Engaging Students Through Internships

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This training walks through the process of setting up a local internship and what to consider. If you are a CCL group leader, state coordinator, or regional coordinator, working with an intern is a great way to get more done and engage young people with CCL. Supervising an intern is a significant time commitment, and this training walks interested groups through deciding whether they need an intern, creating the intern position description, and the best practices in being a host.
TOC and Guide Section
Do I need an intern?

Having an intern can be very helpful in your team's collective work with CCL. If you are interested in considering an intern we recommend making sure your project(s) meets the following conditions: 

  • You spend at least 20 hours a week working on CCL. 
  • You have a regular schedule where you work on CCL. 
  • You can work live/in person with an intern at least five hours a week. 
  • You have a large number of tasks that are delegatable, administrative or repetitive. 
  • You want to do a lot of outreach (tabling, presentations).
  • You are undertaking a new project for which you need research. 
  • You have complex projects that can be broken down into discrete delegatable tasks (for example, a regional conference). 
  • You’re interested in working with college students. 

Another important consideration, if the person your local chapter is thinking about taking on is in need of more official status for college credit or other forms to be signed by CCL staff, they should instead be steered towards applying for CCL staff internships, which provide that kind of structure and support and can contact CCL's Student Engagement Manager Steffanie Munguia (steffanie@citizensclimate.org) for more information. 

Interns are best utilized for tasks for which you need behind-the-scenes help. We do not recommend that they be tasked with building relationships with community partners or overseeing volunteers. Those tasks are better for other roles such as CCL's regional fellows (who have a year-long commitment) and other experienced volunteers. 

Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through internships 
  • View internships as a way of helping those who have had less opportunities in life get a step up instead of merely what they can do for you. 
  • Create your job description so that the job can be done by people from diverse backgrounds. For example, providing training that applicants lack, or making your internship remote so that those who don’t have transportation or the ability to relocate can do the internship. 
  • Advertise your position where diverse applicants can find them. Examples include community colleges, HBCUs, computer science and engineering departments, multicultural organizations on campus. Public job search sites like Indeed.com, Handshake, and LinkedIn also tend to be places where people of color find job opportunities. 
  • Consider selecting interns from all majors and areas of study, not just those focused on politics or environmental studies. A passion for climate activism should be the main prerequisite.
  • Think about your internal biases throughout the selection process. People have a tendency to like people that remind them of themselves, but it’s often more rewarding to work with someone from a different background than you and who has different skills and strengths. Pushing back against this tendency can help improve diversity while also finding qualified candidates that you may have overlooked. 
  • Keep in mind that experiences at a young age are socially determined. Students with impressive extracurriculars and perfect grades may have had privileges and opportunities that other students may not have. Thus, a lack of traditional markers of success is not necessarily indicative of a student’s competency, capabilities, or initiative.
  • Evaluate candidates in light of a writing sample, project sample, letters of recommendation, and other criteria besides their academic and professional experience. These can provide a more complete picture of a student’s potential. 
  • Studies show that BIPOC employees tend to get less support, fewer promotions, and are evaluated more critically by their employers than white peers (same thing happens to women). Think about how you can train and support your intern, mentor them in their career, and encourage them professionally during their internship and after.
Create a position description

Your first step is to create an internship description. How many hours is the internship? (we recommend 7-10 hours a week, for 15 weeks if during an academic semester) What will the intern do? Make a list of all of the projects on your plate, break them down into tasks, and identify the ones that you could delegate to an intern. Think about what groups of tasks would be a beneficial learning experience for a student. Interns need projects that can utilize their creativity and critical thinking skills as well as helping with administrative tasks and whatever else needs to be done. Make a list of skills that are required for the job and others that are desirable. Include how you want people to apply. Look in this folder for sample internship descriptions and create your own.

Each year, Alison Kubicsko invites a number of interns to help with the national conferences in Washington, D.C. She will email all the interns in April and September and ask for volunteers. If selected to work at the conference, they will receive free registration, round trip transportation to D.C., and shared hotel room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. 

All interns for CCL (staff or volunteer projects) are required to be at least 18 years old. Interns do not need to be U.S. citizens to work. Interns are unpaid.

Collect applications

The easiest way to collect applications is through a Google Form like this one. You can make your own version or, if you are staff, you can ask to have your interns apply through this form. Please ask steffanie.munguia@citizensclimatelobby.org if you would like to utilize this option. You will be able to access their information in spreadsheet format at any time. You can also ask them to send you their application materials directly to your email. Add the link to the google form or your email to the position description under “How to apply.”

Advertise your position

Prepare both a PDF and a web version of your job description (a Google doc will work). Check the university’s career development website to submit an internship listing. Send the position description to faculty at your local university and the sustainability director. Make copies and put up the flyer on campus (make sure you get permission first!). Share through social media. Table at a career fair or environmental event. The best time to start recruiting for interns is a semester before the start date, and earlier for summer. Send your position description to  steffanie.munguia@citizensclimatelobby.org so that she can post it to national internship databases. 

Interview candidates

Once you've received enough applications, select the ones that appeal to you and contact them to let them know that you received their materials and confirm basic requirements: location, availability, student status, interest. Invite them to listen to the intro call. Once they have confirmed their eligibility and interest, invite them to an interview. 

Sample Interview questions

  • How did you learn about CCL?
  • Why are you interested in working on climate change?
  • Why are you interested in interning for CCL? 
  • What relevant coursework have you taken?
  • What leadership experience do you have?
  • What would you like to gain from this experience?
  • What do you want to do when you graduate? 
  • What skills will you bring to this internship? Do you have examples? 
  • Tell me about a project you are proud of (ask for details - perhaps what did a typical day look like?) Tell me about work/school experiences you enjoy most.
  • Tell me about a challenge you had and how did you deal with it? 
  • Can you commit to [4-5 hours twice a week on set days for 4- 6 months]? Tip: Too much schedule flexibility with week to week schedules leads to high turnover.
  • Are you doing this internship for credit? 
  • What questions do you have about the internship?

“For Credit” Internships: If the student is seeking academic credit for the internship, they should talk to their academic advisor, who may have a form for you to sign.

Select interns
After you've interviewed your top candidates, take a day or two for you and the applicant to reflect on your options. Out of courtesy, take no longer than a week to notify the applicant of whether or not they have been accepted. Students who you decide not to take on as an intern can still apply to other internships, programs, come to a conference, and more! See letter below for opportunities. 

Sample acceptance letter

Dear [First Name],

Thanks for our conversation the other day! I was very impressed by your application overall, and I would like to invite you to be our CCL Detroit chapter intern this summer. Please confirm that you accept, and I will send you the necessary paperwork to get you on board. 

Sample rejection letter 

Dear [First Name]

Thank you for your interest in interning with me and CCL.  I so enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you a bit [date when you talked], and thoroughly appreciated your desire to learn, explore and do something for both you and the world that really makes a difference!

I wanted to let you know that I selected another candidate for this position. But I am eager to remind you that CCL welcomes anyone who wants to work on climate change, and there's no need to do an internship to get involved. It sounds like you may have some time available in your schedule, so I think some of these options could be great opportunities for you to fit in while you navigate all of the exciting changes in your first year at school. 

Here are some ways that you can get  experience with us: 

No matter how you choose to get involved, I hope you join us in taking climate action! 

Again, thanks for your interest and commitment to making the world a better place, [First Name]!

Complete onboarding paperwork

Congratulations, you’ve found an intern! Please send the intern Paperwork to Complete and have them follow the instructions to sign forms and complete the onboarding process. 

Sample Letter

Dear [First Name],  

I’m excited to work with you on the internship. Please download the Intern Policies Agreements and Forms and follow the instructions. Please send all completed documents to me and steffanie@citizensclimatelobby.org

I would like to set up a time to have our first co-work meeting. I am available Tuesday at 2pm-5pm, Wednesday 1-3pm, and Thursday 9am-12pm. Please choose a two hour time block that works for you. 

Best practices for working with an intern 

Following some best practice will help you and the intern have a good experience. Here are some recommendations: 

  • Schedule regular times every week when you meet with the intern. Co-work over Zoom or other video conference platform to simulate the experience of working together in person. I recommend working together two hours at a time, three times a week. 
  • Use a project management platform like Asana, Wunderlist or Trello. Their free accounts are quite robust and functional. 
  • When assigning a task, provide all relevant documents and instructions at the start of the task. Make sure your expectations are clear and provide deadlines and written instructions.
  • Become very comfortable working in Google docs and spreadsheets, so you don’t have to send documents back and forth to each other.  
  • Encourage them to attend CCU webinars or the Core Volunteer Trainings to learn more about CCL. 
  • Encourage them to attend the regional or national conference. Student discounts are available. Scholarships are available for students of color or conservatives. 
  • Give feedback about what they do well and where they need improvement. Recognize individual volunteer efforts.
  • Identify volunteer talents and invite them to do a project that they have interest in. 
  • Ask them what they are interested in doing to promote climate action. Maybe that’s writing an op-ed for their school paper or organizing a presentation at their school. 

It may be tempting to ask them to start a CCL campus chapter. We do not recommend that they do this during their internship. Starting a chapter is a significant undertaking, and we ask those students to apply to the Campus Leaders Program after their internship. 

After the internship

Acknowledge their contributions with a thank you card, a gift from the CCL Zazzle store, or take them out to lunch. Let them debrief the internship with you. 

  • Make sure that they have signatures they need to get credit if that was part of the agreement. 
  • Invite them to continue their involvement through the Campus Leaders Program, as a regional fellow, another internship, with their local chapter, an action team, or staying connected virtually. 
  • Have them fill out an evaluation form; add to it your evaluation of the intern (keep it for your references). 
  • Keep in touch and be a mentor. You may be asked to be a reference for future employment. 
Press play to start the video (39m 48s)
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Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Why Interns?

Do I Need an Intern?

Getting Organized

Interviewing and Selecting Interns

Best Practices for Working With an Intern
  • Clara Fang

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Press play to start the audio (39m 48s)
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Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Why Interns?

Do I Need an Intern?

Getting Organized

Interviewing and Selecting Interns

Best Practices for Working With an Intern
  • Clara Fang
Have you completed this training?
Chapter Organizing
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