Four Strategies for a Successful Internship Search

Posted on Wednesday, Jun 16, 2021

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you were most likely accepted into PPIP or ANRP. Half the battle is won, but half still remains. The nation’s capital awaits you, but you are scrambling to find an internship that relates to your interests.
All students dread the internship search: submitting your application, sitting through a grueling interview, and waiting impatiently on pins and needles for the hosting office’s answer. Other Aggies may receive internships before you, and you start to worry that time is running out. What do you need to do?
This blog post will explain four ways to obtain an internship in public policy. Regardless of your internship location and type of organization, the internship search requires you to plan ahead and be proactive. Start by identifying all internships related to a certain topic such as national security, international trade, or health policy. If you know a niche that you are interested in, explore different organizations that work with that topic. When you have found a few internships on the Internet, start an Excel spreadsheet with categories such as internship title, hosting organization, application deadline, location, and a contact’s name, phone number, and email. Keep the spreadsheet handy by adding it to your web browser’s favorites (if it is Google Sheets) or checking it every day in Excel. Add each application deadline to your online calendar or paper planner so you will not miss any due dates. These tips keep you organized while applying for internships, but where do you find them in the first place?
  1. Start with the Resources in Front of You
Stephanie Webb, Erin Fisk, and the other PPIP or ANRP staff are phenomenal resources. They are here to counsel and guide you on your way toward a policy internship. Ask them what organizations need interns, and see if anything matches your interests. Let them know what your interests are, and they might find a perfect fit. Be sure to communicate with them often throughout the internship search process, and thank them at the end with a handwritten thank you note and email. Beyond the staff, keep reading different blog posts on this website; you never know what valuable information you could find!
  1. USAJobs (Federal Government Internships)
USAJobs is the United States Government’s official website for applying for federal careers. This includes many internships from the Department of Energy to the Internal Revenue Service. However, some federal agencies post their internships on their own websites (more on this later). Create a USAJobs account immediately, and begin searching. On a desktop or laptop computer, click on the keywords field on the main page (without anything typed in), and hit enter. Then, a vertical column on the right side of the screen should appear with different kinds of filters. Select the “Students” checkbox (or recent graduates in other cases), and you will see all results relating to current undergraduate and graduate students. Be sure to check USAJobs every day because some internships are only available to apply to for a few days, and some limit the number of applicants. New internships are added every day, so be vigilant about logging into the website daily.
USAJobs is tricky to use at first since you have to “build your resume” in your account (you cannot upload your resume), but you will get used to it. Federal careers and internships prioritize applicants who can quantify their accomplishments and have plenty of prior work experience, so keep that in mind as your write your resume in the resume builder. Personally, my research with the Department of Defense and The Bush School improved my internship applications.
  1. Other Websites (Federal Government, Think Tank, and Other Organizations Internships)
As mentioned above, not every federal agency posts their internships on USAJobs. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the U.S. Department of State all have their internships on their own websites. Add these to your internship Excel spreadsheet to keep track of deadlines; it becomes more difficult to keep track of different internships from different websites. If you need assistance with any of these applications, ask the PPIP/ANRP staff, a former student that works in the agency you are looking at, or someone from the Texas A&M Career Center. Keep in mind that Washington, D.C., has way more than just federal internships. There are dozens of think tanks, lobbying firms, and other organizations and businesses that are also involved in the policymaking process. Start your internship search wide, then narrow your list to be more relevant to your interests.
  1. Networking, networking, networking!
As a student at the largest university in the nation, you have hundreds of resources at your disposal. This means that you have multiple opportunities to network with current students, alumni, and other working professionals. Start at and login or create an account. This website has a database of every Aggie that has ever passed through Texas A&M, so utilize the “Find an Aggie” feature to your advantage. Washington, D.C., has the most Aggies anywhere in the world outside of Texas, so you have no excuse to not network with civil servants already in government. Cold email Aggies that work in organizations or agencies you are interested in; you may be surprised that they will want to talk to you and help you out! Beyond this, determine if your college or department has any networking tools or lists. As a Business Honors and Finance major, I have access to a database of former students that are in all different types of positions around the world. Take the initiative to find these tools and use them. Do not be shy to email alumni; they want to talk to you and help you with your internship search. Often, they will recommend you to contact people that they know, so your networking “bubble” will grow quickly. If they do not mention this, ask them if they know anyone that you can talk to. The Student Government Association (SGA) on-campus has an organization called “Aggies & Mentors” (launching in Fall 2021) that pairs students with alumni. Use this resource! You can request to be paired with an alumnus for any reason, but especially for networking. These resources should allow you to begin networking with solid footing.
All of these strategies will help you conduct your internship search with success. Reflect on your interests, and try to find how it intersects with different needs in society. Be sure to start early, plan ahead, be patient, and constantly seek advice. How will you take the lead for your own internship search and networking? How will you lay the foundations not only for finding an internship, but also a long-term career?
Joseph Balmain Rodgers
Office of Strategy and Engagement, Global Markets, International Trade Administration
Washington, D.C. | Summer 2021

Tags: DC, internship, networking, planning, PPIP, search, Washington