This is a series of blog posts contributed by members of your AUPA Board of Directors. Topics cover items of interest for fellow Auburn parents, by Auburn parents. We encourage discussion and welcome your suggestions for future posts. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Internships — An Integral Part of the Full College Experience
A 2015 Job Outlook Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 92.6% of hiring managers indicated a preference for hiring new grads with work experience. In fact, for non-technical positions, internship experience is what matters most to employers, above even academic major, GPA, or college reputation.
So how do our Auburn students figure out how to get that experience?
Through the AU Career Center.
The AU Career Center is a resource our students should access well before they begin job hunting their senior year. “Depending on the major, our students are not as good as utilizing our resources as we’d like them to be,” states Nancy Bernard, director of the AU Career Center. My guess is this is because students aren’t familiar with all the Center has to offer and the importance of utilizing these services.
Auburn’s Career Center offers comprehensive services to help students explore possible majors and careers, including personality and interest assessments, as well as resources for identifying and securing internship and employment opportunities, resume development, interview prep, and job listings.
In my conversation with Bernard, I learned that requirements and resources for internships at Auburn can vary by department or major. “At Auburn, many majors require an internship,” Bernard states. “Within those departments, some may pair students with an internship, while in other departments, students are responsible for finding their own (with the help of the Career Center, if they choose).” For example, the College of Business has its own career center and has a very heavy focus on internships. The College of Education is a very structured program that matches students with internship sites, while apparel merchandising majors are responsible for finding their own internships. “Either way,” Bernard explained, “departments that require internships have their own internship coordinator to tell them what’s required — how many hours they will need to work, what the evaluation process will be, etc.” If it’s for academic credit, students need to check with their advisor to make sure it meets requirements. These departmental resources are in addition to the ones offered by the AU Career Center.
Regardless of what’s required, Bernard states that employers now definitely want at least one, if not two or three, internships prior to graduating, whether for credit, pay or volunteer. “With some majors, this can be tough to do, but we encourage students to try to build this into their schedule and recommend they use their summers to accomplish this.”
But Bernard also cautions students to not do an internship just so that they can list it on their resume. “Don’t be a passive participant — students need to make sure they’re asking the right questions and doing their research to make sure it’s an opportunity that will give them some real solid experience that will benefit them as well as the employer,” she says. “Ask themselves, what are they going to get out of the internship? What skills are they going to develop or what will they get to do or learn?” To be a real internship, the position has to meet government guidelines as identified by the Fair Labor Standards to avoid situations where students are doing volunteer work that offers them no true value. “Not every position listed as an internship actually is one,” Bernard says. “If something sounds too good to be true it probably is.” The Career Center can help students identify legitimate opportunities.
As parents, we know the value of real-world experience, but what can we do to help our students get started? Bernard suggests the following:
- Talk to our students about the importance of internships and what type of exerpience they should be looking for. This includes being clear on what may be required by the student’s major and what the financial ramifications of that might be. Internships for credit will require tuition. When our older daughter chose to do a required 6-credit internship during the summer, we failed to note that she accepted a 12-credit internship, which meant paying for 2 sessions of summer tuition rather than 1. Fortunately, the work experience she gained through the position was well worth the investment. Students accepting summer positions away from home or campus will likely have additional housing costs. Bernard also mentioned study abroad experiences as being considered internship experience. “They’re not called internships but can be counted as an internship in some cases, and can provide valuable experience.” Cooperative education (co-op) experiences are also valuable and are coordinated through the Co-op office, mainly for engineering majors, but some opportunities apply to other majors.
- Encourage them to start early.“Students don’t understand the importance of getting involved and using the career services available to them early and often,” Bernard says. Even freshmen should be familiar with the AU Career Center and its services as well as what resources are available through the student’s program of study. Students looking to secure an internship, either during the semester or summer, should start at least 6 months prior. “Most students like to do them in the summer, but it’s tough to find something if they wait until April,” Bernard says.
- Be familiar with Auburn’s resources to point students in the right direction. Familiarize yourself quickly and easily by clicking on the Families tab on the Auburn Career Center page for a wealth of information, including a Parent Guide.The Career Center utilizes the extensive Handshake platform— which recently replaced Tiger Recruiting Link — and is seeing more employers list positions in this platform. Using their Handshake account, Auburn students can update their profile, post their resume, identify positions, and be contacted by potential employers. Students can meet with Career Center counselors to learn more about Handshake and other office resources. They also can network with faculty and professors for valuable assistance and direction.
- Identify other networking opportunities — Research shows that students have a 1 in 72 chance of getting a job they apply to with no connection. Those odds improve dramatically when students network through their personal connections. “Parents have a great network, so help your students explore and learn to develop their own network without being their voice.” What opportunities might you help them identify through friends, neighbors, family members or co-workers? Students don’t have to be alumni to access valuable, vetted contacts through your local Auburn Club. A simple post on its facebook page can get the ball rolling. Students can also utilize LinkedIn to create a professional profile and network. (Read this previous AUPA blog post for some more career prep tips.)