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When to Look for Government Internships

When to Look for Government Internships

Kathryn Troutman /

The month of April is the time when we hopefully can let go of blustery winter weather as we celebrate spring’s entrance. A lesser-known fact about April is that it’s a prime time for college graduates to look into government internships.

However, before considering this option, know that you’ll need to meet some basic requirements. First, you should already have your bachelor’s or master’s degree, or be within six months of receiving it. Second, citizenship is usually mandatory (naturalized citizenship is fine, too). Occasional posts accept applicants with working visas.

Eight Traits that Say ‘Choose Me’

First, you need to make a great first impression with your resume and cover letter. In doing so, you’ll want to disregard the private-sector notion that a single-page resume for entry-level workers is the way to go. Typical federal resumes for students run much longer, usually two to three pages. Put that extended length to use by hitting these eight key points recruiters look for:

Strong Communication Skills

Federal employees communicate constantly in their jobs through in-person contacts, the phone, writing on paper and the Internet. The better you communicate your communication skills in your resume, the more internship decision makers will like you. Mention any of your writing projects that got attention or made a difference, participation in presentations (debate team, theater, etc.) and involvement in Web site development.

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Ability to Work on a Team

With the wide use of teams in college coursework today, you may be able to quickly identify great examples of teamwork from your school experiences. Look for relevant class projects that you developed as part of a team, and note if you took a lead role such as writing the summary report or presenting the PowerPoint lecture. Out-of-classroom examples could come from volunteer work, participation in a theater or film production and so on.

Leadership Potential

Leadership is about leading people and influencing their behavior and decisions. In school, you may have been a group’s officer or had another opportunity to lead. Search your experience base for situations in which you settled conflicts, set standards and encouraged others to work well together. Did you ever bring a diverse group to a consensus?

Creativity and Resourcefulness

The government wants to bring in people with fresh ideas and the ability to develop new approaches, so scan your past for examples of times when you took the initiative. Did you revamp a student publication with a better look? Establish a new student organization? Find original ways to raise money? When did you think outside the box?

Additional Language Skills

If you speak a foreign language, the odds of your being selected go up. Spanish is much in demand, as are Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic and Farsi.


Make it clear in your resume if you’re willing to move. Some internship programs require that you relocate to one spot. Others may feature rotation, where you’re transferred to different areas. Two examples of rotational programs are the Federal Highway Administration’s Career Intern Program and the Army’s Fellows Program (involving movement of supplies for defense and homeland security. The Army’s deal includes paid graduate education.

Computer Fluency

Today, the government expects applicants to be computer savvy. In your resume, note if you’ve used computers for word processing, Internet research, or creating Excel charts and PowerPoint presentations.

Ability to Work Well Under Pressure and Through Change

The nature of the government is to be in flux, always changing. That’s because it needs to respond to current events, new leadership, recent legislation and evolving regulations. To demonstrate your adaptability, recall times when you were a high performer during stressful periods or responded with flexibility.

If you can cover these points in your resume and cover letter, as well as your education and work experience, you will stand out amidst your competitors. But don’t just limit yourself to the above; include everything that will show you’re an outstanding candidate.

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