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:
- Meeting with your academic advisor to develop an academic plan and with your campuses
career counselor to develop a career plan.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!