Finding gainful employment in the "real world" can seem daunting to recent college graduates. Many graduates find themselves, degree in hand, searching for employment in their field with little luck.
Jobs college students take in order to survive, such as waiting tables, often fail to dazzle potential employers. Though college performance should not be trivialized, employers often require relevant field experience.
How can students gain experience without having experience? Internships provide an avenue to accomplish this daunting feat.
Denise Woodard, internship coordinator/career counselor for University Career Services, encourages students to start taking internships as early as their sophomore year.
"Many employers are looking towards interns to fill new positions," she said.
Assistant Vice President for Student Services David Small said, "Internships are becoming are becoming almost as important as English 101." He added that students who have completed internships have a definite advantage over other students.
Woodard said many fields have paid internships, and that some internships pay very well. Yet in fields like humanities and communication, positions often pay very little or are unpaid. However, Woodard said students can earn up to six hours of academic credit for their internships, pending department approval.
Ted Stanton, intern coordinator for the UH School of Communication, explained the benefits of an internship.
Two advantages he cited are making important contacts and getting otherwise difficult-to-discover job leads, but he also pointed out another less obvious benefit. "Sometimes you learn that this is not what you want to do," he said.
Stanton also stressed that internships are designed to give students experience, not provide direct job placement. "The fact that a student doesn't get hired after the internship doesn't mean it is a failure," he said.
Stanton said the vast majority of students who complete internships work in the field of their internships.
Todd Duplantis, a UH graduate and news reporter for television station KRIV, attributes his position to an internship. "The assistant news director, who had taken me on as an intern, was promoted to news director after I left," Duplantis said. "She remembered me and when a job opened up, it worked out."
Duplantis, who had two internships, said he worked for nothing, but "I was doing something I wanted to do. I could build from it and get something out of it in the long run."
The internship opportunities are not limited to Houston. Career Services has listings all over Texas, the nation and even abroad, Woodard said.
"If students would familiarize themselves with career services and utilize our services, they will succeed," Woodard said.
UH Career Services offers an internship workshop where students can enter their résumés into a database and learn about upcoming openings. For more information, call (713) 743-5100.