Career Center assists students with internship application process

By Missy Smith

It’s that time of year again:

The time when students begin to drift off in anticipation of upcoming breaks, the time when students start to cram for finals, and the time when students frantically apply for last-minute internship possibilities for the upcoming summer.

It may seem early to start planning for the summer – after all it is more than six months away – but the best internships go quickly, and students know if they wait too long, they will not get the internship they want.

This process can be intimidating, but luckily the Career Center, 715 S. Wright St., can help by offering guidance to students who need it.

Sejin Oh, senior in LAS and employee of the Career Center, said the free resources available at the Career Center were useful and got her started on the path to getting the internship she wanted.

Oh had two internships, one on campus and one in South Korea, where she worked for a company called Credit Swiss. She worked as an analyst, completing various tasks and assignments to help her summertime associates.

“It opened up so many opportunities that I had never thought about before,” Oh said. “I don’t have any formal academic background in finance, but after this internship, I feel like I can go into that field. It was really an amazing learning experience.”

Damian Lay, assistant director of marketing and communications and event coordinator at the Career Center, said internships allow students to see what their intended profession really entails, and it does not always work out for the best.

“An internship is a great way for students to see what their futures could look like,” Lay said. “We see many success stories where students absolutely enjoyed their internship experience, but there are also many students who come back realizing that their dream job is not at all what they had expected.”

Lay said either of these outcomes can be seen as learning experiences because now the student knows ahead of time what they are getting into and can make changes to assure they get the job of their dreams.

For that reason, Lay and Oh agree it is never too early to get started in the process.

“I was a freshman when I started to develop my resume,” Oh said. “Now, I critique other peoples’ resumes, run workshops and more.”

Mike Buehlman, graduate student and career consultant, said the Web site for the Career Center, www.careercenter.uiuc.edu, provides a lot of information, including a time line to help students.

“We have a time line on our Web site that helps students prioritize,” Buehlman said. “It’s never too late to start, but it’s never too early. That’s why at the Career Center we say the sooner you start the better.”

Lay said the Web site also offers a link to an online job listing called IConnect, www.iconnectuiuc.com.

“On the Web site, you’ll see a list of companies that recruit on campus,” Lay said. “They will post their internship openings online and you can apply directly through uploading your resume.”

Buehlman said the IConnect system specifically targets students whose college does not have a career office of their own, yet it extends beyond LAS opportunities.

“Opportunities are pretty much across the board,” Buehlman said. “Any opportunity you can think of. And most employers assume that you don’t have any previous experience.”

Both Buehlman and Lay agree the most important part of a resume is that students have shown the initiative to get involved on campus.

“Companies are going to want to see that you have applied yourself beyond just going to class and getting a good GPA,” Buehlman said. “Any internship is going to be looking for that especially. If you have experience on campus, it is just as good as having a pervious job or internship.”

Lay said it does not matter whether students have part-time work experience or volunteering experience, only that students have some experience outside the classroom.

Oh did not even have experience in the field she was interning in, yet she still feels it helped her more than anything else she has ever done.

“I feel like I learned twice as much and twice as fast than during my entire four years the University,” Oh said. “It was really an amazing experience because I was able to network with many people who I wouldn’t even be in contact with if I didn’t have that internship.”

Oh said another resource she values at the Career Center is the mock interview program because without it her actual interview would have been more intimidating. She said the mock interview allowed her to correct mistakes she was unaware she was making.

Buehlman said the mock interview program consists of a pretend interview, which is then taped and critiqued, allowing students to get feedback on their interview style. It is an hour long: the first half-hour is the interview, and the second 30 minutes is the critique.

Lay requires students to treat the mock interview as a real interview because it is the only way to gain actual experience.

“Many students go into an interview room and that will be the first time they ever get interviewed,” Lay said. “It is always helpful when you have some experience and you know what to expect. The mock interview is very successful at giving students a glimpse of what they can expect when they walk into that interview room.”

Lay also said that after this mock interview, students can get the DVD of their interview to take home with them to review further.

Oh said if she could go back and do things differently she would have more internships because the more experience students have, the better off they will be.

Oh plans on returning to Korea after graduating a semester early to look for a job.

“I have been in the United States for about seven years,” Oh said. “I’m really looking forward to going back to Korea and getting a job there.”