Internships critical for post-graduation success

By Riley Roberts

For students nearing the end of their University careers and preparing to join the ranks of the American work force, spring can be a trying time of year. Graduation looms, and the job search is well under way. Even for underclassmen, the prospect of finding a “real” job can seem daunting – and that’s where internships can make a big difference.

“Internships are crucial,” said Brandon Bute, assistant director of the Career Center. “It’s really a great way to see if it’s the field you want to go into, and more and more employers are demanding this kind of experience.”

Bute said that, in spite of the fact that some professions (such as architecture and certain careers in medicine) specifically require on-the-job experience prior to hiring, it’s essential for other fields as well. Because many students recognize the value that employers place on internships, most are extremely competitive.

“It depends how much work you want to put into it,” he said. “Getting an internship is like getting a job. You have to talk to people, do a lot of research, and if you really work hard at it then it’s possible for you to get that dream experience.”

Demetrius Wade, sophomore in LAS and a pre-law major, is one of the many University students who have been able to find the internships they desire. Last summer, he worked at a corporate law firm in downtown Chicago.

“I shadowed an attorney, went to court, took documents to judges’ chambers, did administrative and accounting work and participated in a deposition,” Wade said. “It really let you see all the different aspects of being a corporate attorney, which is valuable because not every attorney does all of those things — they specialize.”

Wade, who got the internship through a scholarship and an intensive interview process, described the experience as an extremely valuable one and said that it helped him identify the career path he now wants to follow.

“Based on this, I decided I want to be a litigator,” he said. “It was valuable experience and a great networking opportunity. I’m still in contact with some of the partners and associate attorneys at the firm.”

Bute said students should pursue internships either over the summer or for credit during the school year based on their own preference and what they want to get out of the experience.

“It’s an extension of the learning that goes on in the classroom,” he said. “If (a student) can arrange credit, that would be great . but that has to be done through the academic department. Some have classes set up, but for others it may not be that easy to get credit. It’s mainly an exploration tool for the career process.”

The Career Center offers numerous resources to University students to aid in the internship search, including online information, links to helpful Web sites, a place to post resumes online (called I-Connect), fliers, workshops and the opportunity to meet with counselors one-on-one.

“I would definitely recommend (getting an internship) to anyone,” Wade said. “It’s really great.”

Bute said that it won’t always be easy but that many students can get what they need out of such an experience if they really invest themselves in it.

“You have to really pursue it,” he said. “And there’s a lot we can do to help. But the number one step in getting an internship is to have some goals in mind – it really makes it a lot easier. Take time to reflect, decide what you want and set some goals for yourself.”

More information on internships can be found at the Career Center’s Web site, which is linked from the University’s home page, and at the Student Services Building, 610 E. Daniel St.