Engineering Frosh and Soph: What to do when the Internships require Juniors

You there – yes, you.  You’re who I’m talking about.

You’re a good student.  Finishing up your first or second year at UConn.  You’re starting to move beyond the gen-eds and into actual engineering coursework.  At least some.  You want a summer internship at one of those big-name companies, but…they say they only want juniors.  What to do?

First, don’t take it personally.  You see, companies do not offer internships out of a native sense of benevolent altruism.  For-profit companies exist, well, for profit.  Summer internships are truly offered as a part of their longer-term talent acquisition plans.  There are, in essence, 10-week-long interviews.  See, juniors are less than a year away from becoming full-time employees by the end of the summer, so employers use internships as a vetting process for their full-time hiring needs.  As a first- or second-year student, you’re truly too far away from becoming a full-time employee for most companies.  Yes, some lucky sophomores may get fancy internships, but it is decidedly not the norm.

Now what?

Research is a good option.  The National Science Foundation offers Research Experiences for Undergraduates across the country.  Run a search for “NSF REU” to check them out.  The UConn Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) has a number of tips and resources to find research options as well:

Basic wage-level work in a technical settings is good for engineering students as well.  Many employers – UConn included – hire students for basic IT help desk-type roles.  Odds are there’s a small machine shop or manufacturing company near your home…have you considered just stopping by when you’re home for spring break to see if they hire summer workers?  If you’re thinking about design or manufacturing, why not check it our first-hand?  I blogged about this approach back in 2015:

Finally, just get a job.  Scoop ice cream at a local creamery.  Fold jeans at the mall.  Run the bumper cars at Lake Compounce or Six Flags – or work at other places that need lots of summer-only employees such as YMCA day camps or sleepaways camps.  Check with your town engineering office or water treatment plant.  Put on your boots and work construction or landscaping.  The idea is that you then develop a work history.  You prove you can take instruction, be a reliable employee, and can even develop references for later…employers – especially engineering employers – love this.  And you’ll put some money in your pocket.

There’s always next summer….

By John Bau
John Bau Career Consultant, School of Engineering John Bau