The summer internship: It’s a rite of passage into the adult world, that transitional phase when one goes from being a student to a professional. Internships now have very little to do with grunt work and coffee-fetching. Now they can be the stepping-stone to a dream post-college job offer. Some internships even pay better than many entry-level jobs.
Yet there’s also the assumption that in order to get a great internship you need to live in a big city—or be willing to move to one. Sadly, there is some truth to that—but just some. It is true that according to the most recent Glassdoor data (from 2015) the sheer number of internship openings were higher in larger cities, with New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. ranked as the top places, by far, that had the most available internships.
But it’s also true that you can find internships in virtually every midsize and small city in America. And there are some internships where it doesn’t matter where you are located as long as you have access to a computer and the internet. In 2017, where you are located matters less than ever in regards to getting a great internship. So if you’re from a small town, remember the four things below before despairing that your location will hold you back from getting that perfect summer internship.
Think Outside The Obvious Big Cities
Yes, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C. are the leaders in the best places to find the largest amount of internships. However, there are a few drawbacks to applying for internships in these cities. First, internships in big cities are much more likely to attract the highest number of applicants, increasing the number of people you’ll be fighting against to get that one spot. Second, bigger cities are more expensive to live in—and if the company doesn’t cover moving or living expenses for their interns, getting the internship could put you into debt.
By no means let those factors stop you from applying for big-city internships, but also know that America is a huge place, and despite the draw to the major economies of those cities, businesses are located all over the country—and they all need interns. The big benefit for applying for internships in smaller cities is that there are likely several close to where you live and even if there aren’t, moving and living expenses in these small-to-midsize cities are much cheaper than living in the top five.
So which cities might you want to explore outside of the top five? WalletHub has put together an excellent list of the top 150 cities that are best for summer internships based on a number of factors, including employment outlook, affordability, and downtime-friendliness. Orlando, Florida, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida lead the list of great alternatives.
Virtual Internships Are Really A Thing
One of the biggest benefits technology has brought to the modern workforce is the ability to work remotely. There are plenty of jobs (mine, for instance) that allow you to work from anywhere provided you have a laptop and an internet connection. Some of these jobs include journalism, graphic design, project management, coding, and dozens of others. Given that so many professionals in these fields can work remotely, is it any surprise that companies are now offering “virtual” internships? Such internships are a terrific choice for those who don’t want to—or don’t have the means of moving to another city for a summer internship.
“Several companies post ‘virtual’ or ‘online’ internships–these are internships that you can do from your college dorm, small town, or from your parent’s house,” says Lauren Berger, founder of InternQueen and author of Welcome to the Real World. While they are a great choice for many—and do accurately reflect how many professionals increasingly work today—Berger says there are a few things to keep in mind if you go down the virtual-internship route. “Some of these internships are fantastic but I recommend making a very clear schedule for yourself to properly manage expectations and having a planned daily or weekly check-in call with your employer. You want to make sure that even though you aren’t in the office you are still building a professional connection and getting constant feedback.”
Sometimes Interning At A Small, Local Company Is Actually The Best Choice
But what if you can’t move to a midsize city and a virtual internship doesn’t work out? Don’t think you’re stuck because of where you live. “People who live in smaller cities aren’t necessarily limited when it comes to internships,” says Berger. “In fact, some of my favorite internships were at smaller companies in smaller towns where I had a great hands-on experience.”
Smaller, local companies often have fewer hierarchical bottlenecks—and fewer employees in general, which means they can divert more resources and attention to their interns, delegating tasks to them that they would give normal employees. This real-world experience, in turn, can make the intern more appealing to future employers. Plus, you never know where the people who you worked with at the small company will end up, says Berger. “I also found that several of the people I worked for at these smaller companies went out to work for big agencies in big cities over time.” If you made a good impression on these people, they are likely to recommend you to their new company if you end up seeking a job there.
Know Your Location Has Very Little Relevance To A Company When Choosing An Intern
In the end, Berger says where you are from has almost no bearing on getting a great internship—no matter if you are looking for one in a big city, a smaller one, your hometown, or remotely. “As long as you can sell yourself to an employer and explain why you are the right person for the job or internship, you shouldn’t be limited by where you are from,” she says. Companies care more about a complete and updated resume with a personalized cover letter and your initiative to follow up than your home address.
“Honestly, it’s a mind-set–the mind-set of ‘I can’t do this’–turn your ‘I can’t’ into an ‘I can’,” says Berger. “You can get amazing internships just like the rest of them. It takes focus, preparation, planning, and solid follow-up skills.”