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Monday, April 15, 2024

Guest opinion: The value of internships

College is full of opportunities for students to learn and do new things. The goal is to prepare you for a future career, so how can you get the most out of your time here at UC Davis? Participating in internships is one of the best ways to explore career options and gain the valuable skills and experience that employers are looking for.

If you’re like many students, you may be uncertain about what career you want to go into or what specific area of a career you would like to work in. Doing an internship is extremely helpful in deciding what career would be right for you, because you get to spend time in a real-world work environment. Kelly, a former UC Davis student, knew she wanted to go into business, but wasn’t sure exactly what area. She found a business management internship with the Davis Cemetery District, which allowed her to explore many different aspects of business management, including accounting, finance, HR and sales. “It was a good way to get my foot in the door because I’d never done any type of internship before,” she says.  She also discovered that there were some areas she did not like.  For example, she says, “I quickly realized that I didn’t want to do accounting.” Learning early on what you don’t like is valuable because it prevents you from wasting time working toward a career that isn’t a good fit for you. Kelly found that she liked working in finance, so she pursued an internship in finance with Intel. It even led to a job offer once her internship was finished!

As Lisa Sanders, program coordinator at the Internship and Career Center (ICC), points out, internships are also very important for “developing the professional skills that are needed in any job: professionalism, communication skills, organization skills, writing skills, the core competencies that all employers are looking for.” In addition to these important general skills, you can improve skills specific to your career. Janelle, a landscape architecture intern with the Davis Cemetery District, explained that she is learning a lot from “seeing how to do it and actually doing it [my]self, so it’s different from a classroom.” Learning from a knowledgeable professional and getting real-world practice with your skills are valuable internship experiences because employers like to hire people who have experience and really know what they are doing.

So, how can you find an internship for yourself?  Checking out the Aggie Job Link, searching the internet for internships in your area of interest and speaking with Lisa Sanders at the ICC are all great places to start. According to Lisa, “There’s a consistent flow of incoming recruitment requests from employers for internships.” The ICC also tries to find areas where more internships are needed and reaches out to employers in the community to create new internships, so that there are always internship opportunities available for any student who wants to look for one.

Many of the interns I spoke with had some great advice for internship seekers. Hanna, an intern in Sacramento, urges students to start doing internships as soon as possible so you can get many different experiences. Kelly suggests that students should “be active and start looking for internships — it’s not going to fall into your lap.”  Also, don’t be afraid to try something new or different because you never know when an experience might be valuable. Lisa Sanders adds that figuring out what is expected of you and what you should expect from an internship helps lay down some guidelines to help you have a successful internship experience.


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