By Fariaa Israr / Editor and Christian Rosario / Editor-In-Chief
Although the current job market is getting increasingly difficult to enter into, there is still an opportunity for students to make an impression with their desired employer. The answer lies not in earning an impressive GPA or graduating from a prestigious school, but in acquiring an internship.
An internship is like a traditional job, but offered by a company to a potential employee for only a fixed period of time. This experience is beneficial to both sides. Companies can use internships to assess the skills of an intern and determine if they will make a productive employee in the future. Interns can learn how their studies are applied to the work environment, build valuable contacts, and develop communication, problem-solving and organization skills.
There are different styles of internships a student can choose from that will benefit them; however, not all of them function the same. Internships are divided into three primary categories:
“Co-operative learning” can be a paid or non-paid internship that a student receives academic credit for. At a co-op, a student is paired with a faculty Coordinator, the hours are highly structured, certain goals must be met to obtain credit and the student must register at the beginning of the semester to participate. Each academic department that offers a co-op controls its own program. However, preparation and assistance with finding a “co-op” can be done through Raritan Valley Community College's Career Servcies.
“Service learning” is an internship coupled with a course for extra credit. The student and professor arrange how it’s incorporated in the class. They are always unpaid and must be with a non-profit organization.
A “traditional internship” can be either paid or unpaid, although RVCC's Career Services strongly encourages employers to provide paid positions. The time frame is very flexible; they can be any number of hours per week, either short or long-term and run throughout the year. They begin when a match is made between employer and student, and end when either student or employer decides.
Awareness about internships is increasing at RVCC, as more students are approaching the Career Services office every year to apply. According to Alicia Hermo-Weaver, Coordinator of Internships and Cooperative Education at RVCC, at an internship a student can expect: a detailed educational experience, a mentor that guides them on projects and an exposure to their desired industry. Weaver encourages every student to engage in at least one internship at the community college level, and if they plan on pursuing their bachelor’s degree, at least two more.
In an effort to educate students on internships, RVCC held several seminars on the topic during the spring semester. The first seminar was hosted by Inroads, a non-profit organization that assists students in getting internships. During the seminar, Ciji Gardner, the Regional director for the New Jersey-New York region, emphasized having a focused mindset when planning to begin an internship.
Gardner reflected on having a focused mindset through one of her favorite quotes: “Begin with the end in mind,” written by Stephen R. Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Students can use this quote to remember several things when planning an internship: what their ultimate internship goal is, what type of internship they are looking for, what major they are interested in and what kind of job environment works for them. This self-reflection makes the students aware of what areas they are strong in and where they can grow.
According to Weaver, an average student changes majors 2-5 times, and after college, changes occupations 5-7 different times. For that reason, it’s important for students to learn what career interests them so they can avoid wasting time and money majoring in an area study that they do not like. Trying on a career through an internship is essential because if it’s a good match, their motivation strengthens and the career path becomes clearer.
According to Khushwant Pall, former Student Government president and former intern at AsianLife & General Assurance Corporation and Maya Real Estate Brokerage, "Internships gives you an edge over other competitors in the corporate world, who are just as skilled and intelligent as you may be, with the difference that interns have real life experience and know how to practically apply their skills."
Donald Treich, president of RVCC’s Radio Club and current intern at Drew’s Entertainment, is another student who has noticed the benefits of internships. “A positive aspect of interning with a small company is that you will experience a wider variety of tasks and won't be confined to one specific job. Interning for a large company or corporation is good if you’re trying to immediately set yourself up for a job in that field, and start a career ASAP. Over all I would say try any and everything, you never know what you'll like.”
Students interested in learning more about internships may visit Career Services located in College Center 116. They can use this resource for help with applying for an internship, a process that has rewards of its own. By building a resume, cover letter, references and preparing for interviews, students start to build career confidence and may start to understand what they want to do in life.