This is the second part of my College-to-Career Transition Series, which sprang up from a presentation I gave at The City College of New York on February 24th, 2011. During the first part of the series, I explored the importance of having a College Experience that is relevant to one’s career goals besides an impressive academic background.
In this part of the Series, I would be delving into the value and significance having at least one internship experience before college graduation. Enjoy the Series and don’t forget to leave me your comments, additions or inquiries. I would be very glad to respond.If you do decide to email me, please use: firstname.lastname@example.org
Internships are the most important part of your college experience relevant to your career. I am a firm believer that every college student should participate in at least one or more internship experience before college graduation. In fact, if it were up to me, I would mandate that every student engage in an internship as part of their College graduation requirement. This is because it:
- Exposes a student to the real world of professional interaction beyond College. Students get to network and build business relationships and references that they can take elsewhere with them
- Helps a student decide if chosen career path is the right one.
- Equips a student with tangible real work experience
- Challenges a student to learn new skills and push known limits while undertaking daunting tasks.
- It gets you in the door of an organization that you are interested in. Most Companies hire from their pool of interns because to them, they are vetted, already in the system, and have proven work ethic.
I currently run a Non-Profit Organization, Re:LIFE Inc. with my business partner and Co-founder, Kevaughn Isaacs because I interned and volunteered at several Non-Profit Organizations prior and post graduation.
“Why Non-Profit, even though you have an engineering background?“, One may ask.
Well because as a Colin Powell Fellow on Leadership and Public Policy, I got the opportunity of a lifetime that influenced my career path. I loved engineering, but I wanted to serve people in some capacity, without knowing where and how.
As part of my Fellowship requirement, I had interned at NY AIDS Coalition (NYAC) during my sophomore year. NYAC’s mission is to secure, strengthen, and enhance New York’s community-based fight against AIDS and to promote the fair and compassionate treatment of New Yorkers living with HIV disease.
Through my Internship and Fellowship, I learned about health policies, lobbied at NYC City Hall for HIV/AIDS funding, attended World Leadership Forums, researched on different ways to influence the Democratization process in Developing Countries, and wrote policy related papers based on surveys and findings.
These were skills I did not have prior to my internship. The lobbying experience, as well as the World Leadership Forums changed me completely. I had been so disappointed in the politicians and their techniques of serving their constituents that I felt the need to do something. I realized that in order to live a more fulfilled life (one without resentment for the system), I needed to be active in the service of Human Development. I had to SERVE. I chose youth; ‘disconnected’ youth to be precise. (Disconnection in youth refers to youth who are out of school and out of work.)
After that, I took some political science classes to hone my policy building experience, and volunteered for several Non-Profits that catered to youth, including the NY Chapter of the Big Brother Big Sister program.
Those experiences culminated in Re:LIFE Inc. I co-founded Re:LIFE Inc. to cater to disconnected youth in Harlem and its surroundings. I still use several of those skills which I learned over the years through my internships, especially in studying disconnected youth.
Expectations: Your internship experience should:
- Be Challenging but rewarding
- Engage academic and practical experience within the organization
- Involve critical and analytical thinking, research and reflection
- Enhance professional communication skills within an Organization
- Activate creative thinking skills in order to find and apply solutions to challenges
- Explore both human and organizational behavior
- Provide relevant expertise in diverse fields
- Expose intern to projects that will enhance career experience for future job opportunities.
Interns are usually required to handle themselves in a professional and dignified manner at all times, consistently interacting with other employees respectfully and correctly. They will be expected to perform all tasks and assignments assigned to them efficiently and in a timely manner. Creativity and one’s personal ideas/knowledge are highly encouraged and should be suggested when necessary.
Results: An internship program should ensure that your experience equips you with valuable and successful skills/expertise relevant to your career of interest. Thus, success should be measured by:
- Learning opportunities,
- Constructive instruction,
- Professional performance,
- Creativity and flexibility of Intern and Supervisor
- Contribution to the Organization’s growth.
Responsibilities and results should be evaluated on a weekly or biweekly basis to help both parties optimize the internship experience.
Collaborations: If an Organization or Departmental internship program involves other interns, it is necessary that group meetings are held. If they are not, request them. The meetings should be a place to:
- Discuss any issues or accomplishments pertaining to the internship and the organization,
- Share in each other’s successes and experiences,
- And most importantly brainstorm and creatively express new methods in furthering the goals of the internship.
Moral of Story: Internships, internships, internships… An internship is paramount to the learning experience of a student because it provides a hands-on approach before graduation, and an opportunity to help shape future professions. It is therefore important that your internship experience be one that provides you the opportunity to apply relevant knowledge to your work, but also learn something new.
Internships are usually the shortest route into an Organization. Your exceptional performance usually results in a job offer, which saves a student the hassles of job search if the organization is one that suits their needs.
Personal Story: Three months after I graduated college, I accepted a contract job offer in Quality engineering for 6 months. At the end of my contract, I turned down a permanent offer from the Company for the following reasons:
- I did not have any time/room to pursue my passions and social causes.
- I did not find any fulfillment in it, even though the job paid well
- But most importantly, I disliked working extremely long hours for a cause or ideal that did not directly correlate with my passions
Thus, without my college internships and volunteering,
- I probably would have taken the job offer that I did not like, and surely would have ended up frustrated at the job.
- I found it difficult to enjoy my job because it was not fulfilling to me.
- I most likely would not have had the guts or time to start Re:LIFE Inc without all the experience I gathered being in Organizations that catered to my interests.
- Even though I liked the job, I did not like working too hard for someone else for a biweekly pay
Finally, with the hopes of integrating engineering into my passion for youth, I have cut out a most rewarding and gratifying career path for myself. Thanks to my internships.
You Can Do The Same Too.
Internship Resource: Most colleges have an Internship Search databases, provided by your College’s Career Center. (Talk to an Internship Coordinator on your campus or at a Career agency. Most schools have at least one). Also, I put together an Internship Resource Page for those interested in Internships. These resources are mainly from two websites which I think are beneficial to students looking for internships. Click HERE for the list.Like said earlier, please do leave your comments and let me know if this blog post was beneficial and if you were able to secure an internship from the list. Also check me out on other blog outlets: Re:WORD Blog Re:LIFE Inc’s Blog Sincerely, Chike Ukaegbu