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It's always been a catch-22 for college grads - they need experience to get a job, but how do they get experience? It's now easier than ever to get experience with so many companies and schools encouraging internship programs. Here's why you need an internship.
Networking is particularly important if you're tying to break into a field that's not widely represented on the on-campus recruiting circuit.
Howard Kurtz, professor of criminal justice at Oklahoma City
University, likes to tell a story about why internships are
important: He once taught a student who went all the way
through her degree program and then found a job immediately
at a federal prison. She quit two days later when she
realized that prison inmates smoke and use profanity.
Welcome to the real world. That's what internships are all about - they're a taste of what it's like to hold down a real job in your major or field of interest. Not only can internships give you experience, they can also give you an opportunity to network, and you may get paid, to boot!
We have an offer for you
Career counselors say there's no magic number of internships that students should complete during their college years. But, they all agree undergrads should take on at least one. Ellen Brzeski, a career counselor in Elmhurst, Illinois, points out that classroom theory can be vastly different from the actual vocation. And while no one says that going to classes, studying, and taking exams isn't grueling, it's not the same as working from 9 to 5 (or 6 or 7) every day. "For some people, it might be a totally different structure than going to class at 10," Brzeski says.
Wait, there's more!
Costa, 23, who credits her own internship in landing her current position, says that now that she's on the hiring side, she considers only candidates who have real-world experience. "I can't imagine going into a job without knowing how things are done," she says. Costa's company, a small public relations firm, has two interns whom she may hire after they graduate. "They are just phenomenal. They are open to suggestions and communication, and we are here to teach them," she says.
And, if you act now
Pennington says finances don't have to be the only determining factor when it comes to getting a summer job or doing an internship, because happily, many internships today are paid. "For students, a myth of internships is that they aren't paid. For every 10 internships in here, maybe one is not paid," Pennington says.
So, it's not a question of whether to do an internship, but when to do one. Pennington says the time to start considering internships is during sophomore year. "Many employers want students with some coursework under their belts," she explains. She says students ideally should try to complete at least one summer internship, as well as one semester internship. Each student needs to decide what will work best in conjunction with his or her academic schedule and credits earned.
Costa advises that students not just accept any internship that comes along. "Ask around; don't get stuck in an internship where you will only make copies," she says. "It's just like a job. Be picky." So, pick up the phone, visit your career center, log onto Experience.com, and start your research now!
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