Use Your MOOCs to Get an Internship

Internships are “the new interview,” at least according to this infographic from Internships.com. A 2012 survey by the company found that employers are more interested in practical experience than they are in academic performance. And an internship is an excellent way to get that practical experience and turn it into a job—69 percent of the large companies surveyed offered full-time jobs to their interns last year.

Many people think internships are just for college students, but that simply isn’t true. As this CBS MoneyWatch article demonstrates, they are also great for people changing careers and those who have been unemployed. So no matter how long you have been out of school, an internship can be a step toward starting a new career.

How can MOOCs help? Well, they can give you the background knowledge you need to get your foot in the door. Here’s a strategy for using MOOCs to land an internship:

Step #1: Find some MOOCs in your desired field

Find some introductory MOOCs in your field. You don’t have to take a full year’s worth of courses, but make sure the courses you take will give you a solid foundation of knowledge and provide you with the opportunity to work on some projects.

Step #2: Complete the courses and earn certificates

This may seem obvious, but less than 10 percent of people who enroll in MOOCs actually complete them. Just by earning the certificates, you will show that you are highly motivated and able to finish what you start. You may also want to consider enrolling to earn verified certificates—all of the major MOOC providers offer them and they range between roughly $30 and $100 dollars each.

Step #3: Find or create an internship

If you don’t already have a company in mind, head over to Internships.com, which is a searchable database of more than 75,000 internships offered by over 43,000 companies. This is a good way to see what types of internships are offered in your field and in your city.

If you know where you would like to work and the company doesn’t have any opportunities available, consider creating your own. Many companies are willing to create positions for candidates who can show that they are goal oriented and have something to contribute. Start by making contact with the company either in person or virtually (e.g., via Twitter or LinkedIn), and if possible scheduling an informational interview to learn more about the company and the industry. Decide what you would like to get out of the internship and then create a written proposal for the company that describes your goals and how the company will benefit from bringing you on.

Step #4: Put your MOOC accomplishments on your resume

On your resume, emphasize the MOOCs you have taken and what you have gained from them. Point hiring managers to your Degreed profile and digital portfolio and use this opportunity to showcase what you’ve learned. For example, if you took programming MOOCs, link to some applications or code you worked on. The more actual experience you can show, the better.

Step #5: Nail the interview

Use the knowledge you gained from the MOOCs to show that you have a good foundation in the field and express your desire to learn more and gain experience. This is the time for you to show that even through you don’t have formal academic credentials, you are excited about the field and motivated to contribute to it.

It may take some personal initiative, but MOOCs and other lifelong learning endeavors can help you land your dream job. Need some inspiration to get you going? Check out the story of Feyman Liang, a super-MOOCer who translated the knowledge and skills he gained through MOOCs into internships at both Microsoft and Google.

For more information about finding and applying for internships, see StudentAdvisor’s free internship guide.

About the Author

Degreed Co-founder @davidblake

  • Andres Solis

    great stuff!