Careers 101: market encourages internships

Pursuing a career can be daunting. Getting a degree is usually the first step, but the next can be tricky. Deciding whether to get an internship or jump straight into the job market plagues many students. However, there may be  a definitive answer to that queston.

An internship and a job are both valuable ways to gain the experience and skills necessary for pursuing any career, but amid a sluggish economy and a tightening job market, some advise students to collect as many internships as possible before graduating.

“It is a good idea to get an internship while still in school and to get a job later, after earning a degree,” said Drema Howard,  Career Center director.

Having an internship while still in school can serve as a test for both students and employers. An internship is not a long-term commitment, so employers can gauge students’ work habits, and students can see if their field of study if right for them.

“Internships are good because you can know what it’s like to work in your field,” said Taira Fontanez, a junior majoring in sports medicine who plans to get an internship sometime this year.

Internships can serve as a way for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom, Howard said.

“They are learning experiences in which you have someone coaching and monitoring your progress,” she said.

Given the declining state of the economy, internships and jobs might be hard to come by. Many have said the U.S. could be closing in on the worst recession since World War II, and it no doubt has an effect on students’ ability to make that step from the classroom to the work force.

“Opportunities are not as plentiful as they use to be, so the market has become more competitive,” Howard said. “Employers are more selective.”

However, students have an advantage over the general population because employers are still coming to campus for job fairs and interviews.

The Career Center will hold a Career Networking Fair on Feb. 5 at the Sun Dome. Howard said students should work on polishing their resumes and looking professional.

Howard wasn’t just offering advice — if students don’t dress the part, they won’t make it through the door. This year, business attire will be mandatory for attendees.

“First impressions are crucial,” Howard said. “And students who look professional present the image that they are professional and ready to start work.”

Dorothy Pirro, a junior majoring in psychology, got an internship with Bay Area Youth Services through last spring’s Career Networking Fair. She said she has always been interested in helping families and that internships are a good way to learn from the experience of other employees — after all, “you can’t beat on-the-job experience.”

When it comes to pursuing a career, experience is incomparable, Howard said.
“Any experience, whether it is in a part-time job, an internship, co-op or even voluntary work, offers valuable skill sets that a student can take with them.”