Troy Chadwick interned with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Criminal Investigations in the middle of his coursework at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater for his forensic science degree. What he learned with three days in the lab and two days in the field was instrumental in knitting all of his coursework together and experiencing it in practice. He participated in police field work, in applying the scientific method in lab work, and building real cases against the worst offenders.
How did he get there? By following the four intrinsic steps for discovering attractive internships, and making sure that he could close on the one he wanted. We’ve brought these fool-proof steps together for you — to help you land your dream forensic science internship.
1. Research — a skill for any wanna-be detective.
Doing your ‘homework’ is the only way to solve a problem. This is true in school, and especially true in your career. You may think you will be done with reports, papers and reading, but after graduation, you will be glad you have developed those skills because no matter what you do professionally, you are just beginning to use them. Internship positions are available to students in many places, including the CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, State and Federal Departments of Justice, as well as most state, municipal and local police precincts, independent labs. Once you start researching opportunities, each one will lead you to other specialties who need and want student help.
Your college counselors will already have relationships with companies and agencies who have offered students positions in the past. Remember these are competitive, so talking to the counselor soon, and getting applications submitted early is your only advantage here. Troy began his search in his college’s jobs website, but ultimately discovered that the American Academy of Forensic Sciences web site had links to internship positions. After looking at every possible position, he decided to apply to as many as he could. He landed his favorite.
2. Prepping for submission: getting your application ready.
If a particular position tweaks your interest, don’t just fill out a form and push it out into cyberspace. It is very easy to do background on the organization offering the position, find previous recipients, and work what you have discovered into a cover letter. Tip: suggest in a creative way what you can bring to the team and what talents you possess that will benefit the organization. You have to stand out, and evidence of a researcher will be well received if it is not gushy and over the top with ‘look at me’ grandiosity. Walk a fine line of providing intelligence and displaying your prowess.
Once you have prepared the cover letter and application – there are three things to do before you send it – proofread, have someone else proof it, and let it cool off for a few hours until you can proof it again. Fresh eyes always find ways to improve a written piece.
You may also take the time to review your social media. Look at your Facebook, Instagram and other accounts as if you were a grumpy grown-up. Do the pictures you are tagged in at that drunken party impress, or provide doubt about your judgment? Would you hire that slob?
3. Your interview is the interlude to the job.
You have impressed the intended target with your writing. You sent along the recommendations from trusted faculty. Your grades are good, your social media is boring. They now ask to see you. Yikes!
Interviewers know that the only real way to evaluate a person is in person. Dress well, remove as much of your jewelry as practical, cover your tattoos, pull up your pants, pick a longer skirt than you might wear on the square, practice your pitch, and don’t be shy. You believe in yourself, now it is time to share that conviction. Attitude is key. Show passion. Look people in the eye, answer questions succinctly, don’t volunteer wild stories (you are not yet buddies), and use a firm handshake. Smile. You want to become a professional, so show that you can be one. These are all common sense recommendations, but they make a good pre-interview checklist.
It is likely that you will be asked what you know about the company or agency offering the internship. This is an easy question for the interviewer, and will show if you skimmed their website (or not) or if you really have curiosity and knowledge.
You may be asked seemingly unrelated questions about your hobbies and free time. If, like Troy, your passion for criminology and forensic extends into your after school life, if you have helped a neighbor find a lost dog by applying the scientific method, share stories like those.
Follow-up! it’s not over until the paperwork is done.
After your talk, send a thank you note –- email is OK, written is better. Remind the interviewer why you should be the top pick. After a week with no reply (unless the interviewer has set a date for their decision), drop another line with a piece of news relevant to the company, to show you are on top of the scene.
Your Turn: Have another very specific question about landing an internship? Want to share some great suggestions for work experience placements? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.