Tools available on campus for obtaining internships

Students are learning through valuable off-campus experience

Written By Lauren Clouser

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Regardless of major, students are strongly encouraged to take on an internship during their college careers. But for someone looking to land their first internship, the process can be a bit daunting because it’s not always clear where to start.

Although there is no set path for everybody, there are steps that students can take to find the perfect internship and to maximize their experience.   

Students are able to receive college credit for their internships. Although students have the option to not do internships for credit, Cheryl Guyer, the Internship Coordinator for the Career Development Center, highly recommends doing internships for credit.

“It sets a standard for the student and the employer,” Guyer said in an in-office interview on Thursday. “The student has to create learning objectives when they go into a for-credit internship and it’s more monitored.”

According to Guyer, for-credit internships require students to blog and write about their experiences and have more check-ins than an internship that is not for credit.

For-credit internships vary from practicums because, according to the Point Park website, practicums are for one credit and are done within the school. Practicums are taken junior year as “basic training” for an internship.

Although the only students that are required to do internships for credit are sports, arts and entertainment management (SAEM) majors, Guyer said that many other students are still doing internships, particularly those enrolled in the School of Communication.

“I would say the School of Comm is very closely right behind SAEM with the students registered. And it’s interesting because they’re not required.” Guyer said.

Guyer stated that most students are ready for an internship around their junior year.

“I would say their junior year is a good time because they have a lot of coursework under their belt, so they could probably work pretty independently at their internship with the skills that they’ve acquired just from their coursework,” Guyer said.

If a student is unsure of where they want to intern, the Career Development Center has several resources to help with the search, as well as services to help students with networking and interviews.

Students can start their search with Handshake or Indeed.com, and they can also find internships at job fairs, such as the upcoming Internship and Job Fair tomorrow, Sept. 28.

According to Erin Howard, the career counselor for the School of Arts and Sciences, the Career Development Center can also assist students who already know where they would like to intern by helping them to find a contact at the company. Once a student has decided on an internship, the Career Development Center can assist them in obtaining it.

“I do a lot of individual appointments,” Howard said in an interview in her office on Wednesday. “All of the career counselors do, and those usually take about an hour and we talk about anything from career exploration and planning all the way to cover letter reviews and resume reviews. We even do mock interviews and networking prep for students too.”

Internships are important because, according to Guyer, they can allow students to see which tasks they do and don’t like, and they can help students to network with people in their industry.

“I think that most jobs are found through knowing someone and making a good impression on someone,” Guyer said. “So the sooner you’re able to do that the better. Pittsburgh is a big city but it’s small in a lot of ways, so the more people you know it’s amazing how quickly you can get connected in the community and in your industry.”

Internships are also a way for students to get practical experience in their fields of study. Alexandra Levi, a junior biology major, is currently a hospital intern at the National Aviary, which allowed her to get a hands-on experience from day one.

“So we take care of the birds that are in the hospital,” Levi said in Village Park on Thursday. “Not the exhibit birds, the exhibit birds come to and fro if they need treatments, but we mainly have patients that stay with us their whole life. We do a lot of really awesome things, on my very first day I was helping with procedures…It’s very hands-on, I’ve done a lot of things that I never imagined I would’ve done.”

The internship is essential for Levi to get into veterinary school in the future, but it has also helped her to appreciate her current classwork.

“It’s hard to care about what you’re learning about if you don’t see the purpose in what you’re doing, whereas having the internship, when you learn about a microorganism in microbiology and then I go to the aviary and I learn about the disease that it causes, it’s easy to see how it all connects to each other.” Levi said.

Elsie Boucek, the career counselor for the School of Communication, stated that another benefit of internships is how they can give students a more realistic view of their future profession.

“I think that another thing that happens with internships is that students will be told these are the things that you’re going to do, and then something happens, especially in a smaller agency, like I’m thinking about a marketing agency or a smaller ad firm, where something happens, somebody just leaves, and then the intern gets a little more responsibility and maybe feels a little stressed.” Boucek said in her office on Thursday.

According to Boucek these sorts of situations can prepare students for the real work force and teach them how to “roll with the punches.” 

Howard’s advice to anyone seeking an internship is to stay optimistic, even if you’re rejected for an internship that you applied for.

“Be positive,” Howard said. “Because even if you get a ‘no,’ the interview process for everybody is always going to be scary and nerve-wracking, so if you do get a rejection that’s just the starting off point to start negotiations.” 

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