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Internships During Graduate School: How to Start a Side Career Without Quitting Your Day Job

The clock strikes 10:00 pm, your thumb has a raging case of carpal tunnel syndrome, the trash is full of tubes containing unsuccessful PCR reactions, and you wonder…Is this really what I want to do with my life?

How do you get your mojo back when you’re knee deep in research?  One option to consider is an internship.

Wait? You’re saying to do MORE work? I’m already doing a million things, how could I possibly do more work? Well for one, it will help you refocus, discover your strengths, and greatly advance your career.

You have a tremendous amount of science knowledge and highly valued soft skills.  Why wait to apply that to your passion in teaching, writing, law, or business? The benefits of an internship are numerous; you will learn something completely new, develop professional contacts, and most importantly feel useful.  In the midst of failed experiments, an internship can be a saving grace.

How do you find and excel at an internship?

Self-introspection.

What are you good at?  What are you not good at it? What are your goals? What is your ideal job?  Try taking the myIDP test through Science Careers to identify careers in line with your strengths and interests.

Identify potential internships.

Do your research *sigh* and contact people that have already gone through the internship. There are national programs, but you can also carve out opportunities by asking around-everyone loves free labor!

Talk to your advisor.

You must consult with your advisor and gain approval.  Let your mentor know your career goals and explain why an internship will be beneficial. Some PIs are dinosaurs and believe that you should spend every waking minute in the lab. In that case, you need to develop a plan to show that your lab work will not be affected.

Apply.

Go ahead and jump right in.

Tailor your experience.

If there is something you want to learn more about, ask and you shall receive.

Be known and heard.

Introduce yourself to the office, ask a lot of questions, and help out with small tasks. Conduct informal informational interviews to get an idea for the job. Networking is the biggest advantage of an internship because you are working with real life professionals who know many people in the field.

Securing an internship is a way to take responsibility for your career and escape the walls of the ivory tower-good luck and enjoy!

Internship resources:

Science Writing

 

Science Policy

 

Marketing and Sales

 

Technology Transfer

 

Teaching

 

Patent

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