The Importance of Being an Intern
When you're hunting for internships this summer, keep in mind the big picture: future employment.
By Shari Plunkett, STUDENT.COM Correspondent
"I thought if I had a high [grade point average] I'd be fine," he said. Dadey graduated with honors and a 3.6 GPA from Ohio State University in 1997 with a marketing degree.
But interviewers asked Dadey why he did not have experience. Without previous marketing internships, they usually eliminated Dadey from consideration.
After working as an assistant manager at a Toledo mall store for more than a year, Dadey has decided to try college again. He is now taking accounting classes at the University of Toledo part time. Dadey said he believes there is a better job market in the accounting field.
"I'm going to do it right this time, do an internship and get a job I feel I'm qualified for," he said confidently.
Geoff Humphreys, Director of the Office of Professional Experiences Programs at the University of Toledo, believes internships are essential for any career. OPEP helps Toledo students find internships for college credit. "I'm a firm believer that all majors must do an internship," he said.
Humphreys encourages students to think about internships the "minute they arrive" freshmen year and find one sophomore year. He also recommends students interested in more than one field do an internship early to test the waters in case they have doubts about their majors.
Many employers only consider hiring those who have career-related experiences, he said. "You need to participate in an internship," he said. "Many students think they're too busy, they have to work and do school work." Those students may be stuck on graduation day thinking, "What am I going to do?"
While students are usually attracted to the big-name companies, there tend to be stronger opportunities in smaller, younger companies. "You get to see an outcome of your work, an end product," Humphreys said.
Humphreys said companies often offer former interns post-graduation jobs because the company knows the intern's capabilities and skills.
That was the situation Meredith Johnson, a junior majoring in operations management at the University of Toledo, faced this summer. Johnson said she went through a temporary agency in Cleveland, OH to find her summer internship as an executive secretary at Telesis, a medical management firm.
At the end of the summer, the company offered Johnson a job paying in the high $20,000 range with tuition assistance if she transferred to John Carroll University and stayed in Cleveland. Johnson thought having the internship showed involvement and the initiative to take on a job that left no room for mistakes. She said future employers will look at her resume and think, "Wow, she's already got those skills."
Heather Kansorka, a University of Toledo junior majoring in political science with an emphasis in public administration, feels the same way as Johnson. She believes her summer internship working in United States Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur's Toledo office will help make her resume stand out.
While the job was unpaid administrative work which required Kansorka to "talk to a lot of wackos" on the phone, she still realizes the value of the experience. "Even if I only worked a few months, they'll still see I worked for a congresswoman," she said.
Kansorka said getting a highly-coveted congressional internship was surprisingly easy. She e-mailed Kaptur's Washington, D.C. office for available summer positions. After submitting a cover letter and resume to the Toledo branch and waiting a few days, she received a call asking when she could start.
It was almost as easy for Phil Casal, a recent environmental science graduate of Rutgers University at New Brunswick, N.J., in his job search. With two internships under his belt, Casal's current employer, Industrial Waste Management, Inc., found him.
"I didn't even apply for this job," said Casal, an environmental specialist. "They heard of me through a person at the cooperative education program at school," he said.
Casal isn't completely sure he would have found a comparable job without the internships. "I would think so," he said, "but I've got to admit that participating in the co-op program helped me tremendously."
Even without connections, Jennifer Martin, a senior majoring in organizational communication at Ohio University, found a valuable summer internship.
"I sent a resume to Taylor Management hoping they might find me an internship [elsewhere], but they offered me an internship instead," she said.
At the staffing and recruiting company, Martin interned in human resources, the field she would like to pursue after graduation. As an intern, Martin reviewed resumes, conducted phone interviews and called references. Martin also ran background checks on applicants, which yielded surprising findings at times.
"I got to go through police records and find out how many felonies people had," she said. "I met some really interesting people. One lady told me about how she smokes pot every day."
Martin said there is the possibility that she may return to the company after graduation, but she is also applying for jobs elsewhere. But she has no doubts that the experience was a good one. "It trained me for what to expect in the real world."
No matter how one obtains an internship, the experiences are fast becoming crucial for employment success after graduation. Humphreys said those with tangible experiences they can point out during interviews are likely to get top billing and priority in the job market. Along with the better chances of landing a job, Humphreys said students can expect better job retention and satisfaction because they are more prepared and aware of the content of their careers. After all, no one really wants to be in the position Bryan Dadey found himself in.