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Columns

Waubonsee Voices: Internships give new college grads an important edge

Julie Bechtold
Julie Bechtold

Across the country this month, the sounds of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” will be followed by the cheers and throwing of caps as millions of new college graduates celebrate the achievement of a higher education degree. And while obtaining a degree has its many challenges, the new graduate now faces an even bigger hurdle: Competing for jobs in what remains to be a tight job market. But a prepared few will have a leg up on their peers – those who have completed internships are more likely to get hired.

Today’s employers expect new hires to possess soft skills and to begin adding value to the company from day one. For new graduates, the best preparation for meeting this expectation is to have had one or more internships while in school.

Internships are experiential learning opportunities where students apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-world situations. These experiences help round out a student’s learning by engaging them in real-time problem solving, presenting them with communication styles and methods, and improving their teamwork and leadership skills.

According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, nearly 73 percent of students who completed an internship received a job offer. In a competitive job market, having at least one internship on a resume greatly improves a student’s odds of being employed within six months of graduation. No longer are internships an expectation only for those majoring in the hard sciences or finance and accounting. Experiential learning opportunities are ideal for students of all majors who can demonstrate to employers “real skills” acquired through internships.

Traditionally, internships were often left to the last semester senior year. Not anymore. Today, professionals working in Career Services on college campuses tout the importance of obtaining an internship as soon as one’s sophomore or junior year. Aside from the necessary experience and skill development, internships prove invaluable to a student’s career decision-making path. For many students, the experience of an internship can be life-changing as they discover professional interests and avenues they never before considered. Employers also increasingly support this pathway, as data shows cost savings over time when hired interns are easily converted into full-time employees.

At Waubonsee Community College, students are encouraged to explore internship opportunities early on. Through faculty connections, the online job board resource, Waubonsee Career Network, and career fairs, students are exposed to a variety of for-credit internships throughout the community.

Having at least one internship during an undergraduate experience can help give that momentous walk across the stage on Graduation Day an added bonus: Those graduates who’ve completed internships are likely collecting not just a diploma, but they just might have a job offer waiting in the wings.

• Julie Bechtold is the Career Development Center manager at Waubonsee Community College.

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