As the season of summer internship application deadlines looms closer, students and faculty agree it’s never too early to start looking. In today’s flattening world, it’s becoming increasingly crucial for students to develop experience-filled, competitive portfolios to succeed in the post-grad career hunt. And while internships look impressive on resumes, students find they are most beneficial as a means of determining the trajectory of their chosen career paths.
Freshman Katie Hahn recently submitted her first internship application to the University of Miami’s Office of Undergraduate Research student-professor pairing program and is awaiting response. The program matches students with professors who are working on research projects that correlate with the students’ interests, majors and levels of experience. For Hahn, a medical anthropology major and chemistry minor, working in a hands-on research field will help her determine which direction to take as she furthers her academic career.
“I’m looking to dial in on what I may want to do after college,” she said. “If I want to go into practicing medicine or do more lab work.”
For Hahn, a perspective-broadening internship could be the deciding factor between pursuing a Ph.D. or an M.D.
Similarly, sophomore communications student Michelle Marino is looking into local radio and TV opportunities to decide whether to pursue broadcast journalism.
“This semester I hope to narrow down what I want to do,” she said. “If I end up comfortable on camera, I’ll gear my internship toward television.”
Miguelangel Ramirez, assistant director for career events at UM’s Toppel Career Center, said that without specialized internship experience, students lack the hands-on understanding of their chosen fields.
“Learning theoretically and practicing are sometimes different things,” he said.
It’s important for students to find internships in specific interest areas because potential employers want to see that an applicant has a basic working knowledge of the field and will not have to be taught every step of the way, Ramirez said. Employers want to know that a student is “career ready.”
Marino said she recognizes the difficulty and commitment level of internships and wants to make sure she is fully qualified before stepping into an intern position.
Junior Nathan Fox jumped took a chance on an internship outside of his specific field and found success. Between his freshman and sophomore years, Fox, a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology and computer science, interned at the Great Smokey Mountains Institute at Tremont. The nonprofit, located in Blount County, Tennessee, specializes in experiential education through summer camp sessions for students between the ages of 8 and 18.
Though the 10 weeks he spent mentoring kids were not directly related to his field, Fox said the experience broadened his perspective and gave him the chance to live independently and responsibly. He said he experienced personal growth, and his new skills helped him be successful as a resident assistant.
In addition to providing experience, internships offer great networking opportunities. Being seen by respectable professionals with similar goals and interests can contribute to a student’s overall reputation in the workforce and expand a pool of references to draw from when applying for jobs.
Ramirez said the time and space to network in one’s field while still in college is an advantage “almost more so than the actual internship,” because it connects students with potential employers and references.
Despite the extra effort and intimidating nature of some application processes, students agree the effort is worth the outcome.
“It’s going to pay off,” Marino said.
Internship and job resources are available on the Toppel Career Center’s portal at hireacane.miami.edu/gain-experience.