and philosophy. She loves writing, researching, and debating about politics. In her free time, she enjoys Grey's anatomy marathons and reading detective fiction.

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