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The Benefits of Summer Internships

by Kayla Johnston '16

With the end of the semester approaching, the summer job search is in full swing. Students are frantically preparing for finals, planning living arrangements, and deciding where to work for the next four months. The benefits of a summer internship can sometimes get overlooked.

While a paid job has immediate, tangible benefits, an internship opportunity also has positive, long-term outcomes. Whether you’re a graduating senior hoping to gain practical work experience before heading into the career field, or a freshman looking to add experience to your résumé, an internship is the way to go.

According to Lynn Pearson, director of career services, students have plenty of options available through APU’s Office of Career Services, and should begin to look for internships in their specified field of interest as soon as they can.

“We have two sources available to students: the APU Career Network, where full-time jobs and internships are listed, and we also pay for a subscription called internships.com, a source that has more than 4,000 internships listed from all over the country.”

In addition to the online database, the Office of Career Services hosts annual events, such as Evening with Industry and the Summer Work and Nonprofit Fair, to give students an opportunity to network with possible employers and look for internship availabilities in nearby Los Angeles or wherever they call home.

Pearson stresses the importance of internship experience in the competitive job market. According to her, employers are much more likely to hire college graduates who have had an internship over students who may just have a college degree.

“The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducts research every year and they have found that the conversion rate of students to get a full-time job from an internship is 48.4 percent,” Pearson said. “What that means is that almost half of students doing an internship are converted to full-time positions.”

If you are looking for extra cash over the summer and don’t want to give up time to work as an unpaid intern, Pearson suggests getting a part-time job two to three nights a week to help pay the bills. That allows you to work part time as an intern, giving you both the financial benefit and the work experience.

APU’s Office of University Relations, currently employing 20 student interns, also recognizes the importance of an internship experience. Allison Oster, editorial director of university relations, says that interns play a necessary role in the function of the office.

“Interns help provide support to our staff, but we see it as a valuable opportunity to support students’ learning while providing them with experience,” Oster said. “We interview students for each position and try to find a good fit that will complement their strengths and career aspirations. Some students come in and realize they really want to do this, and some realize that it isn’t a good fit. We help give them experience so that they can decide.”

Oster, who held multiple internships throughout her own college experience, offers tips to students looking to get work experience in any capacity, whether an internship or a job. According to Oster, first impressions really do matter, beginning with initial contact. You want to give the employer the best version of yourself both personally and professionally.

Secondly, prepare your résumé and email it to the person you are applying with, and bring a hard copy to the interview. If the internship requires samples, bring a portfolio or body of work with you. Employers want to see the work you have already done to prepare yourself for the job.

Lastly, Oster stresses the idea of flexibility. “Be open and use the internship as a learning experience,” she said. “Be prepared to take on the nitty-gritty stuff because every role, whether you’re an intern or a full-time staff member, will include tasks that you may not want to do. Be willing to say ‘Yes, I can do that,’ or ‘How can I help you?’”

Drew Neillie ‘14 has held several internships during her time at APU, ranging from sports management to fashion. She spent summer 2013 interning in the public relations department of a sports management company where she shadowed publicists, gathered research on opposing firms, and was able to assist in planning large-scale red carpet and gala events for professional athlete clients.

Neillie shares some of what she learned, encouraging student interns to never sit still and seek out more projects they can do.

“Have a good attitude,” Neillie said. “Don't be above doing menial tasks. They will pay off. Always ask what you can do, how you can help, and what the next project is. Taking initiative looks great to an employer!”

No matter what opportunities you pursue this summer, remember that an internship will not only benefit your future career goals, but also give you valuable life lessons. It’s a learning experience that you will take with you for years to come.

“Employers are much more likely to hire college graduates who have had an internship over students who may just have a college degree.”