April 26, 2013

Summer Break? Get an Internship Instead

businessman relaxing at his desk in the middle of a green meadowIn the next couple of months, classes will be ending for millions of college students. Summer break means summer plans. For many, much needed vacations, traveling and even summer classes are the plans. But a select few of other students have made plans to forgo their break and work even more. How so? Through completing a summer internship.

Internships offer invaluable “real-world” experience for students, and the summer months are a great time to gain that opportunity. When I was in college, I completed seven internships (one each summer break) and, as you can see, I am not only employed post-grad, but working in my degree field…unfortunately, something many Millennials today cannot say.

Maureen Dumas, vice president of Experiential Education Career Services at Johnson Wales University shared her expertise with Recruiter.com on students and summer internships. Check out what she had to say about the benefits of becoming an intern this summer, networking opportunities and how to use the best resources to achieve both:

1. Why is securing a summer internship beneficial for college students?

Internships are becoming a prerequisite for any position upon graduation. Recruiters have a distinct preference to meet with candidates who have done internships while on campus. The summer is ideal because it is a good time in the students’ schedules. They can focus completely on the experience and not have any additional responsibilities, such as taking courses.

2. there any statistics comparing students who worked at internships while in school and those who did not?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers does an annual survey on students who do an internship. According to the 2012 Internship Co-op Survey results, employers expect 40 percent of new college hires will come from their own internship and co-op programs. It is a distinct advantage for these students.

3. How early should students begin looking for summer internships? (Fall/ spring semester?)

Students should begin searching for their internship at least one full term prior to the start of their internship. If they want to do an international internship, they should start two terms prior. There are additional requirements, such as visa or travel arrangements, that require more time than a domestic internship.

4. What are the best resources for students to search for internship opportunities (on and off campus)?

The best resource on campus is the career services office. They have all connections and the most up to date information of the company. They are connected from both the employer and student perspective, so they will know immediately if a student has accepted or declined an internship position. This type of information is critical for students who have begun the search late in the process. In addition, they usually have a deep knowledge with many years of history working for the company. They will know the corporate culture or alums who have had successful careers at a particular company.

Faculty members are a great resource as well. They also have strong connections to industries, and can assist students who are looking for internships.

Maureen Dumas

Maureen Dumas

5. Why is networking significant for those students looking to become interns?

Networking is a skill that is critical throughout any individual’s career, but it is particularly important for recent graduates. It is a valuable skill that must be learned, and it is even more challenging for this population because they haven’t built up their own network, nor have they proven themselves in the industry. They must use their parents’ network, their alma mater and their friends’ parents. A personal recommendation can be a game changer for students seeking an internship. It won’t get them the job, but it could be the reason they get the interview.

6. What are the risks of students who are unaware of companies visiting their campuses, for example, during internship and/or job fairs?

Education is expensive and it is an investment. Students who are disconnected and unaware of companies visiting their campus are not managing their investment wisely. Students need to avail themselves to all opportunities and learning experiences outside of the classroom while on campus. If they want to intern at a company that has been on campus, they missed an opportunity to learn firsthand about the organization’s culture, any challenges they may be facing, and a key networking opportunity.

7. What are the benefits of gathering background knowledge on a company when pursuing an internship?

Students should research the company prior to accepting an internship. The experience is about the learning, but it is also about getting a job offer at the end of it. They should have looked on LinkedIn and researched if there were any alums from their university working there. There also might be job opportunities in other divisions, so if they have done their research, they can maximize their experience to lead to a job offer.

8. Final thoughts?

An internship is the only time in an individual’s career that you can work for a company as a student. As an intern, your number one responsibility is to learn and students will never have the opportunity again. It is a great professional work experience where you can ask as many questions as you would like to. You can be forthright in your search for a job and you can admit that you do not have a specific skill set but want to learn. It can be a very rewarding experience for the employer as well, and if the relationship is cultivated appropriately, students can gain a strong advocate and mentor.

Read more in Work Experience

Marks’ stories have also been published in a variety of newspaper, magazine and online formats including The Arizona Republic, The Daily Herald, Arizona Foothills Magazine and various classroom magazines of Scholastic Inc. Service is her passion, writing is her platform and uplifting and inspiring the community is her purpose. Marks received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.
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