By CAROLINE TRABUCCO
In today’s highly competitive job market, employers are looking for candidates who are able to set themselves apart. While a high grade point average remains an important part of a student’s credentials, the question remains as to how recent college graduates are to distinguish themselves among a sea of peers.
The deadline for students wishing to take part in internships during the 2016 spring semester is rapidly approaching as contracts are due Jan. 29, less than two weeks after the start of spring classes.
According to Brian Burnsed with U.S. News, the answer is internships. “University officials and employers almost universally maintain that partaking in an internship—or several, which sets a student apart from his or her peers even more—before graduation is integral to finding meaningful employment in today’s seemingly impenetrable job market,” Burnsed said.
Whether seeking a job, acceptance into a graduate program, or simply looking to round out a resume, internships make students unique in more ways than one.
Mary Becelia, a career counselor from the Office of Academic and Career Services, offers students invaluable advice.
“Start early,” Becelia said, “if you choose an internship in a field you’re interested in early, and don’t like it, you have time to look into other options.”
Becelia also warned against focusing solely on “prestigious” internships. “Go ahead and shoot for it,” she said, “[but] you may want to try a stepping stone first.” Internships go beyond the day-to-day experience, they help foster professional connections as well.
Paid versus unpaid internships also make a difference, according to a report from The National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2014. The association’s findings showed that 65.4 percent of students from the class of 2014 who completed a paid internship at a for-profit company received a job offer before graduation.
For students who had unpaid internships, however, 39.5 percent of students received a job offer, marginally higher than the 38.6 percent of students who received a job offer without having an internship.
UMW offers numerous resources to those in pursuit of an internship opportunity. The Office of Academic and Career Services can help students with everything from writing and revising resumes to creating a common, interactive space where students have the chance to meet prospective employers, at the Job and Internship Fair.
The fall 2015 Job and Internship fair was held in the Anderson Center, and catered to local and regional employers from corporations to nonprofit organizations.
Students can expect to find additional helpful information on the Career Center’s webpage, which allows access to resources such as “Employ an Eagle”, a job and internship website that is available to all UMW students. Once students registered, they can upload resumes, cover letters and search for job and internship opportunities.
Becelia encourages all students to make an account not only with Employ an Eagle, but with the professional networking website LinkedIn. Another useful resource is seeking out professors from various departments who can often be useful middlemen in the search for the perfect internship.
UMW students have found success interning both on campus and traveling elsewhere to downtown Fredericksburg, and even to Washington D.C. to work for private companies, congressional offices, and the State House, according to Becelia.
Cecelia Burkett, a freshman and prospective International Affairs major, like many students, imagines her ideal internship. “Definitely off campus, in the city…over the summer and hopefully for a private firm,” Burkett said.
Burkett added that she’s grateful to have so many resources and opportunities made available to her, which can “make that a reality.”
The best way to secure a good internship is to start early and use as many resources as possible. Fortunately for UMW students, resources are in abundance. The 2016 Internship contract can be found on the Office of Academic and Career Service’s webpage.