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Out of the Sun and Into the Office

Beginning in early childhood, we spend our lives working for some higher goal. Elementary school education is necessary to succeed in middle and high school. A solid foundation of a high grade point average and extra-curricular activities, with a sprinkling of community service and athletics, will get a student into the college of his choice. Difficult coursework and employment experience at the higher-education level will undoubtedly appeal to future employers and land a college graduate the job of her dreams. [office]
Another item has appeared on the laundry list of “Things to Do to Get a Decent Job after College:” The Internship. Students with internship experience are touted as extraordinary and special. And MSU, in exchange for swallowing thousands of tuition dollars from every student, has the resources to make obtaining that elusive summer internship a little easier.
On this computer-driven campus, Internet search engines are the natural spot for internship-seekers to begin. Gale Gower, assistant director of the Student Employment Office, said students should begin by creating a SpartanTRAK profile. SpartanTRAK is a program with job and internship listings, and students can search based on criteria such as location, date of listing and category. Students can post resumes and update their profiles as needed. Gower said employers begin looking for summer interns early, with the number of listings peaking in February and March, but still trickling in through the summer months.
“Employers start to look for interns in November,” said Gower. “Employers want to see real experience in the majors.”
College internships are dynamic and universal, crossing oceans and vast stretches of land and providing students with opportunities to gain work experience across the globe. Marketing junior Vanessa Simpson is traveling to Spain this summer to work and take classes in Madrid through the Internships for Madrid program. She said she has known about the internship since her freshman year, and it fulfills her study abroad credit requirements for her international business specialization.
“It was like killing two birds with one stone,” said Simpson. “I want to handle overseas affiliates [in the future], and I need study abroad credit. It will hopefully put me above everyone else.”
To get work experience for her eventual marketing career, Simpson applied for the internship in January and had to undergo an interview before her eventual acceptance in February. Simpson said her job for the weekdays will be determined by her resume credentials and level of Spanish fluency. Simpson said a portion of her interview was conducted in Spanish, and the most difficult part of the internship will be assimilating into a culture that is not her own.
“The greatest challenge far and away will be the language,” said Simpson. “I’ve been taking Spanish for seven years, and I can read it like English, [but] it’s still hard for me.”
Simpson was interviewed by a panel including Jade Sims, an adviser in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Simpson met with Sims before applying for the internship in order to get more information, and Sims said she tests the level of Spanish knowledge of each interviewee for this program. Sims said the internships abroad are more self-directed than other study abroad programs, and the interview serves to judge the student’s level of maturity.
“A big part of it is student motivation,” said Sims. “Students are expected to get up and go to work every day. No one is checking off the boxes if they are tardy.”
[mation] The deadline for most internships through MSU is March 1, and many programs require applicants to be of junior or senior standing. Sims said internships give students a chance to find out what does and does not capture their interest; it is better to find out sooner than later.
“We don’t expect students to know what they want to do after graduation from MSU; we expect them to have an idea of what is interesting to them,” said Sims. “It’s better to do it now than to graduate and take a job and realize six months down the road that it’s not what they’re interested in.”
Study abroad internships provide an extra facet to a student’s resume. Not only are these students getting work experience before entering the corporate world, but they are doing so in a strange land, with unfamiliar people, surroundings, and dialect. The comfort zone of a typical student will be completely breached. Cindy Chalou, assistant director for the study abroad program, said an internship abroad requires a new level of self-reliance and maturity, as well as the capacity to take risks, due to culture and language barriers.
“From a professional standpoint, an international internship is gonna give you that slice of upper edge,” said Chalou.
Kinesiology sophomore Kate Burdick said she is planning on getting an internship after her junior year, and she will consult her adviser through the Kinesiology Department. Burdick said an internship at a physical therapy clinic will help employers see genuine experience.
“I have to have a certain amount of hours for grad school,” said Burdick. “There are certain things you can’t learn in a classroom. It’ll verify that’s what I want to do.”
Most Spartans take the traditional steps to getting an internship: research internships online, make an advising appointment, check academic requirements, perfect a resume and cover letter and apply. However, some students take their own route. Advertising junior Dan Kuthy used a Web site, http://infousa.com, to search for companies in his area of study in the Lansing area. Kuthy chose what companies he wanted to target based on criteria such as company earnings and specializations, and the Web site service created a list of companies that fit his parameters.
Kuthy received a list of about 300 companies, printed envelopes and cover letters and sent out applications to every one. After 15 responses and 3 interviews, Kuthy successfully got an internship at an Internet marketing consulting company, for the summer and possibly beyond. Kuthy said the interactive marketing will add another aspect to his resume, since he already has traditional marketing experience.
“I marketed myself to people that were key executives at small companies in Lansing,” Kuthy said. “This will definitely help me on paper.”
Before considering that dream job that naturally follows an internship, a student has to give a good enough impression to earn the internship. Gower said students should be juniors or seniors, so they have been exposed to academic classes in their specific majors. Chalou echoed this, and said the experience in the classroom carries more weight than accomplishments on a resume. Students also need a leadership drive, Chalou said.
“[Leadership] shows [students] have a level of commitment and follow-through,” said Chalou. “Providers don’t want students who will blow off the summer and party. If there’s a bad apple in the group, that could jeopardize future placement with that agency.”
Students looking at internships for summer 2006 should not be swayed by thoughts of soft, sandy beaches and cloudless, sunny skies. Pictures of that amazing, yet blurry, summer in Mexico will not carry the same significance of a more mundane four months spent working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an office building. Simpson said students should check out all of the options and choose something with potential benefits down the career path.
“Students should make sure it’s not the place that is the most fun or where they want to visit,” said Simpson. “It [has to be] something they really want to do.”
Chalou advised that students utilize the online listing of internships through the Office of Study Abroad, at http://studyabroad.msu.edu. There are 19 international internships available, she said, and MSU works with the overseas agencies to arrange jobs for participants.
“It’s difficult to get an internship in the States or abroad unless you have good contacts,” said Chalou.
No-preference freshman Jana Grim said she wants to follow in the footsteps of her sister and get an internship out of Michigan, if one will fit into her eventual major. She said she is also taking Spanish classes, and going abroad to a Spanish-speaking country will enable her to speak fluently. “You’re exposed to more things and different experiences,” said Grim.
Chalou said students planning to get any type of internship need to plan ahead and perfect application materials. Many internships require a minimum grade-point average and a certain amount of coursework; applicants need to be knowledgeable about these requirements. Meeting these conditions, however, definitely does not guarantee an internship: the resume is often the most valuable piece of paper within an application.
Chalou said a common mistake for many students is simply rattling off experiences, such as internships, instead of emphasizing the major accomplishments and outcome of the experience. She suggested that students seek guidance when writing a cover letter and use resume-critiquing services. “If all you do is list Study Abroad on a resume, that’s not always going to take you to the top,” said Chalou.
Gower echoed the importance of a well-written resume, and said business students could seek resources at the Lear Center in the Eppley Center, and other students could find assistance through Career Services and Placement. The Student Employment Office is located at 110 Student Services.
College students typically spend the months of May, June, July and August clenched in the jaws of employment obligations. An internship provides that “professional experience” that will create another dimension to a regular resume and eventually dazzle potential employers. MSU has enough internship resources to fill its immense campus, and every student has the chance to make use of these resources, one summer—or semester—at a time.

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