Note from Katie: This is the first guest post from someone who I had never heard of before being contacted with interest in writing for this blog. I am excited to share Jeremy Han's experience and advice about internships because, as a business student, he offers a very different perspective than I can, and a grounded and practical approach to the topic. As a senior at Northestern University, Jeremy has an extensive background in internships and carefully-considered resume-building endeavors. So, without further ado, here is "The Importance of Internships" from Jeremy Han.
The Importance of Internships
I know everyone on this blog is seeking some insightful college advice and you’ve come to the right place. What better source of advice than students who’ve gone through it themselves? Personally, I could write about procrastination, study techniques, and saving money. But now I want to write about the most important advice I can personally give to current and prospective college students…internships. Before I continue, I want to introduce myself. My name is Jeremy and I am a last semester senior at Northeastern University with a dual concentration in Finance and Entrepreneurship along with a minor in International Affairs. During my time here, I got involved with many clubs and organizations that interested me while also aggressively pursuing excellence in my classwork. This is more or less what every college orientation leader preaches: “Take advantage of the school and join as many clubs as you can.” I remember this from the countless college visits and campus tours I attended while in the college selection process. To me I feel as if career services is equivalent to the ‘beyond’ section of Bed, Bath, & Beyond, that is until it’s your senior year and all is too late.
I am in a five-year program, which means all my friends from home who’ve attended traditional four-year universities have already graduated last year. This has given me an interesting perspective on the experience of the recent college graduates around me. Now these are smart students who definitely deserve a full time offer but nevertheless so many of them have yet to receive one due to a lack of experience. My experience has been very different. I have done eight internships throughout the course of my college career including three full-time 6-month co-ops which can be attributed to Northeastern's co-op program along with four internships and one work study. Because of this experience as an undergrad, I have received two full-time post grad offers from two of my co-ops while maintaining great relationships with my managers at my other experiences. To clarify, as a co-op you are hired as a full-time employee for the duration of 6 months as part of a requirement by our university. We select positions which are interested in and, assuming the employer is interested in our resume, we are chosen for an interview in hopes of receiving an offer.
I hope to use my experience to offer advice to help others avoid the trouble and regret many students encounter upon graduation, which is finding a job. Oh those three dreadful letters. Yes of course, your GPA and clubs and organizations holds weight for you but what else are you going to fill that mystical 8.5’’ x 11’’ piece of paper called a resume? Many employers prioritize valuable experience on your resume. Experience shows what you are capable of, it shows your interests, and gives the employer a sense of your personality. But most importantly, I have found experience the most useful when it comes to interviews. In many interviews, you are face a set of behavioral questions asking how would you respond in certain scenarios: “Name a time you’ve worked in a team…” “Tell me about a time when you faced a challenge…” The best way to respond to these kinds of questions and probably the easiest is relating it to real life situations you’ve encountered in your prior experience and describing how you reacted to it. Having a range of experience makes answering these interview questions naturally easier as it comes from memories and holds more meaning to the employer as opposed to a hypothetical scenario.
When I say experience, I don’t mean find just any summer job or part time gig and call it a work experience. Many kids fall into the trap of college being a time to party and have this belief they will easily land a job after they graduate. Don’t get me wrong, by all means have fun in college but just keep the end goal in mind. Don’t think getting good grades and joining clubs is enough. Don’t spend your summers working in a uninteresting short-term job just to earn a couple of bucks to subsidize summer fun. The fact of the matter is employers will want to look for quality experience in addition to your coursework. Many internships are unpaid but I can’t stress enough the fact that this is all worth it. The minimal amount of money you might be making now does not amount to how much you open your opportunities to in regards to full time jobs.
Although, if you can’t find an internship, as Katie has mentioned in a prior post, make your own! (http://www.mycollegeadvice.org/blog/2013/12/18/inventing-an-internship) This shows enthusiasm and motivation to pursue something you are sincerely intrigued by.
Career services isn’t some mythical place like Narnia or Hogwarts. It’s just a group of very helpful people who have the resources to help you get an internship or job. They can give suggestions on revising your resume and cover letter, help prepare you for interviews, and provide you with contacts and alumni who are open for any questions or concerns pertaining to your field. So take advantage of them! Internships are often overlooked. Students get so caught up with the notion of college that they forget the goal of college. By holding several internships throughout your college tenure, you not only increase your chances of landing a post grad job but you also build a significant network of professionals who become a valuable resource as you progress further in your career.
About the Author: Jeremy Han is a Finance and Entrepreneurship Senior at Northeastern University, and currently a Research Associate at Argopoint LLC, a management consulting firm in Beacon Hill that works to improve in-house corporate legal department performance and efficiency at Fortune 500 companies. For more information, visit http://www.argopoint.com.