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Getting An Engineering Internship

  1. Sep 11, 2011 #1
    In a week or so, my school is hosting an 'expo' wherein dozens of companies will descend and begin to recruit engineering students for internships. I'm interested in getting one over the summer, but I'm hoping I can get some feedback and advice from PF first.

    The biggest challenge I can foresee is that I have absolutely no work experience. I've never even gotten a burger flipping job. There are a lot of reasons for this, but none that I'd be able to explain through a cover letter/resume. Does this completely kill my chances at an internship?

    Another is that I haven't completed any design courses yet. My current courses are statics, intro to programming, diff eq's, intro to aerospace engineering, and an engineering communications class. Next semester will be similar: dynamics, thermodynamics, slightly-more-advanced programming, vector calc, and mechanics of solids (deformations, etc). And clearly I haven't completed any of these, so how can I sell myself as an engineering intern when I haven't demonstrated success in engineering? Not to say I haven't demonstrated the ability to work physics problems, but physics is not engineering.

    Quite frankly, my resume is crap-on-a-stick at this point, and I'm wondering as to the futility of even attending the expo. Any advice - any - would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 11, 2011 #2
    Get a job with a professor over the summer. It's easier to get and good for your resume (but doesn't pay as well).

    You need to get something on your resume. It doesn't sound like your in good shape, unless you have personal connections you can work.
  4. Sep 11, 2011 #3
    Phyisab gave great advice. Professors are always willing to take on undergrads. Find a research group that interests you and start knocking on doors, most professors will be more than happy to bring you into their group.
  5. Sep 12, 2011 #4
    I'm foggy on how to do that. Again, I have nothing particularly useful in my coursework with which to market myself. I feel like it'd be even harder to get a position as an undergrad researcher than it would to get an internship.
  6. Sep 12, 2011 #5

    Not true in my experience. It's only hard to get a job with a professor in the sense that it often feels difficult to go introduce yourself to many professors and ask for work when you are young. But it's at least slightly their responsibility to help students get lab experience. If your grades are good it should be no problem.

    You probably won't be so much a researcher as a lab assistant btw.
  7. Sep 12, 2011 #6
    Well, should I try emailing professors whose interests are a near-match to mine, or try to hunt them down during their office hours? How should I introduce myself - through flat out stating I'd like a job, or beating around the bush by asking specific questions about their research? The latter I'd have trouble with, given that - again - I have little actual knowledge of engineering.
  8. Sep 12, 2011 #7
    Read Dr. A's Magical Advice Emporium: Navigating the College Career Path. "How to Ask a Professor for a Research Position"

    Just google it. I would give you the link, but I am using my IPod Touch.
  9. Sep 12, 2011 #8
    I think a good way to go about it would be as follows:
    1. Try your best to get an idea what rough area of aerospace you want to pursue further work in (though early in your studies it may be just a guess).

    2. Figure out what professors work is best inline with your goals.

    3. Email the professor and let them know your situation and ask to set up a brief meeting.

    *Brief is the key word..I have found most professors are more than willing to help
    students, but they are very busy as well so it would be unfair to take up to much of their time. Same goes with the email: Keep it short and to the point. They don't need to know your life story, simply that your interested in meeting to discuss opportunities.

    4. Upon meeting them you can further inquire about the type of work they are doing and get an idea of it is something you want and if it is even an option.
  10. Sep 12, 2011 #9


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    Talk to a professor you'd like to work with. I'm also an aero, and I got an undergraduate research position by talking to a professor after a presentation for a introduction to aerospace engineering seminar class.
  11. Sep 12, 2011 #10
    You need to be more confident, you need to act like you're the best person for the internship.

    You say that you have nothing to offer, but why focus on that? You should be focusing on the things you HAVE done.
  12. Sep 14, 2011 #11
    Lie. If you want to have a rubbish job on your CV, say that you worked at a restaurant part time for 18 months. You dealt with cash handling and customers, etc etc. No one checks this. They may ask you "what did you learn from this? how many people did you work with? what were your responsibilities?" but as long as you can rattle of an ok answer, job done.

    As an intern, you will be the most useless person in the office, and they'll give you work that won't be crucial but will be useful. They may ask you to draw up some CAD stuff, etc. My first internship involved me running around with draftsmen rather than doing any engineering. It was great, but not what i expected. So don't worry about it, as you're there to learn.

    In an interview, they are looking to see if you annoy them, and probe you a bit about what you know.
  13. Sep 14, 2011 #12
    I'd rather not get an internship than lie on a resume. There's too many risks, and it's immoral as hell.
  14. Sep 25, 2011 #13
    Well, I asked a professor for a spot on their research team, but I haven't heard back, and it's been a week. I'm somewhat at a loss now, because that professor was the only one whose research I really connected with. The others seem well outside my areas of interest. Is it common to snag one's first research position anywhere one can, and if so, how does one go about feigning interest in something you don't understand even at a superficial level?
  15. Sep 25, 2011 #14


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    If you don't attend the expo, your chance of getting an internship is guaranteed to be 0.

    If you do attend, your chance is somewhere between 0 and 1, which is better than 0.

    So you have nothing to lose by attending. Even if you completely screw up this year, you will have learned something about how not to screw up so badly next year.

    Don't worry about "not having any design experience". Nobody is going to let an intern loose on designing anything that matters to the company anyway. The most important thing you will get out of it is a fly-on-the-wall view of what really goes on in industry. That might come as quite a surprise, but you will be better off knowing about it that not knowing!
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