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Internships can make a difference in building a career

Submitted by Steven Savage on November 11, 2013 – 5:24 pmNo Comment

College students can spend time in the classroom trying to earn the highest GPA while missing opportunities to apply what they learn to the real world. Internships  give students the opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom to the work environment.

Imagine that you have just graduated from college with honors and are optimistic about the career opportunities available to you. You spent countless hours burning the midnight oil to maintain your 3.8 GPA and majored in a field that has projected job growth. Unfortunately, since you spent so much time focused on studying, you missed chances to meet new people, volunteer, participate in student organizations or earn internships. Now that you are in the real world, you have no contacts in your career field and no work experience to reflect on in an interview. As a result, you end up being turned down for entry-level positions because of a lack of experience. This is a problem recent college graduates may face as they enter the competitive job market.

In a Forbes magazine article, “Internships May Be The Easiest Way to A Job in 2013,” Jacquelyn Smith wrote that internships have become the “new interview” in the job search process for students and employers. The article stated that “66 percent of employers believe interview performance and relevant work experience are the most important factors in their hiring decisions—far more significant than strong academic performance.”

“Internships give students an opportunity to test the waters. They get a chance to work in a particular area of their field of study. It allows them to figure out what they want in a career. Getting that experience before you graduate is important. You don’t want to graduate, apply for a job and not have any experience,” Cooperative Education Coordinator Michael Yang said.

Although some students know internships are crucial to gaining employment after graduation, many are still unsure about how to land one. A great way to start looking for internships would be to start networking with the faculty, Yang said.

“The faculty is very connected with those in their field,” he said. “Build those contacts so you can refer back to them for letters of recommendation.”

Getting involved in student organizations can be a great avenue to gain volunteer work in the community. In today’s society, the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Students could have a 4.0 GPA, but employers want to see tangible work that displays their talents. According to Smith’s article, “employers will look at what the student has been learning at school, relevant projects, course work and extracurricular activities. In a highly competitive job environment employers want to see that a candidate has the hunger to be successful more than purely in an academic setting.”

When it comes to looking for and gaining internships, Yang offers the following advice:

  • Research several companies and decide if their mission statement is aligned with your values.
  • Get in contact with someone that has knowledge about internships or volunteer opportunities in the company.
  • Be able to sell yourself. Polish your resume and cover letters to highlight your best qualities and experience.
  • Build a portfolio with your best work.
  • Volunteer for unpaid internships.

Yang said, “Conducting an informational interview helps identify where you want to work. It helps you identify what company is the best fit for you.”

Once you have earned an internship, you have the opportunity to show an employer your work ethic. Employers want to know you are willing to put forth a strong effort, whether or not you are being paid.

Also, it is important to make yourself an asset to the company. Learn about every facet of the company. When it comes time for them to hire new people, employers will remember that you can come in ready to work.


J Michael Kieth, senior mass communication major, works at his job with the Arkansas Travelers, a job he earned after interning with the team. Photo by Steven Savage.

J Michael Keith, a mass communications senior, had the opportunity to work an internship. He said he came to UALR for the opportunity to get an internship in Little Rock.  “I searched and applied all over and was lucky enough to land one with the Arkansas Travelers Baseball Club. In that internship, it showed me what the real world was all about. It also showed me that what I learned in college was actually used every day,” he said.

After the end of his internship with the Travelers, he went back to being a full-time student. “In January, they called me looking for help and needed someone who had done what I did in the front office,” he said. “Without my internship, I would have never had the opportunity to be in the situation I am now.” Keith now works full time as an account executive for the Arkansas Travelers.

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