Internship and Career Center discuss paid work on campus as good alternative to unpaid internships
Science students in rain-soaked business attire crowded the Activities and Recreation Center on Jan. 13. Instead of drawing an umbrella, Fay Pao, a fifth-year biological sciences major, clutched tightly onto her plastic covered résumé and looked over her work history one final time.
Pao was getting ready to attend the Engineering and Physical Sciences career fair, one of five fairs held every academic year by the Internship and Career Center (ICC). Despite the breadth of resources offered by the center on a weekly basis, South Hall, where the ICC is located, does not usually have an abundance of visitors.
“I don’t hear of many students taking advantage of these resources,” Pao said. “I do think students tend to utilize résumé help whenever they urgently need it, but I don’t think students are using the center to the full capacity. I don’t think many students even know about all of the workshops and info they can get until they make their way into the center their last year.”
This is not to say that students couldn’t use the help. At the “Finding a Job Workshop,” ICC advising counselor Lisa Sanders asked a room predominately of seniors if they knew what type of jobs they’d apply for come spring; no one raised his or her hand.
Sanders reassured the crowd that — although it may be uncomfortable — this response is normal. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, generations following the baby boomers hold about 12 jobs between ages 18 to 48, with half of these jobs held between ages 18 and 24.
Still, the prospect that a career path is likely to face constant turnover during one’s twenties is not a comforting thought for most young adults. ICC stresses that in order to narrow in on career options, students need experience. As summer approaches, the search for summer positions will become increasingly dire for college students, and though the hope is that these are paid positions, many won’t be.
This can prove difficult for some students who would like to take the unpaid internships, but are unable to due to financial reasons. Despite doing unpaid work in the past, Pao hopes for paid work this coming summer.
“It’s hard to say right now what will happen,” Pao said. “I don’t want to do unpaid work. I’d rather not have to stack up costs. But if students can manage, they should go for the unpaid experience because it can be valuable.”
ICC director Marcie Kirk-Holland said the center recognizes this is as an issue and is in the process of adding scholarships that will help offset the opportunity-cost that taking these unpaid positions create.
“We always want to have more paid than unpaid internships, but the reality is not all organizations can offer payment,” Kirk-Holland said. “However, we want students to know that these positions offer really important skills building.”
The March Family Internship Fund, open to economics majors aspiring to work in a business setting, is an example of the type of scholarship the center hopes to emulate. According to Kirk-Holland, the ICC has recently started advising students to “become intentional” with the type of jobs they take on campus. The first step the ICC took to promote this new strategy was moving student employment from the Financial Aid Department to the Career Center last year.
Edin Golomb, ICC peer advisor and third-year sociology and communications double major, recently accepted a managerial internship with Target. Though she worked some unpaid internships in the past, Edin credits a lot of her success to the career building she has done with on-campus jobs. She has gone from event planning, to business development, to peer-advising through paid campus work.
“ICC reached out to me over break to tell me that they are going to change my job function,” Golomb said. “Yes, I am still a peer advisor but I’m also going to be a sponsor for Union Pacific and I, in turn, do small projects for them. So now I’m getting to test outreach and marketing which I never had the opportunity of trying before.”
Kirk-Holland suggests students try to do small jobs, like washing lab equipment, before finding paid jobs for science-related work. Though a seemingly small step, Kirk-Holland is quick to remind students that 80 percent of jobs are found through networking.
Echoing this sentiment, Golomb suggests students look at their work history with a less critical eye.
“People need more confidence,” Golomb said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh I just worked as a barista,’ but I tell students not to use words like ‘just’ and ‘only,’ you have to own whatever you did. There are skills you learn as a barista that can be transferable.”
Kirk-Holland experienced this concept of transferrable skills at the internship she held in college. Though not her position’s main focus, she helped coordinate the internship program at an aerospace company. Kirk-Holland helped with recruiting the next cohort of students by coordinating the presentations of student work at the final banquet. Now, Kirk-Holland said that her position as internship director bears a striking resemblance to her college internship.
“It took me a long time to get back to [internship counseling],” said Kirk-Holland. “My story is not unique, I see it happen every day. It all made a huge difference for me.”
The ICC has drop-in advising from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Advising services are located on the second floor of South Hall.
Written by Anna Nestel—email@example.com