I’ve graduated… Now what?

I graduated in December 2004 alongside more than 3,000 other USF students, most of whom, just like me, are probably looking for jobs. However, I do have one advantage: internships — three, in fact.

In light of this, I’m not going to be one of the voices clamoring that students should make New Year’s resolutions about losing weight, starting relationships or even earning perfect grades. No, I suggest getting an internship this year, because in today’s job market, work experience is everything, especially for me, holding a mass communications degree and not one in accounting, education or customer service. Those degree holders are going to have an easier time finding a job than most, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2005 Job Outlook Survey. Those degree holders are lucky.

For those of us that aren’t in accounting, education or customer service, however, internships can open doors to the promised land: A “real” job. While most of us probably won’t have our ideal job at first, an internship can ensure a push in the right direction career-wise, because more depends on “who you know” and “what you know” than a specific degree or grade point average.

Internships may seem hard to come by, and the internship of one’s dreams even more so, but there are a few measures that can be taken to ease the attainment of the prized tag of intern.

Talk to professors and upperclassmen that are in interesting internships or know people in the career field. I stumbled into my first internship at La Gaceta — a trilingual newspaper in Ybor City — through political science professor Susan MacManus, who required her Florida Politics and Government class to participate in the political process either by working with political campaigns or the media. Once I had that down on my resume, people asked about it, even at other internships, and if a student does a satisfactory job, that student can get great recommendations and use them to land the elusive job. After all, that’s what happened to Bhavesh Goswami, a 2003 USF graduate with a master’s in computer science who now works as a research associate at the Florida Environmental Research Institute in Tampa. He says it’s more practical for a company to try out someone with an internship than to “hire, then fire somebody” who doesn’t work out.

“After four or five months, they can decide whether to keep you or not. It’s a lot more subtle,” he said. “They see how a candidate is doing (in the internship, and if the candidate does well) they hire him full time.”

Use Google or any other search engine to look up internships. The Web site for internships, internships.com, will bring up lists of various internships in all fields from places not only across the nation but also around the globe. Keep in mind that most internships are unpaid, but can offer a wealth of experience and contacts in addition to college credit.

Think about the “ideal” job, then visit that company’s Web site. Many companies list internships on their Web sites, and even if none are listed at the time, the company may offer opportunities if the student calls the company and asks about the possibility of starting an internship. Plus, what better way to get a foot in the door? The place will more likely be willing to hire someone they know than someone whose resume is sitting in a pile of other unknown applicants.

Check out a book on internships. There are several career books in the library and at local bookstores. Most are divided by fields so students can find applicable internships. Books can offer tips on getting a specific internship, relaying the required experience (such as a prior internship), whether and how much a given internship pays and the number of applicants vying for the internship.

Utilize resources available at USF. Students paying tuition, shouldn’t miss a valuable opportunity to utilize services at USF, particularly the Career Center, which acts as a conduit between students and employers. The Center can also critique students’ resumes and offer practice interview sessions — all steps that can aid any student’s search for an internship.

Sherry Mims is a USF graduate and the former Features editor of the Oracle.