In a country with 23 million unemployed, students must do what they can to secure post-graduate success. It simply is not enough to be “hard working” and “determined” anymore, and contrary to what thousands of hopeful applicants believe each day, it does not matter when an HR representative is combing through hundreds of résumés.
This election year, we find ourselves faced with political extremes bombarded from every angle. President Obama’s stance, that no family should ever have to throw away an acceptance letter due to financial circumstance, is certainly accurate, but Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s stance is not nearly as bad as voters believe. Sometimes it is smarter to shop around for the education with the best value. In reality, it is what a student does to prepare for life after college, combined with a dedicated faculty, that combats the devastating unemployment statistic.
Stephens has required students to do internships and practicum studies for over 10 years. Dr. Susan Bartel, dean of the School of Organizational Leadership and Strategic Communication, believes that an internship is the best way to gain experience without a degree.
“Professional practice is critical if you are going to be in a professional career,” she says. Understanding professional culture, such as office politics, dress and attendance cannot be learned in the classroom. A student who impresses the higher ups at an internship may leave with something better than a new skill set: a job after graduation.
While Stephens ensures students gain internships by graduation, larger colleges find it more difficult to monitor and do not require them of students. Emily Miller, junior Journalism and Political Science major at the University of Missouri, currently has two internships-but not at the urging and preparation of her professors. The introduction class in the School of Journalism briefly touches on résumés and applying for internships, and while having an internship is highly recommended, Miller has had little help from her program. Miller believes that students would greatly benefit from preparation and getting advice from upperclassmen that have already completed an internship.
Elizabeth Mach, junior dance major at Missouri State University, agrees wholeheartedly. While performing arts students at MSU receive emails about open apprenticeship positions around Springfield, that is the extent of the advising. “I think it would be helpful if they gave us individualized attention and told us which internships and future career paths would be best for us, rather than good for everyone…I feel super unprepared for the real world,” Mach said.
On the contrary, graduates who did an internship in their undergraduate education felt more confident in their job search. Kirsten Jones, a 2010 graduate of Saint Louis University, achieved her BS in Marketing Communications and was required to do an internship, like all programs at SLU. Jones speaks highly of her program because of the positive stress they placed on her to get an internship. In fact, her academic advisor even recommended her, gave her a mock interview, and edited her résumé. At the end of her internship, Jones had an integrated marketing portfolio and walked straight into a job as an administrative assistant for the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. “My internship made a perfect transition into my career,” Jones said.
Even though a private college like SLU looks impressive on a résumé, internships prove that a student can or cannot succeed in a professional environment. They open doors, build connections, change career paths, and even change lives. Schools who choose to prepare students for post-graduate success through various means, including internships, are simply doing their part to fight unemployment and help students do their very best.