Experience is experience: the importance of internships
As fall semester comes to a close, many students are beginning, or continuing, to stress about their summer plans. With each major requiring different kinds of experience, it can be disheartening trying to understand the job search process on your own. The pressure to get a competitive summer internship is strong, but is it really vital for everyone to have those summer internship experiences?
“I enjoy my job in the summer but I also don’t feel like it’s getting me anywhere,” Catherine Czajka, a sophomore marine science major, says. “I’m really excited to do some research and learn stuff that will be useful for the rest of my career.”
Czajka spent the previous two summers working at an educational children’s summer camp. But after two years of working in a field that didn’t necessarily line up with her STEM major requirements, she felt it was time to move on.
“Some companies, some industries want you to have multiple internships and sometimes it doesn’t matter,” Rachel Coppola, the senior associate director at the Career Services Center (CSC) located at 401 Academy Street, says. “A lot of students get caught up in the word ‘internship,’ where something like a part time job can really be like an internship depending on what you’re doing in that role.”
“It’s important to know the trends of your industry,” Coppola added. “Look at the job descriptions of the entry level jobs that you are wanting to go into. What are the skill sets that are being asked for those particular positions, and how can you find internships or jobs that offer those skills?”
Coppola mentioned that regardless of whether or not a position is titled an “internship,” any kind of work experience is beneficial, from working as a cashier to working at a summer camp. If you can apply skills from that job and speak about them intelligently, Coppola believes the experience is worth it.
“This summer I wanted to do something different and try summer research,” Ananya Garg, a junior biology major, says. “But last year, I took a break from science to see if I really liked it, and I learned a lot of skills, like learning how to interact with people and teach children. I want to be a doctor, and a big part of that is being able to communicate with people and tell them what’s actually wrong with them so that they can help themselves. I learned a lot.”
Because summer job experiences are so major and industry-specific, there are certain majors that are more structured around internships than others. Becca Sabers is a senior double major in international business and marketing who has had three consecutive internships with different businesses.
“I think overall, the benefits outweigh the negatives, because now applying for jobs I feel a lot more confident and have references that I know will help me,” Sabers says. “I’ve gotten job offers from the company, and internships give you more confidence going into interviews and stuff to be able to cite what you did.”
The CSC offers walk-in appointments, virtual sessions over winter and has time slots to make appointments on their website. Career coaches are available to help with multitudes of tasks, from resume reviews to career counseling. Their website is also an important resource for making connections with alumni, getting industry-specific internship sites, job sites, resume templates and networking opportunities.
“All experience is valid because it’s teaching you the career readiness traits that employers are looking for,” Coppola says. “Critical thinking, team orientation, leadership, digital technology — internships, part-time jobs, volunteering and even studying abroad will give you that exposure.”