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Workshops prepare students to take on internships

Fewer than 2,000 WSU students completed an internship for credit last year, meaning large numbers of students are missing out on what could be a star feature of their resume.

“Everyone can and should do an internship,” said Ronda McLean, assistant director in career development. “It would be a shame if all they did was go to classes and graduate.”

According to institutional research, in a 2004 alumni survey, 53 percent of WSU graduates said they did an internship in college, but only about half of those were for academic credit. Among the internships for credit, the highest percentages were student teachers and others in preprofessional programs such as nursing and pharmacy.

Students in sports management, human development, hospitality business management and communication also must complete an internship. But, for most students, internships are optional.

This spring, career services is sponsoring a series of workshops to help students find and prepare for a summer internship. McLean also will be facilitating a one-credit online course designed to help students make the most of their internships.

Internship benefits include: 
• demonstrates to an employer that a student is ambitious and motivated
• gives a student an opportunity to “try on” a career choice to see if it fits
• can provide valuable professional contacts and references

The challenge, McLean said, is getting students to look at their long-term rather than short-term goals.
She’s heard the complaints about paying tuition to work at an internship, especially if it is an unpaid internship. And she also knows that not all internships are created equal when it comes to supportive mentors and interesting duties.
Still, the bottom line is, internships matter.

“The last thing you want to do is hire on grades alone,” said Les Okonek, a recruiter for oil company BP who is the engineering authority at the Cherry Point refinery at Ferndale, Wash. “A student’s resume with internships referenced gets our attention. Landing an internship sends the message that this candidate possesses a maturity and a unique quality.” 

Okonek said he uses a motivational-based recruiting model that considers not only students’ technical competency, but their drive or passion for their work and also how well they fit BP’s institutional culture.

For more information, visit ONLINE @ www.careers.wsu.edu. A comprehensive student guide to internships is ONLINE @ www.careers.wsu.edu/content/jobsinternships/internguide.asp.

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