Identify the opportunities that will enable you to thrive.

To use a metaphor from our industry: A good intern match is a two-way street.

Here at Kittelson, we believe a full-time internship plays a foundational role in your career, and we encourage you to take the time to research organizations and understand the environments they present. Every firm and agency brings unique strengths to this industry; consequently, each one operates differently. Beyond simply gaining industry experience, it’s important to identify the opportunities that will enable you to thrive.

To gather the most relevant and helpful advice for students seeking an internship, we asked Kittelson interns past and present for their insights on finding the right fit. Here’s what they shared.

Determine if there’s an aspect to the industry you want to focus on—or not!

The transportation industry is composed of many types of organizations, so look for an opportunity that will give you the specific experience you’re looking for. If you’re not sure where you want to focus, find an internship at a firm or agency that can immerse you in many different types of projects.

Understand a company’s principles.

Whether you’re starting an internship or permanent position, you’ll be the most inspired, productive and fulfilled when you work for a group whose values align strongly with yours. Research the organization’s values and even take the time to read their guiding principles—many have these displayed in a public-facing way. (You can view Kittelson’s values here.) Ask how these values and principles play out in day-to-day work.

Ask questions about the values of the company, and how that reflects in their culture and benefits.

- Carmen Hom, 2018 Kittelson Intern

Understand the type of project work assigned to interns, and how it gets assigned.

At Kittelson, we provide a proactive mentor team to guide you in your project involvement, but ultimately we allow you to have a say in the projects you want to work on. We treat our interns like entry-level engineers and open the door for you to be involved in client work. If this entrepreneurial spirit is not your style, you may want to consider an internship built on a more rigid set of assignments.

Learn how a firm or agency integrates its services.

Transportation projects can span a tremendous range of services, from the initial stages of planning and public engagement to the operation and maintenance of completed projects. Ask questions to understand how the firm or agency views the integration of these services. Begin to shape your understanding of what aspect of the process you want to pursue in your internship.

Ask about a firm or agency’s hiring process.

People are the cornerstone of any business’s success. The time and care an organization takes in selecting new employees demonstrates their focus on people, culture and values.

Finding an internship can be stressful, but it is important to remember that interviews work two ways. When going about the application process, find somewhere that will help you achieve your goals and where you will enjoy working.

- Amy Griffiths, 2018 Kittelson Intern

Read what employees say about working there.

Reviews on sites like Glassdoor can provide key insights into the way a company handles communication, compensation, leadership and autonomy within the company.

The one thing I really wish I had kept in my mind while searching for internships was that the companies who I was applying to wanted me to be the right fit for them, as much as I wanted them to be the right fit for me.

- Vidhi Sachdeva, 2018 Kittelson Intern

Learn how the firm or agency invests in interns beyond project work.

Many organizations offer conferences or activities to help interns get to know one another and the company. For example, Kittelson offers a week-long intern jamboree every summer that brings together all of our interns in one central location (read about our 2018 intern jamboree in Portland, Oregon). These networking opportunities vary from company to company, so take the time to learn what your options are.

Make sure to look for opportunities at many different types of firms. Don't just go to your school's career fair, but search around for opportunities elsewhere.

- Nick Padula, 2018 Kittelson Intern

Join our webinar!

An internship isn’t just a line on your resume; it’s much more. When thinking about the building blocks of your career, we hope you’ll select a launching point that gives you the experience and environment to set you on the right track.

During our annual “Explore a Career in Transportation” webinar, Kittelson staff members explain the importance of learning about a company’s culture and values during the recruitment process and provide other helpful tips and information for students interested in the industry. This webinar is open to everyone, and we encourage you to sign up!

In addition, check out part two of this article for more practical tips to build relationships and stand out from the crowd so you land the right internship for you.