Internships provide better career for Mercyhurst students

In today’s uncertain economy, it is more important than ever for students to be proactive in the resume-building process if they want to find a job after graduation.

Becoming a competitive candidate for employment more often involves having previous work experience.

An internship, specifically.

“Over 70 percent of employers said they prefer to hire candidates with previous relevant experience,” said Kyle Foust, Ph.D., executive director of experiential learning in Mercyhurst’s Career Development Center.

In a survey of 2010 graduates of the college, students that interned received twice as many job offers as students who did not.

“Salary ranges were always higher for those that did the internship,” Foust said.

Sophomore Gevaun Scott, an interior design major from Pittsburgh, wants to get an internship before she enters the work force.

“I think it would make me feel comfortable before I go into my field, to get an idea of what to expect,” she said.

The Career Development Center places over 400 students in internships per year.

“The vast majority are in the summer,” Foust said. “It’s not too late. If you have any inkling at all to start an internship, come in and talk to us.

“We’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies, many federal agencies (especially in the Intel area) and Big Four accounting firms,” he said.

Junior Amanda Stafford found internships to apply for by calling different museums in her hometown of Albany, N.Y.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Stafford, a public history major. “A chance to learn about whatever field we’re interested in.”

Foust also cites the opportunity to test how much students actually like their chosen careers beforehand.

“It either confirms your career choice, or allows you to change your focus. It’s better to do that as an undergraduate before you go into the field and essentially have to start all over again,” he said.

There are a few important things to consider when applying for an internship. Geographically, consider where you want to go. Can you stay at home during the summer and work out of your hometown? Or is there a specific city that is well-known in your chosen field?

Also, what type of job do you want? Most students realize early into their freshman year that there are many different ways to apply their chosen field. Students should have some idea of which fields they are interested in pursuing, even if they intend to use the internship opportunity to narrow down the possible choices.

Whether the internship is paid is not as essential. Some companies simply may not have the funds to pay an intern.

“Quality of the experience is what is important,” Foust said. “All other things being equal, take the paid internship, but sometimes you will get a better experience at an unpaid internship.”

Students are also encouraged to visit the Career Connect website, where they can actively search out internships and jobs, and also change the settings of their account to receive notifications for internship postings in their chosen field.

Whether students use the services provided by the college or set out to find an internship on their own, being proactive is the best way to find internships and further hopes for future careers.