By Allison Jones, Editor at Idealist.orgidealist

Q: How would a student get started on their internship search within the nonprofit sector?

  • Be clear about the kind of work you’d like to do: One thing people tend to underestimate is the sheer size and diversity of the nonprofit sector. On the one hand this is exciting as there really is a place for everyone! On the other hand, this means there is no single path to landing an internship or building a career in this sector. Of course, you don’t have to have it all figured out, but there is a huge difference between “I want a nonprofit internship” and “I want to intern at an education-focused nonprofit in Cleveland where I can put my writing, research, and social media skills to work.”
  • Reach out to current interns: If you have a particular organization or industry in mind, find a few interns who are already there. Ask them about their experiences, what they’re learning, what their next steps are, and how they landed the opportunity.
  • Ask your network for introductions and guidance: Does your career center know about nonprofit internships? How about your alumni office…can they introduce you to grads who are hiring at nonprofits? Or outside of school—are there nonprofits you volunteer with or that your family and friends support? Let people know you’re looking for opportunities, you’ll be surprised by the advice and support you might receive.
  • Hop online: Idealist.org has over 13,000 (!!!) internships listed by nonprofits, government agencies, and social enterprises from around the world.

Q: When interviewing for a nonprofit internship, how can a student set themselves apart?

  • Do research about the organization before you arrive: In addition to understanding their mission, has the organization been in the news recently? Who are the organization’s leaders and what have they accomplished? Good research helps you craft better answers and questions and gives you a sense of how you might fit in.
  • Emphasize what you can contribute AND what you hope to learn. Yes, an internship is a learning experience, but hiring someone is a big deal. It can’t be all about what you want.
  • Ask smart questions: What would you consider to be the most important aspects of this internship? What are some of the characteristics of past successful interns? Do you have any concerns about my qualifications as a potential intern? Here is a list of job interview questions: http://idealistcareers.org/175-questions-to-ask-during-a-job-interview/
  • Prepare for common questions: Why this internship? What are your strengths and weaknesses? I recommend Jenny Blake’s interview spreadsheet, which helps you gather information to common interview questions.
  • Be nice and professional. Seems obvious, but I’m putting it here anyway.

Q: I’ve heard that many internships within the nonprofit sector are unpaid.  Is this true?  What might be the value of having an unpaid internship for a nonprofit organization?

  • It’s called the job-seeker catch 22: You need experience to get a job but how can you get experience if you can’t land a job? Internships give you a leg up in terms of getting the experience you need to land better jobs in the future. However, there is a big debate in the nonprofit sector about the ethics around unpaid internships, specifically how they exclude people who can’t afford to take on an unpaid opportunity and how it can be hypocritical to support social change yet not pay people for their labor.

Q: What makes an intern different from a volunteer in the nonprofit world?

  • Legally? You can learn about that here from the Department of Labor: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm and here http://form1023.org/what-are-employees-interns-volunteers
  • In terms of your career: How volunteer opportunities and internship opportunities look vary from org to org. Internships tend to be a bit more structured in terms of duties, title, support, and time than volunteer opportunities. The article I reference above from Nonprofit Quarterly also explores the difference between an intern and volunteer in terms of how they work within a nonprofit.

Q: What skills could a student focus on developing in their classes or activities that might be valuable to showcase on their resumes when seeking an internship in the nonprofit sector?

Two things:

  1.  A commitment or interest in the social sector, demonstrated through volunteering or praxis. Yes, courses are important, but getting hands-on experience is always best. 
  2.  The ability to start and complete a project that has compelling and successful results. You want to demonstrate that you’re a high achiever and can get things done.

Q: What are some tips that will help them have a successful internship with a nonprofit organization?

  • Make sure you get tangible accomplishments under your belt. You want to show future employers you can be successful so work with your manager on setting clear goals. Here’s how to keep track of your accomplishments at work http://idealistcareers.org/are-you-keeping-track-of-your-accomplishments-at-work/
  • Set personal goals. Outside of what you need to do on the job, are there skills you want to learn? People you want to meet? Leverage the internship to help you get there.
  • Learn how to manage your manager. Best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten, not just for internships but for work in general. This is likely the most important relationship you’ll have at work so getting a good sense of his/her needs and how you’ll best work together is key.

Good luck!

Allison Jones is the editor of IdealistCareers.org, a publication of Idealist.org that shares tips and tricks for people who want social impact careers. Join Idealist Careers on Twitter @IdealistCareers or on Facebook at facebook.com/IdealistCareers.

Upcoming Connect Event!  Allison’s colleague, Kara Montermoso, HR Manager at Idealist.org, will be on campus on Tuesday, March 18 to talk about How to Launch your Nonprofit Career.  Workshop will take place 12-1pm, Student Union Ballroom.  At the conclusion of the workshop, stay for the Nonprofit & Public Service Fair, 2-4pm, Student Union Ballroom, network with local non-profit and government organizations and find your next job or internship!

Feeling Inspired?!  Check out this video about using Idealist.org to find your new job with meaning.

In coming weeks we will be featuring student career success stories to motivate you to take the next step on your career journey.  We’ve outlined some key steps each student took to reach his/her goal and will share relevant resources.

 Edward Leeedward intern
B.S. in Electrical Engineering
Lab Assistant Intern at UL Inc.

“… Represent yourself well and understand the importance of your network.”



Edward’s Steps to Success:
• Networked with friends, family and classmates
• Spent time writing a strong resume
• Prepared and practiced interviewing
• Utilized career center: Resume review and appointments with career consultants

Edward’s Story:

Edward was a freshman planning on majoring in Electrical Engineering. He chose to pursue that major because he enjoys working with his hands, has a keen interest in renewable energy, and truly believes he can make a difference in the world by becoming an engineer.

Edward wanted an internship to gain experience in engineering, but was lost on how to begin his search. He talked with his friends, family and even networked with classmates about where to find internships. At one of his classes, career consultants from the Career Center came to present a Resume Workshop that helped him find out where to begin his search and motivated him to work on his resume. Afterwards, Edward applied to many positions he found off of Google and after one full semester, his efforts received no responses from the perspective employers. Discouraged, Edward took a break from his internship search until he heard from a friend about an internship opening. Edward wanted to know more about it, and his friend gave him the email of the hiring manager.

Edward made sure his resume was well written, and then spent time making sure he wrote a professional email to the hiring manager, clearly explaining who he was and what kind of skills he can bring to the table. Not long after, he received a response asking if he’d like an interview. Edward was thrilled, but he felt extremely nervous as he never had any interview experiences.

Edward sought assistance with the career consultant he had met from his class workshop and they worked together to prepare for the interview.  On the day of the interview, Edward arrived ten minutes early to review his notes and was ready. A few weeks later, he received an offer. His two pieces of advice to those who are searching for internships are to represent yourself well and to understand the importance of your network.

Feeling Inspired?

Don’t miss Internship Awareness Day February 11, 2015 from 12:00pm – 2:00pm at Student Union Ballroom B. Students can win prizes, grub on free food and check out our fun resource tables to learn about internship opportunities, their value and important tips to finding one.

Still Looking?

Check out our “hot internship” list of current opportunities on SpartaJobs!

By Britany Tufnell – Career Counselor Intern, SJSU Career Center

entertainment-career-resolutions (1)

Happy New Year Spartans! As you start to plan for the year ahead and begin the spring semester, it’s also time to starting thinking about your career goals for 2015. Whether you are a graduating senior returning for the home stretch or a “frosh-faced” student chipping away at requirements, this semester offers much potential for success!

Take this time to reflect a bit and envision some of your career goals. What steps can you take this year to bring you closer to the career of your dreams? How can you better yourself professionally and build your brand? I offer you a catalyst for becoming your future self: INTERNSHIPS. Whether you have already started preparing to apply or have never considered an internship-you are in luck! This is internship season and the Career Center is here to help you reach your goals.

I cannot express enough how beneficial internship experiences can be on your professional journey.  I did not become aware of the benefits of an internship until my second year of graduate school. The professional experience and personal growth gained are priceless. I wish there had been more emphasis on internships in my undergraduate program; it would have made a huge impact on many of my career choices. To spare you the regret of not starting internships earlier in my career, I’ll pass on my top reasons to get an internship, so that you can seize these opportunities NOW!

  1. Try Before You Buy

Internships are the best way to get your feet wet in an industry that you are interested in. They offer you the opportunity to discover your niche and what a company’s culture is like. Interning is a great way to build on your strengths, discover your weaknesses, and find out if this occupation is the right fit for you. You may discover it is everything you thought it would be and more or that you may actually want to take a different path in life. Whatever you decide, you will come out on the other side wiser and prepared to make an educated decision about your future.

  1. Expand Your Network

Networking is the key to success. This has been one of the most used skills I have picked up from my internship and graduate program. You will be amazed at how connected your co-workers, professors, and fellow classmates are in the realm of your desired career field. Social media has made it convenient and easy to form and keep up with those relationships. If you do not have a LinkedIn yet, create one today. If you have an account keep it updated, active, and professional. LinkedIn is the best way to make and find connections, as well as research your industry, and find internship or job opportunities. A wise professor once told me, “treat every day at your internship like a job interview,” so when that job opportunity arises in the future, your name will come to mind.

  1. Become a Professional

Hands down, one of the greatest benefits from my internship has been increased professionalism. From writing emails, to participating in staff meetings, to one-on-one sessions with clients, I have learned to examine and perfect how to communicate as a professional. As an intern you are a member of the team with the advantage of being the one there to learn, observe, and practice. Take every shift seriously and put forward your best self. Set up informational interviews with co-workers and practice interviewing and conversational skills while gaining valuable insight into the field. Be sure to send follow up thank you notes. Jump on opportunities that arise such as assisting with projects and events or interviewing for open positions. Everything will be a learning opportunity; even if you stumble you will have that experience to grow from for the future.

  1. Gain a Competitive-Edge

We all face that Catch-22 when it comes to landing a job; you cannot get the job without experience, but you cannot gain experience without the job! Taking on an internship in your field will teach you valuable transferable skills that can boost your resume and give you the competitive-edge needed to land the job. Building your brand starts with self-awareness of your skills. The most beneficial part of my graduate program has been my internship with the Career Center. The hands-on experience has prepared me more than all of my classes ever could because I am able to apply my skills and knowledge in real situations.

Feeling inspired to check out internships in your field of interest?  Here are some steps to launch a successful internship journey!


Sign up for SpartaJobs Create your SpartaJobs profile today and gain access to more than 2,000 internship and job postings  (across all majors) only open to SJSU Students & Alumni. 


Career Center’s Internship Resources Check out our awesome online resources to help you get started on your internship journey from the comfort of your home. Learn how to write a successful resume, prep for the interview and select the right position for you.


Gain all the tips and insights you need to make the most of your internship through our Internship Success Stories (via this blog and Facebook Fan page) as well as by attending Internship Awareness Day  February 11, 2015 from 12:00pm – 2:00pm at Student Union Ballroom B.  Don’t have time to attend? Then, watch our Top 10 Tips for Internship Success Workshop


BTufnellPic (1)Britany Tufnell is career counselor intern at the Career Center and graduate student in the Education Counseling Program here at SJSU. She has a background in Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development where she spent many years as a youth counselor, teacher, and caregiver. Britany currently enjoys working with adults in higher education and is passionate about helping others reach their goals that bring them closer to creating a meaningful life.

by Anita Manuel, M.A.Program Manager & Career Counselor

You’ve heard it a million times.   The best way to get a job or internship is through your network.  But, where to begin?   I’ve attended my share of networking meetings, mixers and also presented workshops on networking and I have to say there are a few themes that standout in making the whole “networking” experience successful.

1. Don’t make it complicated.  Networking is just a fancy word for talking to people you already know and developing new relationships.  It’s about connecting with your current friends, family members, and colleagues but with the intention of letting them know what it is you are looking for and asking for their assistance in reaching that goal.

2. Pay it forward. The people who I’ve met that were most memorable were the ones who actually cared about what my needs were as well as sharing their needs with me.  In other words, it’s not all about you!  Kindness and generosity go a long way.   The holidays are a perfect time to reconnect with people in your current network and thank them for their support or their friendship.  In return, they will ask what you are up to..and this is your chance to share what you are seeking.  Example:

You:  “Hey Uncle John, it’s so good to see you.  How have you been?  I loved seeing your family photos on Facebook.  How are things with work and your family?

Uncle John:  “Oh thanks for asking…things are going great and I’m super busy trying to juggle work and being a new dad. What are you up to, how’s school?

You:  “Wow, I can imagine you have a lot on your plate.  If you ever need a break I’m happy to babysit sometime (offering something first!).  School’s actually going really well and I love my XYZ class.  Only challenge is now that I know what I really like I’m not sure how to get an internship or some experience.  How did you get started in your career? (asking for information second!)

Uncle John: “I totally understand.  What kind of internship are you looking for? You know what, our company hires HR interns OR…”you know what I have a good buddy who works in HR, I can connect you two if you want…”

Simple, but you just networked!

3. Make time to reach out.  I hear many people say, “I just don’t have time to network.”  Truth is…You do! Are you on Facebook?  Are you on LinkedIn? Do you tweet?  Social networking has made it very easy to connect and stay in touch.  Once you reconnect with some people on-line be sure to make some time to meet in person.  Social networking is great, but face-to face networking is still important to making meaningful relationships.  Plus, it’s the holidays, everyone is home or visiting and it’s the perfect time to meet up with people in your network.

4. How do I meet new people? This by far is the hardest part of the networking process—making new contacts.  The key is to identify what you are looking for and figure out what you might have in common with other people.  As a student the number one thing you have in common with a large base of people is your university affiliation.  That’s right, the best group of people to reach out to are alumni.  Alumni have an understanding of what you are going through as a student, have professional connections, and are willing to help you learn more about their careers and offer advice.  Go to www.linkedin.com today, make your profile (it’s easy and free) and then join some groups related to your major and field of interest.  If you search for SJSU in the group search box you will find over 100 SJSU related groups that are open to SJSU students.  These group forums post discussions on industry trends, job and internship opportunities and offer you a way to connect with “your people.”  **Remember, this is a professional network, it’s not Facebook, keep it clean and professional.

5. Say thank you and follow up!  If you do meet new people take the initiative to follow up with them and thank them for their time or shared resources.  Again, of those people that I have met, the ones that I remember and want to continue to support in my network were those who sent me an email or follow up message.  The super stars also shared something helpful related to what I had stated I was seeking…for example, an interesting article or name of a person I should follow up with.  You can be sure that in the future I will not only remember who they are but will do my best to be helpful to them as well.

 Feeling inspired to connect? Check out these networking groups and resources:





Anita has worked in the career counseling and higher education field for the past 12 years.  She has worked in the recruiting field as well as internship program management for higher education.  Anita works with students on all career related topics and specializes in development of creative programs to support career education.

A student perspective by: Aryton Oliver

My Name is Aryton Oliver, and I’ve always wantarytoned to find a career that focuses on trying to make people’s lives better. I’m a recent SJSU alumnus of the Political Science department, and I chose that major because it naturally fit with my interests. Before I graduated, I knew it was important for me to get internships to make me more marketable for a full-time job after college.

During my time at SJSU, I worked part-time at the Career Center as a peer advisor. From my work there, I learned about the different type of programs and employer connection events.  That’s how I obtained my first internship with Justice Corps.  The Career Center was hosting Drop-In Interviews, where I was able to meet directly with the Justice Corp’s recruiter. As my internship came to an end, I was inspired through some of my government and politics courses to pursue another internship at San Jose City Hall.

Since my political science professor had a lot of strong connections in City Hall, I reached out to him to see if he could help me out. After sending him my resume, I still did not receive any responses. It wasn’t until my professor saw that I scored a 96% on his midterm, exceeding the class average, that he saw my potential. I finally received a response from City Hall, and scheduled an interview with one of the executives for the following week.  I polished up my interviewing skills with some of the career consultants at the Career Center and eventually landed the internship with City Hall. At that internship, I assisted with policy research and I was exposed to the powerful effects that nonprofit organizations have on the communities they serve. It was very inspiring, and the internship experience also helped me develop professional skills that I can use in future careers.

In my last semester at SJSU, my job search strategy was to talk with all my connections: professors, past supervisors, and professionals at networking mixers. I made sure that I tailored my resume to specific positions and had other people review my resume for feedback (professors, career center staff and friends). I also kept my options open by applying to government, nonprofit, and even some private sector positions too. My planning paid off– I landed a job with Teen Force , a local nonprofit that helps foster youth find jobs as well as promote work-readiness training and skills development.

My current job title is Staffing Specialist, and my experience has been nothing but spectacular.  My work is very hands-on and I enjoy working with foster youth in helping them succeed in life. The work I do with the foster youth includes interviewing them for the program, reviewing their resumes, and trying to help them get a job. I also talk with business owners in the area about their hiring needs, and try to match them up with the youth in our program.

I’m really having fun with life after college, and I don’t think I could have made a better transition because my daily commute hasn’t changed that much and working 40+ hours a week feels way better than staying up late doing homework (believe me). Though in all seriousness, I’m grateful for having a job that’s aligned with my interests, and I can confidently say that the work I’m doing gives me a great sense of fulfillment.

So, that’s my story, and I hope it gave you some ideas for your own career journey. Here are my top four tips for success in the job search. Work hard and I wish you all success!

  1. Seek internships early, especially at the freshmen grade level because those experiences are priceless.
  2. Don’t just apply to positions online. Network and find ways to use the side door rather than always trying to go in through the front. Maintain strong relationships with professors, because they can offer great career advice and connections.
  3. Have an open mind. Don’t just apply to one specific type of job. Have a Plan B and C.
  4. Utilize the Career Center’s resources.

Are you also interested in pursuing a career in nonprofit or government?

If so, come to the Nonprofit and Public Service Job, Internship and Volunteer Forum on October 8 in the Student Union Ballroom from 12:30pm – 4:30pm. There will be a panel from 12:30pm – 1:30pm about finding a career in nonprofit or government. Then from 2:00pm – 4:30pm, there will be 40+ organizations you can network with for information as well as job, internship and volunteer opportunities.

Student Perspective by: Michael Ching

Freshman year can be TOUGH. As a former freshman, I can tell you that it is a time filled with excitement, curiosity, and most of all, rigorous coursework. At the time, thinking about a career, let alone a job, was the last thing on my mind. Some common phrases I used, included:

“I don’t have time for internships. I have too much work.”

“I have no idea on what I want to major in, let alone find an internship.”

Or my personal favorite: “No one is going to hire me; I don’t have any work experience!”

Fortunately, the SJSU Career Center is here to help students get internships as well as know more about career related skills and opportunities. It is an extremely valuable resource to all students, especially incoming freshman and transfers.

Their mission is to help students create meaningful lives by providing the tools to guide students in identifying their strengths and goals, market their unique skills, and obtain relevant real world experience. Here are their top 5 services that I feel have the biggest impact on supporting incoming students in starting their careers:

  1. SpartaJobs: Access Thousands of Jobs and Internships at Your Fingertips

At some point in your college life, you will need/want a job and want to know what opportunities there are in the job market. SpartaJobs is a job and internship database found on the career center website that contains thousands of opportunities for SJSU students. All job types can be found in SpartaJobs including: Internships, full and part time jobs, on-campus jobs, seasonal and even work study.  You don’t have to be a senior to start checking out what jobs and internships are available.  All you need to login is your 9-digit tower card number (as your username & as your password) and your in!

  1. Career Workshops/Online Resources: Learn the Career Hacks to Land You A Job

The Career Center provides many workshops/webinars both in person and  online to help students in their career exploration. Workshops give you the tips you need to build a great resume, develop interviewing skills (i.e. Big interview), and learn strategies to connect with employers successfully, all from the comfort of your home, dorm, or local coffee shop. Check out the latest topics and tips on our virtual resource page.

  1. Major and Career Exploration: Figure Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

We have all been there. Being unsure of your major is a big issue that all first year students face. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out our online tutorial, “Choosing a Major at SJSU in Under 5 minutes”. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, set up an appointment with a career consultant to help you review your career options and develop a job search plan.

If you’ve pick a major but just don’t know what types of jobs are related to that major, then check out the “What Can I Do With This Major” tool, and discover all of the opportunities that you could pursue.

  1. Job & Internship Fairs: Connect With Employers Without Leaving Campus

So, you’ve polished your resume, have been coached in the secret and complex art of interviewing, and now want to get started on landing your dream job. Your next step is attending one of the many employer connection events hosted by the Career Center.  We offer multiple job fairs throughout the year to help students get connected with hundreds of recruiters both nationally and globally to launch your career/internship journey. The Career Center also provides drop in interviews for students who want to have a one on one with hiring employers.

  1. Challenging Situations: Professionals Who Advocate For You

Whether you are an international student feeling like you need some extra assistance, or a student with a need for accommodations, the Career Center staff is here to help.  There are professionals on staff to help with almost every unique situation, including how to disclose a disability, accommodation requests, and veterans’ services.

So from a seasoned Spartan to all the new Spartans on campus, I welcome you, wish you a great year and hope to see you at the Career Center!  We’re here to help and make your transition to the university and the world of work a lot smoother and stress free.  Be sure to stay connected and get the most updated career information and trends by following the SJSU Career Center on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 michael chingMichael Ching is an intern for the SJSU Career Center, supporting the Job Internship Initiative Group. Michael is currently a senior at San Jose state University. His background in Business Marketing gives him a unique perspective when focusing on Marketing campaigns, social media, and innovative ideas in working and understanding students with where they are at with career education.


Summer is slowly coming to an end and the new school year is around the corner!  Many of you are getting ready to look for part-time or on-campus jobs as well as internships.  Here’s a short tutorial on how to breakdown a job description to develop a great resume that will get you results!

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