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Internships are key to experience, future employment

With signs of summer still lingering on campus, it may seem crazy to start thinking about plans for next summer already. But don’t let those guys playing Frisbee on the Quad fool you. School is in full swing, and that means it is time to start preparing for career fairs, tweaking resumes and working toward finding the perfect summer internship.

“Internships are the most important thing you can do,” said Brandon Bouwkamp, graduate assistant for employer relations and career assistance at the Career Center. “You can learn plenty in the classroom, but actually learning how that applies in the real world is experiential education,” he said. “And that’s where an internship can help.”

Bouwkamp suggests that students take advantage of every opportunity they have, especially the summers between junior and senior years.

Multiple internships not only build an excellent resume, but also give students a chance to fine-tune what it is they want to do when they graduate.

“These internships are great resume-builders, but even more so, it’s learning what you want to do, and do you have what you need to do it,” Bouwkamp said.

Need another reason to start your internship search now? Internships are one of the best ways to begin networking.

“An internship puts you inside the door and gives you access to everybody you need access to,” he said. “That’s where we meet and network with the professionals we may be working with in the future.”

Brittany Herdman, senior in Media, interned this summer for Starcom, an advertising agency in Chicago. She said her 10-week internship was invaluable.

“I learned more in those 10 weeks than I have ever learned in 10 weeks in my entire life,” Herdman said. “I learned technical things and tricks of the trade … things that school can’t teach us.”

On top of the experience she left with at the end of the program, Herdman said she also gained a boost in her self-confidence.

“The internship was 10 weeks at (Starcom’s) entry-level position,” she said. “It’s a confidence boost to know that we can do this, (that) one day we will.”

Lisa Freiburg, senior in Media, had a less traditional internship over the summer, working on a movie set in Mahomet as a production assistant. She worked 12 to 15 hours a day, learned the ins and outs of the movie business, and took away a greater appreciation for television shows and movies.

Bouwkamp said no matter the internship or job, the most important thing to do is take advantage of the opportunities we do have. He advises to focus on the skills that are important to what you want to do.

“Take on leadership opportunities, focus on your communication skills and focus on customer service,” he said. “All are transferable skills that employers are looking for.”

The Career Center is in its busiest season now with students scrambling to work on their resumes and attend career fair workshops.

One resource that is essential to students looking to land great summer internships is ILink, an internal recruiting resource available to students through the Career Center. The Career Center approves all of the employers and jobs offered on the site for both full and part-time interns.

“We have the resources that can help anybody in their career search,” he said. “Ultimately, you get out what you put in.”

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