With spring registration just around the corner, now is the time that students are starting to think about applying for for-credit internships within their majors. Many majors require internship credits to graduate, however even the majors that don’t have that requirement highly encourage students to partake in an internship.
According to Hillary Homzie, internship coordinator for the school of Arts and Humanities, there are many reasons beyond school requirements that students should get involved with internships. “Employers want to hire those with experience,” she said. “When students are able to indicate that they have internships on their resume, it shows that have already initiated a career inquiry and possess on-the-job training.”
Other benefits of internships include mentorship, references, learning about personal preferences, potential job offers and pay. Kyuho Lee, internship director for the school of Business and Economics, said that they only accept internships which offer at least minimum wage. Other departments accept unpaid internships or those that offer a stipend (which may or may not equal minimum wage).
Lee feels that mentorship is a key aspect of internship experiences. “The internship supervisors are good teachers,” he said. “They can comment on attributes that a professor can’t measure. A professional attitude, how a student professionally behaves and meets requirements...those kinds of things are not learned in the school of business. Those are life skills. Internship supervisors teach those kinds of skills.”
Another way in which internships are beneficial is that they help students learn their personal preferences. According to Homzie, an internship that leads a student to decide what they don’t like can be just as valuable as one that leads to a job, because it saves them from going down the wrong path in the future. “As long as students are obtaining actual on-the-job training at a reputable place of business or non-profit--versus simply, say, Xeroxing--it’s going to be a valuable internship, even if the student decides she or he don’t want to enter that field,” Homzie said. “This is because it’s going to help clarify career and life goals.”
Michelle Ng, a fourth-year communications major, is doing an internship as a brand ambassador for Re:Think Ice Cream, a new company that makes ice cream for a healthy lifestyle. She agrees with Homzie that internships are a great way to learn about yourself. “I think everyone should do an internship,” she said. “You can try out a job that you might not be sure about committing to.”
Ng is also learning important skills that she wouldn’t necessarily have gained in the classroom. “I am definitely learning more about independence, customer service, hard work, and a lot of the little things that come with starting a business,” she said. “It’s easy to read about things in school, but actually doing them or trying to incorporate concepts into the job is very different and challenging.”
A best-case scenario is that an internship will help a student land a job after graduation. A student Lee knew got an internship in a nonprofit organization that was created right after the fires last year. “The supervisor was a well-known person in management and she wrote a lot of important information about the student. The internship supervisor believed that she had great potential, and they offered a good job to her,” he said. “That internship changed her life significantly.”
There are a few important things that Homzie wants students to consider when thinking about an internship. “The trick is not to wait until the last moment. Don’t wait until spring semester of your senior year to find your first internship, go out and now and make an appointment with career services to get your resume critiqued and learn the latest job search strategies,” she said.
“We are so lucky to be in the North Bay of California where there are countless opportunities in a variety of job sectors, from agribusiness to high tech to major and regional nonprofits. Regularly, I receive emails from area employers actively seeking Sonoma State interns because our students have such a strong reputation out there in the workforce,” Homzie said.