Internships start students on the right path

Through internships, students can gain the practical work experience needed before they arrive in the workforce.

To help students get a head start on their internship search, Career Services is hosting an 60-minute clinic at 4 p.m. today in Career Services in the Human Services Center.

The clinic will address why internships matter, how to find the right one for one’s field and what it takes to get one.

Renee Stroud, internship coordinator for the School of Business, says the best time to apply for internships is the fall semester.

“Internships help students gain major-related work experience, learn about an employer and learn more about a particular career option,” Stroud said. “Students who complete an internship generally come back to school more confident, more mature and with a better understanding of how the concepts learned in class are applied in the work world.”

She said employers looking for interns usually look at grade point average, major, how involved a student is in campus organizations and past employment history.

“Students find internships through the Career Network Day, on-campus interviews, departmental resources, networking through student organizations and networking through family and friends,” Stroud said.

Although with the economy, internship opportunities have started dwindling.

“Many companies have decreased their number of internships because of uncertainty about future hiring needs,” Stroud said.

Not all companies have stopped hiring interns.

Stroud said most of the companies that have hired paid interns are still hiring, but selecting fewer interns because of more economical options.

Departments across campus continue to see the value of student internships.

Karen Gaines, associate professor of biological sciences, works with students in the science department to help them find internships.

“For any major, having these practical skills is important,” Gaines said. “We had people doing internships at organic farms, West Nile Virus at U of I, Shedd Aquarium and the zoos.”

The economy has yet to hurt students in the biological science department find internships.

“Wherever the student wants to go in the environmental biology, they pursue it,” Gaines said. “Some are field techs, some work in an oil field and student conservation service.”

When President Barack Obama passed the stimulus plan, a lot of the money went to science and technology research, Gaines said.

Not all majors have been as lucky in the economy, as Karen Swenson, associate professor of political science, knows.

“The public law offices (state attorney and public defender) continue to offer some paid internships, but fewer private firms are doing so,” said Swenson, who helps arrange internships.

Paid or not, the experience is often invaluable.

“Work as an unpaid intern (and gain valuable college credit); if you prove your worth, you may be hired in the future,” Swenson said.

Another reason for an internship is to tread the water in one’s chosen career field.

Too many people leave school with a law degree and find out that they don’t want to be a lawyer, Swensen said.

A legal internship can become an eye-opener to the environment of work and give a law school application more appeal.

Eastern offers some internships that are required within departments.

Lynn Calvert, associate professor of communication disorders and sciences, requires internships of graduate students in her program.

“The educational internship in the CDS department is at the graduate level and is required of all of our graduate students,” Calvert said. “Our students complete this experience so they’re able to meet the qualifications for their ISBE certification for work in educational settings as a speech-pathologist.”

Calvert’s department hasn’t been affected by the economy and says that students have found their first job before they graduate Eastern.

“The internships are not paid and have never been paid,” Calvert said. “In addition to the educational internship, our students must also complete a 14-week medical internship.”

Jennifer Brown can be reached at 581-7942 or at [email protected].