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Inking that Internship

When you think of internships, most often you think of working excessive amounts of hours for no pay and oftentimes no more experience gained than you had when you first walked in the door. Yes, some employers do exploit gullible, wide-eyed college students who just want to work in their prospective fields of study. However, they are not the majority. College students should not let what they think they know affect what they can learn. Internships offer students practical experience in an atmosphere that holds less accountability than that of a fulltime, 8am – 5pm employee. Additionally, students who participate in an internship increase their chances of being offered a fulltime career opportunity after graduation, and in these economic times, the more skills that you build the better your career outcome. I know it might sound cliché, but it is absolutely true that, “the more you know the more you grow.”

The issue that I am constantly faced with, working as a higher education career counselor, is not getting career internship information to students; it’s them applying the information given. It is understandable, based on stereotypes associated with internships, for students to be skeptical, but if students only knew how critical internships were to their overall career success, they would be beating down the doors of companies. Right now is a very historical time in our society with the “baby boomers” retiring and thereby relaxing positions in virtually every area of industry. We may never see this type of shift again. Now is the time to take advantage of this “career eclipse.”

Students who truly want to succeed in this global economy might want to set their sights on industries such as health care, business (financial management), science & technology (engineering), law, and education, and being that the top 25 fastest growing careers in the US are all pulled from these industries, career success is highly inevitable. The federal government is currently accepting internship applications. The highlight of working with the federal government is that not only are you developing a sustainable skill set, but you are paid upwards of $30,000 to do so, as an intern, working about 640 hours! I wish these types of opportunities were available when I was an undergrad. Students should visit usajobs.gov and research agencies of interest.

The moral of this article is for students young and old to give themselves every advantage that they can. The days of going to college with the assurance of having a job once you graduate is over. You have to develop not only a “plan of action” for yourself, but a “career plan of action” for yourself. This can be achieved by:
  1. Meeting with your academic advisor to develop an academic plan and with your campuses career counselor to develop a career plan.
  2. Your freshman year should be dedicated to acclimating yourself to college life and getting your GPA to, at least, a 2.8 (required of most internships). Of course, if you really want to set yourself apart strive for a 3.0 or better.
  3. Internships are critical to career success. Start researching your freshman year what areas of industry are a good fit for you. That research will assist you in choosing your major.
  4. Interfacing with as many professional people as you can (i.e. career services personnel, professors, department heads, recruiters, faculty, staff, employers who visit your campus even if they are not related to your field of study, etc.). The idea is to enhance your networking skills, broaden your career scope and develop a list of contacts. You never know who may place you in that dream job or internship.
  5. Visit departments that represent the industry for which you are interested and pick their brains. You don’t want to leave anything to chance. After all you want this process to be as painless and effective as possible.
  6. It’s a good strategy to participate in an internship starting your sophomore year. This will give you three years of practical experience or training in your chosen field. By utilizing this strategy you put yourself in a “win-win” situation. You’ve gained extensive operational knowledge that you might not have otherwise been able to obtain all the while becoming and extremely valuable trained asset for the company. Who do you think the company is going to invite to come on board, the student with the business degree and no skills set or you? It’s a no brainer. Internships rock!