Internship can seem like a scary, daunting word but really it is something for which students should be excited. Without regard to how one might feel about internships, they are a requirement and a valuable resource for students. In order to do an internship, one must have completed 15 upper division credits in their selected course of study, then the internship selection process can begin.

The purpose of an internship is to merge a student’s academic experience with their career interest, allowing them to gain field experience. Most students start thinking about their internships during the fall of their junior year. This includes meeting with either Angela Doty or Corynn Gilbert to discuss possibilities. A list of places may be given to the student to spark ideas, but they are encouraged to think outside the box. If they have a certain organization or company in mind, Career Development is more than happy to help them pursue it as an internship option.

Internship is an academic course with online assignments designed to enhance the students’ experience at the site and begin the transition into the “real world”. This course includes face-to-face coaching with Angela, an internship contract, resume/cover letter/portfolio completion, and a final paper. A job is not guaranteed, yet internships can, and often do, lead to job offers. Some internships are paid while others are not, all depending on the internship site. Either way internships present valuable opportunities, allowing students to put their studies into practice as well as network in their professional field. Internships can be put on resumes and most employers actually expect recent college grads to have an internship – or two or three! Site supervisors are also good people to put down as references.

As I investigated about internships I became increasingly more excited for the time I get to do my own. I was able to talk with some students who are currently working on their internships and get the inside scoop from our very own interns. For Senior Patty Martinez, a Psychology major interning at Springfield High School Career and Counseling Center, the internship has helped her realize the motivation behind her career goals. “My favorite part would definitely have to be the students! They are oodles of fun and working with them has just helped me to realize that I’m getting into the School Counseling profession to be more than just someone who harps on them for their grades or not submitted college applications, I’m getting into this profession to be their ‘friend,’” said Martinez.

Martinez works with the ASPIRE program in the Counseling Center, working with schedule planning as well as contacting volunteers from the community to do one-on-one mentoring. She also participates in the mentoring herself, which includes assisting students with their educational, emotional, and mental needs.  Though she has fun doing her job, there are stressful parts, like amending schedules without effecting all 150 students. Internship was not exactly what she thought it would be, “I thought of an internship as me simply following a person and having them tell me what to do each step of the way, just because the supervisor may be afraid of me making mistakes, but that not the case. An internship is about learning from the little mistakes you make now and using the knowledge from those mistakes to better do your job.”

Let’s look at Isaiah Blake, Communications major interning at Lane Workforce Partnership(LWP). He works with youth who are having troubles in their jobs or the job search, because of their lack of “soft skills.” Soft skills are things such as promptness, good communication, and dressing appropriately. His task has been to interview employers to seek their views on what is lacking in the youth’s soft skills area, interviewing educators to find out what the youth are being taught about soft skills, and finally researching accessible soft skills curriculum to implement a plan that can resolve the problem.

Though it is slightly intimidating speaking to CEO’s and other important and successful people, the rewards are great. He has made many connections and has “a big ol’ pile of business cards.” He says he has learned much about the workplace, and exactly what employers are looking for as well as appropriate workplace behavior.

Blake shared a humorous story that reflected his learning about the workplace from the very first day, “When I first went to LWP to meet with them and figure out if the project would be a good fit, I showed up with my beard that I had been growing out for close to 5 months (and kind of looked like a homeless guy), and as I was sitting there listening to them describe this soft skills project (which includes showing up to work/interviews clean shaven, or at least well kept) I kept feeling more and more awkward and when I got the internship I quickly trimmed!”

Junior Jess Harwood, a communications major with a business minor is interning at Relief Nursery, a center for at-risk children and families. Children at the nursery have faced neglect or drug abuse. Harwood’s job began as an event planner, but as she expressed her desire for video production, the nursery realized they had need for her in that department. She now takes pictures and videos for promotional purposes, currently producing a mash-up video of all of the events that take place, as well as taking pictures to make a book that will be sent to donors.

For Harwood, the biggest challenge is finding time amidst her 18 credits as well as her job. She says she has to be ready to have “adult conversations.” Yet, the most rewarding part has been seeing her work being used, “My photos are being put into books that are being sent out to hundreds of people. And the same with the video I’m going to be making. It’s sent out to hundreds! So it’s really rewarding to see my work, even though I’m an amateur being used and given out to people.”

Harwood’s advice to upcoming interns: “Don’t be afraid to look for an internship that isn’t necessarily practical or to look for an internship and shift it towards what you want to do. I started out as an event planner which is already pretty impractical, so it was kind of reaching for the stars to go out and look for an internship as an event planner, which I didn’t even know that I could find. First off I found one, and then I shifted it to what I want to do as a career and they were just happy to do that.” There might be potential for students to tailor their internship toward their career goals or personal interests.

Each intern I talked to had their own view of the rewards that came along with their internship, which reached beyond job offers. For many students the internship turned out way better than they were even hoping, exciting them for the future and moving into their intended careers.

For more information about internships go to MyNCU/internships.

You may also want to check out the new version of BeaconJobs, called BeaconConnect.

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