With an increasingly uncertain economy, many students are looking for an extra competitive edge. Internships are becoming a major catalyst in job searches.
Summer internships, once believed to appeal to only the most determined students, are now almost crucial for a wide variety of jobs including those in business and journalism.
“Employers will gravitate towards those who are most passionate in the field. Internships make you much more competitive,” said Jay Eubank, the director of placement and special programs at the School of Journalism.
Internships are no longer reserved for the student who knows he wants to be a CEO or practice corporate law, according to Leigh Babaian, associate director for career development at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Rather, they serve as a breeding ground for students to develop new skills and experience, factors that will springboard them to the forefront of an employer’s prospective hiring list, she said.
Eubank said the most important thing a student can do is network out, make connections and keep in touch with potential employers. By doing so, the student distinguishes himself from the hundreds of resumes and cover letters that companies receive.
Junior Blake Frieman, a business administration major, anticipated the competition. He has completed two internships so far.
“Employers, especially those involved with finance or consulting, like to see that candidates are able to demonstrate leadership, teamwork and critical thinking, both in and out of the classroom,” he said.
For students who have never considered applying for such a position, there are still plenty of opportunities, said Sue Harbour, senior assistant director for undergraduate business at the Department of Career Services.
“Companies are always looking to hire, and while the student may not get a position with a Fortune 500 firm, smaller internships will still help the student grow as a professional,” she said.
She maintains that students should start thinking of an internship as soon as freshman year.
“Even though an internship is not mandatory, it should be mentally mandatory,” she said.
Any student can walk into Career Services and meet with a counselor to tailor his interests to prospective jobs, she said.
Harbour emphasized that it is particularly pertinent for upperclassmen, who should target their search to a relevant field in order to help them get a job in the first year out of college.
According to Babaian, the more experience the better. She said it is common for freshmen and sophomores to engage in general skill-building positions and then fine-tune their search in their junior and senior year when students have a better idea of what they want to go into after they graduate.
Those familiar with Careerolina can play the field themselves online. Harbour said a counselor meeting can only help a student. They might discover that they can work in many different fields because skills are transferable.
Some do not always have a positive outlook. “Internships exploit smart college students for little or no pay,” sophomore Stephen Padgett said. “They could easily get the work experience from a real job.”
Despite this view, the benefits of an internship are undeniable. Eubank stressed how it enhances one’s resume and skills for a job after college.
“Even if you don’t know what you want to do in the future, you are competing against people who do,” he said. “You need all the extra experience you can get.”
Contact the University Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.