As the May graduation date looms upon seniors both here and in the rest of the country, there is one concern that almost every single student will share regardless of their major or university.
After years of knowing exactly what next semester will look like, the prospect of graduating into the crowded and competitive field of job hunting can be daunting. There is, however, one great way of reducing the uncertainty and making yourself stand out among the crowd.
Internships are one of the most important tools a college student has available to prepare for a professional career. Among other benefits, internships ease student entry into the labor market, provide references from real employers, allow students to test drive a career role and ultimately act as a deciding factor where GPA’s don’t.
According to a study led by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), students who graduated with internship experience in their field were able to find a job in less than half the time than students with no experience. The same research found that 58 percent of students with internship experience had job offers within three months of graduation, while only 30 percent of students without experience did.
Statistics like these show that previous experience is nearly a necessity in the quest to find a job in today’s market. But internships are also an essential part of the learning experience in college, according to Dr. Brian Anderson, dean of arts and sciences at the W.
“It’s all about experiential learning, taking students out of the classroom and putting them in real-life situations,” said Anderson. “They often come back with lessons and experiences that can’t be conveyed quite as well in the classroom.”
Anderson also believes that the last two years of college are the best time to apply for internship opportunities.
“By the time students are juniors or seniors, they are ready for it,” said Anderson. “By then they have the necessary foundation from classroom knowledge, skills and confidence as more mature students to take full advantage.”
More recently, he helped Suvechhya Shrestha get acceptance into the Washington Center, a nonprofit organization that provides students with both an academic project and an internship opportunity during a stay in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
For Shrestha, a senior accounting major and international student from Nepal, the three-month program acted as a stepping stone in her long-term career goals. Her hands-on experience during the internship prompted her to take management information systems as a second major and to establish a clear career path.
She also got to meet several people, built her network and even managed to interview Martin Wilczynski, a leading figure in the field of forensic accounting and a role model for Shrestha.
“Interviewing him was like a dream come true,” she said.
But it wasn’t all work and no play for Shrestha. Even with all the responsibilities of her work, she still managed to go parasailing, visit museums and to make many friends in the process.
“The overall experience is indescribable,” said Shrestha. “I was learning a lot, and I was having a lot of fun.”
Closer to home, the office of Student Life provides four or five intern positions every year. For Kimone Holtzman, the coordinator of student engagement, internships give students a chance to grow, develop and get exposure to professional roles in many career fields.
When asked about the qualities that a prospective intern should have to be successful, one shines above the others for its relevance to both college students and future professionals.
“Be ready for whatever comes up,” she said.