by: Megan Steidley
Everyone has heard it. “You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job.” It’s one of those conundrums that can leave many graduates in a quandary.
Most employers expect graduates to have four “absolutely essential” career readiness competencies, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Those “must have” skills are: critical thinking/problem solving, professionalism/work ethic, teamwork, and communication skills. The University of Arkansas Fort Smith works to prepare students for the workforce through education and professional development. In addition, we want to see all students gain experience in their field of study.
The Career Services Office and UAFS faculty work together to assist students in the preparation and exploration of internship opportunities. The goal is for students to gain experience matching their interests – while incorporating their academic knowledge. Why not take what you learn in the classroom and practice it in an internship? The benefits for the student are incomparable.
The right internship gives students opportunities to enhance their résumé, form valuable relationships, explore areas of interest, and develop skills and experiences that will distinguish them. Another perk for students is that some internships can be counted as academic credit. We encourage UAFS students to have a goal in mind, identify an area they want to enhance, work with excellence and serve their internship host well. If these things are in place, both the student and employer will benefit greatly.
Hosting an intern or offering an internship program is far more than a generous service. Yes, it significantly helps students, but it also helps employers. Employers realize significant benefits when hosting student interns. Among them are an efficient recruiting tool, increased productivity, cost effective workers, and enhanced perspective. The wage requirements for an intern are modest compared to staff employees, while their work ethic can be much greater.
“Student interns bring such a breath of fresh air into the company,” said Fred Williams, president of Williams/Crawford & Associates. Students naturally convey new ideas and specialized strengths and skill sets. Helping an intern make the leap from the experiential learning environment to a successful career path is a great opportunity for both company and intern.
Personal experience My first internship changed the course of my future. An internship can serve as a way to confirm the area you are most passionate about, develop skills and abilities, or lead to a full-time position.
After completing my first internship, I knew there were other areas of interest and growth I wanted to pursue. During my last semester of college, I landed a marketing internship in the offices of the U.S. Marshals Museum. I worked closely with Alice Alt, who is now vice president of the USMM, and Jim Dunn, former president.
I had the privilege to assist in the marketing responsibilities for the Commemorative Coin launch, the Winthrop Paul Rockefeller Distinguished Lecture Series, and The U.S. Marshals: Kickin’ Up the Dust gala. I was exposed to countless networking opportunities and learned valuable lessons in communication, working under pressure, and the importance of teamwork. Most of all, I learned that I love serving my community, and that is something I strive to do every day.
Internships help to bridge the gap between formal education and the everyday world of business. In addition to internships, students also have options to polish what they have learned by participating in the Babb Center for Student Professional Development Program and build relationships through Mentor Connections. With these opportunities, UAFS is able to fulfill its mission and produce sought-after graduates.
Megan Steidley, Career Services Coordinator, Babb Center for Student Professional Development, University of Arkansas Ft. Smith. 479-788-7147 Megan.Steidley@uafs.edu