Companies look for internships, experience in addition to grades

By Drake Pena

The New Year brings with it different weather, different opportunities and maybe even different people.

But for college students everywhere, the New Year also brings a fierce competition for a limited numbers of internships.

Heather Zike, an academic advisor in the College of Media, has worked with students in finding an appropriate internship, especially as internship experience gains more and more importance in the professional world. She stressed the importance of internships as an opportunity to place skills to work that may not be properly utilized in the classroom.

“If you are only doing academics during your time here, you would have little to write on a resume and internships can be a powerful point on a resume,” she said.

With the unemployment rate at its lowest since June 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an ever-growing market of college students and graduates coming out into a workforce.

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According to Zike, an employer’s standards can vary.

“It would be dependent on the potential employer/coordinator and their company’s standards,” she said. “Some will only take those with a certain GPA, class level, major or prior experience. Others will want who has the most passion for the job and would be a great fit for the team.”

Jeremy Marder, freshman in LAS, said he has experienced the high, professional standards when we was interning at Utopic, a post-production house in Chicago, during the summer of 2014.

“Over those with an impressive resume, is someone with a passion for what they are doing. Someone who can be the missing piece to the company’s puzzle,” he said.

Marder is currently looking at internships for production and video editing for the summer. He said that he’s starting now as a freshman, but that might not be the best path for everyone, something that Zike agreed with.

“Many are not ready for an internship during (or) after freshman year. I have seen some that have the knowledge, experience and get the internship.” Zike said.

Still freshmen are encouraged to apply, she said, but “they have time to build their resume with experience, volunteering, and additional information.”

Amy Fruehling, director of career services in the College of Engineering, said that internships are just as important for Engineering students on campus as well.

“Internships are very critical for a student’s education,” she said. “They are also very important in validating job choices and showing that these students are further along in development after their internship.”

Fruehling also said that internships for freshmen in engineering can be difficult to find as well.

“Companies start to look for specialized skills,” she said of why companies prefer upperclassman candidates. “What classes have you had to-date in specific areas. They look to see how far along you are. For this reason, internships are more focused toward juniors, because they’ve taken more specialized classes.”

Errol Gerber, director of sales for WGN, said that from the employer’s perspective, work experience is crucial for college graduates.

“Gaining on-the-job work experience is so valuable and any chance to get that should not be passed up,” he said.

Gerber said that WGN and other businesses look for interns who are mature students who bring various skills to the position.

Gerber also said that the ideal intern would be “someone who is buttoned up, eager to learn and on time.”

Drake can be reached at [email protected].