These tips aren’t about finding research internships per se, but hopefully they’ll help you in your search for those valued practical experiences 😉
Tip 1 – DEFINE YOUR CRITERIA
I HIGHLY suggest (see what I did there?) you take the time to assess which criteria are the most important to you. If you keep them in mind while you’re seeking, it will guide you and save you time, much like an internal lighthouse helping you make sense of the sea of opportunities. Think of the following: are you limited geographically and/or financially? What are your availabilities? Do you have a favourite research topic?
Tip 2 – ASK YOUR PROFESSORS
They’re the people who have succeeded in your field of interest. Besides, it’s likely that they, too, have gone through an internship-seeking stage in their life, so that they know about where to search, how to apply, etc. Maybe they even know people who might be interested in
free labour, or are themselves interested. PS: this can help build a relationship with your professors – an essential step in professional networking.
Tip 3 – REMEMBER ARTICLES YOU HAVE ENJOYED
If you liked them, there is a good chance you would also like working on that topic yourself. Simply look up authors’ information. This should lead you to the research group they belong to, which, in turn, could direct you to internship opportunities. If not, contact them anyway!
Tip 4 – EXPLORE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS’ WEBSITES
Taken together, they ABOUND with information regarding the scientific discipline they’re concerned with, including internship, scholarship and job listings. If you are interested in ethology research, you can check out the list I have made of animal behaviour related professional associations.
Tip 5 – SUBSCRIBE TO MAILING LISTS
The listings I mentioned earlier are sometimes published through mailing lists. These are great because offers arrive directly in your inbox, without you having to search for them. Neat, right? For example, MARMAM is a mailing list for “researchers and managers working with marine mammals” (to subscribe: link).
Tip 6 – EXPAND YOUR SEARCH BEYOND UNIVERSITY LABS
Universities hold great research groups along with great scientists – and that’s great. But it could be a good idea to broaden your horizon by considering companies or non-profit organisations. For one thing, you’d be expanding your pool of possibilities. For another, the difference in internship experience could enhance your transferable skills, such as adaptability. If you study biology, you might want to check out websites of natural parks, reserves and wildlife protection organisations (such as LPO in France).
Tip 7 – ALLOW FOR MORE TIME THAN NECESSARY
This one might seem self-evident, but it really is not. In my experience, there are ALWAYS unforseen complications. Usually they are of an administrative nature and can range from agreements that must be signed to visa applications which can take months. The more time the better, of course, but I would say beginning at least 6 months prior to your preferred starting date is a good rule of thumb.
Tip 8 – OVERESTIMATE YOUR CHANCES
Sometimes, getting accepted to be a willing slave can be a competitive process. Don’t let that stop you from applying. Even when requirements are clearly stated and you (think you) don’t fulfill them completely, apply nonetheless! You wouldn’t lose anything. Even if you get rejected, the time you have spent working on your application goes into perfecting your writing skills.
As a final bit of general advice: do send cover letters regardless of whether there is an actual internship offer. I mean, let’s be real, most of the time there won’t be any. It’s up to you to prove your worth and convince people they should totally take you to work with them, even if they didn’t know they needed someone in the first place. I wish you all the good luck in your search!
PS: I would like to thank my friends Tiffany, Amandine and Sophie for providing me with ideas and insights on the subject ^_^