It's already been discussed on here how to find internships/temporary research opportunities at universities and also when exactly to do an an internship at a company during one's PhD, but there doesn't seem to be much information on how someone goes about finding internship/temporary research opportunities at companies.

There are a few companies which do stuff which is very similar to what I'm researching, and a couple of those are even posting full-time jobs for work nearly identical to my own albeit looking for people who are more experienced in the field than I currently am. How can I approach said companies which are actively working on my own research topic (more or less) with a proposal to spend a period of time working with them?

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    However you go about your process, you should be careful about intellectual property that belongs to your university. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 22:20
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    If your research is strongly related to commercial activities, then your advisor may know folks at some companies. Have you asked your advisor for some industrial contacts?
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 23:43
  • Find out how to email the human resources department. Call the main switchboard if necessary. Once you have a name, title and email address, you may send your CV with a short cover letter; requesting that your CV be circulated to such-and-so departments. State you will follow up by phone in a couple of days, and then do.This is a good procedure for getting your CV out there and I think it's better than applying for the wrong job. You should put your employment objective (internship -- don't specify paid or unpaid at this point) in a prominent place on the page. Keep the CV very streamlined. Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 4:42

3 Answers 3


I think it makes a difference whether you want to ask about a paid versus unpaid internship - companies may be more likely to agree to an unpaid internship. However, you could reach out to someone who would be in an authority position related to the job announcement you already found and ask if there are any opportunities to gain experience through an internship. The worst they can say is no.

  • Thanks for highlighting the distinction. If I can't find the name of the hiring manager, would it be okay or might it be hurtful to apply for the full-time position through their online career portal and mention my current status and real intentions therein? Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 21:02
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    I think it makes a difference whether you want to ask about a paid versus unpaid internship - companies may be more likely to agree to an unpaid internship -- In the technical fields I'm familiar with, paying an intern is not an obstacle for employers.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 0:55
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    Also related to what @MadJack just said, in many cases paying an intern is legally required for employers. In the US, at least, you can only be an unpaid intern if the work is completely educational in nature and you are effectively a burden rather than a resource on the company. If you are actually doing useful work for them that would otherwise by done by a full employee, even if on a novice level, you must be paid.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 17:51
  • @errantlinguist: If you don't speak to someone directly, I would only apply for the job if you can submit a cover letter explaining your situation. But that's just my opinion - this way you would be less likely to waste individuals' times if they aren't interested in what you are proposing. However, if you do not have any intentions of working for the company later on, I'm not sure that it would be hurtful, either. Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 19:02

Things to figure out before you approach anybody:

  1. Does the company actually innovate technically or do they just apply other people's tech and tie the loose ends? This may_not_ be easy to determine!
  2. Which papers have been published in relevant scientific conferences (perhaps also irrelevant ones) with people listing the company as their affiliation? That's a good idea about the kinds of activities they might be interested in and points of contact.
  3. Look for people on LinkedIn who work there - find people who seem to be those you might work with if you were to intern there.
  4. Who is the CTO? Look on the company website or just Google it.
  5. In fact, their company website, while generally a poor source of information, may still have a Research section which might name some relevant people and maybe even their interests.
  6. Talk to people you know who have worked there, or who could refer you to people who have worked / been working there, for inquiring informally about this.

Once you ha e a bunch of information and a list of potential contacts, make the decision of who to contact first and how to make your pitch.


The best ways to connect are via your advisor (as mentioned by @MadJack in a comment) and by meeting people at conferences. You can also cold-call so to speak, by finding papers at conferences that are relevant to your work and then reaching out. I've had numerous industrial interns who initiated contact that way.

I do NOT think that going through HR is the right way to find internships for a PhD student, unless HR has already posted explicit advertisements, which some companies do.

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