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Build-your-own-Internship
March 5, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

As a 2nd year Ph.D student in biotech/engineering, how can I find/create an internship opportunity at a start-up or established company that I find interesting? How can I prove my possible value to a company, and when is too early to start trying to build connections?

I'm in my second year of a Ph.D program in engineering, and with the approval of my advisor, I'm trying to find a 3-9 month internship starting in the fall of 2012 at a company that does work I find interesting. The research I'm working on now is fine, but my end-goal is to work as a researcher at a company doing things that are common in industry, but not necessarily the same as my Ph.D research, although they are related. I'm hoping that an internship will give me some more direction and focus with regards to my own research, and more importantly, give me more skills and contacts leading to me being very hire-able after I finish. I'm also considering quitting my Ph.D with a masters if the working world seems to suit me way better. That is also an option that I've discussed with my advisor, so it's not like I'm thinking of just up and leaving. My advisor is ok with the idea because money is very tight in our lab right now, and it would be helpful to not have to pay my stipend for some months while we wait for more grants to come in.

In my searching so far, I have found that there are a lot of summer internships for undergraduates, and some summer internships for graduate students. However, for various reasons I can't take a break from my research until the fall. At the companies (start-ups) that I find MOST interesting, there are few to none undergrad internship opportunities posted, but I do so see postings for full time or temp research jobs that I would be fairly qualified for just based on my undergraduate work and pre-Ph.D job experience. How can I transform these opportunities into a graduate internship?

I'm thinking that I might be able to create an internship at a company by using my pre-existing network to scout for needs within companies for a temporary researcher with my skills. Is it too early to say to people in my network, "Hey, I'm looking for an internship opportunity at XYZ company for the fall, do you think So-and-So that you know there might be able to help me?" This is also a common question, but how can I expand my network to help me with this search?

Also, have you ever been or hired a graduate intern at a tech company? Do companies think that these types of jobs are valuable to them? I see it is as being a good value, in that I'm basically already at a Masters level, but as long as I got paid something akin to my graduate stipend (peanuts), I would be willing to do high-level research for them. Should I mention my low salary requirements in looking for such an opportunity?

Thanks for your help!
posted by permiechickie to Work & Money (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
(I have never been an intern, but I have hired and run them)

Running an intern can be a lot of work! Depending on the size of the startup, that capacity may or may not be there. When selling yourself *to me*, show and tell me how you are going to make my life / company better. Most startups are also quite busy being startups, and not participating in university internship programs.

Suggestions:

* be where startups are. Coding nights? Linked-in meetups? Entrepreneurship contests?
* Salary is mostly mostly irrelevant.
* show that you won't be a burden, and that you can deliver value.
* typically, companies start around products, and have to grow into businesses. Founders have often done quite a bit of research already, and the business part is how to turn that into money :)

Good luck!
posted by gregglind at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2012


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