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The North Wind

The North Wind

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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Internships: How to get a head start on your career

The job market has always been a competitive one, and with the recent decline of the economy, the task of snagging one of those elusive jobs has become all the more difficult. But for college grads, it’s not all bad news – there’s something you can do, maybe even right here in the community, to help better your chances at working in the career field of your choice.

Internships are a great opportunity to get hands-on experience and build up a résumé. But when many students hear the word internship, they either think of the poor undergrad who doesn’t get paid and fetches coffee for the staff, or the student whose parents know a guy who knows a guy and can get him a nice paid job that would typically be out of reach for the public. The truth is that internships, while still competitive, are very much within students’ reach, and most will task students to using their skills in business or communication, not in how to work a coffee pot.

What are Internships?

Internships are programs that allow students to work at a company within their career field while they’re still going to school. Robert Lion, assistant dean of the College of Business, said an internship is more than just another job.

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“Internships provide an opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom,” Lion said.

Typically, internships last up to four months, which gives students plenty of flexibility in fitting them into their schedule. However, there are more time-consuming internships, called co-ops, which can last up to eight months. Of course, not all internships or co-ops are paid, but according to Lion, they offer a fair compensation, since hiring an intern is a more cost-effective measure for most companies.

“An intern can make a nice wage and come back to school in four months, and the company (that hired them) doesn’t have to continue to provide for them,” he said.

Senior marketing major Jenna Williams recently completed a co-op with the Kohler Company. She said that the popular image of the intern who does menial tasks was definitely not the case when she started her seven-and-a-half-month long co-op.

“Basically, when I got there I had an objective set out,” Williams said.

Her time at Kohler required her to use her skills to work with multiple offices within the Kohler Power System, a subdivision of the Kohler Company.

“I established working relationships with the cross-functional teams,” Williams said, adding that she often communicated with such offices as the finance department and quality control. This kept her busy – she often put in 40-hour work weeks, which she said reminded her that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

“It’s a job. It’s a test if you’re going to get hired there,” she said. “I was expected to do my work.”

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits for students who take an internship. For senior accounting major Eric Schmoldt, the biggest was simply to learn more.

“You learn stuff you’ll never learn in a classroom,” Schmoldt said.

Schmoldt has interned at Northern Initiatives, which operates right on Northern’s campus. Northern Initiatives lends money to small businesses, and Schmoldt helped out by working with customers and helped get them a loan. He said his job entailed things that he could have never learned by reading a textbook, and that it pushed him to apply himself in different ways.

Williams agreed with this sentiment, adding that internships also prepare you for the job market.

“I don’t think students realize how competitive the job market is,” Williams said.

With the sudden shift in the economy, the job market has indeed become even more competitive. According to Lion, this can make internships even more attractive, since students who take an internship have a better chance of getting a job.

“Oftentimes, internships lead into successful placement,” Lion said, adding that many companies like to fill vacant full-time spots by hiring internally, or in other words, from internships. Lion also cautioned that, with a decrease in the amount of jobs, this may be students best bet at getting a job right out of college. Lion said he sometimes worries that students aren’t entirely aware of this.

“What students need to realize is that, maybe six months ago, (a company such as) Ford had 100 jobs to compete for. But now there may be only 40, but with the same amount of graduates,” he said.

How can I get an Internship?

For many, the mere thought of even trying to get an internship is headache inducing. Add the fact that it requires a well-composed résumé and plenty of searching, and students begin to see it as something that’s more hassle than it’s worth.

The first step, according to Lion, is one that may seem a bit obvious, and doesn’t require as much work as one might think.

“Students have to figure out what they’re interested in,” Lion said, adding that they shouldn’t put restrictions on their goals. “Think big. Think about where you really want to be.”

The next step, according to Career Services Director John Frick, is to reach out to the resources available right here on campus.

“They should talk to their academic advisor,” Frick said. “They should (also) work with Career Services.”

The Career Services office, which is located in 3502 Hedgcock, offers a variety of help, from listing internships on their Web site, to having staff that focus solely on internships.

Frick said the next step is to start working on a résumé.

“Students should start thinking about their résumés their sophomore year,” he said. For those who might be past their sophomore year and haven’t started, Frick said not to panic and remember that Career Services is on campus to help with résumés.

Unfortunately, résumés can be a big concern for many students who might not have much work experience to write about. Schmoldt said that, for him, the best thing for his résumé was volunteering.

“I had a lot of volunteering experience . a lot of leadership experience,” he said. “Whenever a volunteering opportunity comes up, jump on it.”

Because of this, Schmoldt said that he was able to secure his internship faster than most.

“I sent (my résumé) in, and within a week I had an interview.”

Once students know what they want to do, and have their résumé in order, the next step is to find an internship. Fortunately, Career Services’ Web site has a listing of internships, which can be sorted by geographical region or area of study.

However, Career Services only lists internships that they are aware of. According to Frick, there are many other places to find internships, such as individual academic departments on campus or even through company Web sites. Frick encouraged students to check out company Web sites, since they might not necessarily list a need for internships up here in the U.P.

“Companies can be very geographically loyal,” Frick said. He said the best way to get around this is to do something as simple as running a Google search for the company you want to find an internship for. He illustrated this by searching for the phrase “Microsoft internships,” which instantly directed him toward Microsoft’s human resources department, where a current list of all internships was available.

However, one local resource that often gets overlooked is job fairs.

“Job fairs are an excellent source of internships,” Frick said, adding that it’s not just the students who attend them that are interested in internships. “The majority of those companies (at job fairs) are also looking for interns.”

For those students looking to graduate soon, or just have their future in mind, internships provide a great opportunity to get into the work force and get some hands on experience. For Frick, they seem like a no-brainer.

“Especially in these tough economic times, any tool a job seeker can use, they should use to increase their chances of success,” Frick said. “I can’t over-emphasize the importance of trying to do an internship.”

For Williams, the mere fact that she was able to do more with her college experience than study in the classroom was enough justification.

“I feel like it was a great experience . living a different life than college. It opens up your eyes to what the real world really is,” Williams said.

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