Internships Increase as Economy Improves

Internships increase as economy improves, Duke advisers say

By Georgia Parke | March 18, 2013

Internship opportunities for students, particularly undergraduate upperclassmen, have been broadening as a result of the recovering economy, career counselors say.

The Duke Career Center currently has more than 300 internships in its eRecruiting database, the majority of which are paid, said Anne Lyford, associate director for employer relations at the Career Center. Lyford and Suzanne Valdivia, assistant director of undergraduate internships at the Sanford School of Public Policy, both noted the relative improvement in the internship market compared to last year as a result of an improving economy.

“People’s perception of the economy is coming back,” Valdivia said. “There is more flexibility in the job market now. [Interns are less frequently] squished under someone else’s job title.”

Lyford said there was no specific data available about Duke students and the increase in the number of opportunities this year compared to last.

Recruiters have been asking for more applicants to their programs than they have in past years, said Elise Goldwasser, undergraduate career advisor and senior director of the internship program at Sanford. She noted that even though Sanford and other career centers at Duke are not placement centers, they connect students and employers and also educate employers on the importance of having interns.

“We are seeing more and more employers hiring summer interns,” Lyford said. “Not only because of what interns contribute, but they can [also] assess the performance of the intern and see if they will hire them [after graduation].”

Employers focus primarily on college juniors, but sophomores have also been successful at obtaining similar work experiences, she added.

The window of opportunity for finding ideal, paid internships narrows considerably after spring break, Lyford said, but it is still possible with dedication and commitment.


“There are still great internships to be had, but you need to be proactive in the search out there doing work and making contacts,” Lyford said. “It takes time.”

Internships in public policy differ in time frame from those in the private sector, Goldwasser said. She noted that local agencies might not even list their summer internship opportunities until the middle of March.

“They still think it is the winter,” Goldwasser said. “We think they’re wrong.”

The different application deadlines complicates the process for students, Goldwasser said. Faced with the different timelines, students must do a “complicated dance” of accepting offers earlier in the season and waiting for deadlines yet to approach, Goldwasser said. This results in an undesirable situation of weighing costs against benefits in coordinating summer plans that will best prepare a student for his or her career path.

International internships, which have become increasingly popular, also deviate from the traditional timeline for domestic summer internships—most do not open applications until much later in the spring. International internship opportunities have held steady in recent years, said Carmella LaBianca, global policy advisor for Sanford career services, but almost all internships outside of the United States directed at American students are unpaid.

“If you want to intern abroad, be flexible with waiting around,” LaBianca said. “At the [United Nations for example], they don’t have time right now to think about interns, so they put it off until the end. International offices don’t always jump into action.”

LaBianca explained that international internships teach cross-cultural and communication skills that employers value, particularly for graduate students interested in global policy. Other areas of expertise, such as language skills and knowledge of diverse cultures and countries, are appealing to companies with an increasingly global perspective, she said.

Although the numbers and diversity of opportunities available to both undergraduates and graduate students reflect an improving economic climate, Goldwasser said she is not sure whether the trend will continue.

“I am concerned with a sequestered government, whether that will have an impact on government relations and private companies,” Goldwasser said. “I always hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”


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