Thursday, August 16, 2012

Internship Advice from an Intern

As the education coordinator, I've had interns off and on for the last 10 years.  Some are paid, the early ones were not.  These talented individuals become a valuable part of our organization in their year with us.  So I thought a post about internships from our current intern, Hannah George, would be worthwhile.  If you are a college student, have children in college, or are in a position to hire an intern, here's a perspective that may interest you.  Enjoy!

This year I have the enormous privilege of working for the ODNR Division of Wildlife as the education intern. This is the second internship I have had during my college career and I just wanted to share how important I feel internships are in preparing students for the real world and finding a job after college. Enjoy and please pass along to anyone you think could benefit.
 Getting an internship is a very important part of anyone’s college education. In my opinion, grades are secondary to training and work experience, especially in science-based fields. While grades are significant, they are not the only factors that contribute to success after college. Classes give us the basic knowledge and fundamental tools to be successful in whatever field we choose. But making connections and gaining first hand experience is what really makes the difference when it comes to finding a job once the cap and gown has been hung back up. Internships also help us decide if we even like the field we have chosen, or if we need to look elsewhere for something that better suits our passions and interests. Although internships are very important, it does not make it OK to slack off in classes. A slacker in the classroom is often a slacker on the job, and to make an impression or even find an internship, good grades are a must.
Internships are great tools for expanding experience. Whether it’s in the field, in a lab, or in an office, experience in each of these places and more is something that cannot always be learned from a classroom. The one-on-one instruction that goes along with internships is what makes them so great.  And once you’ve got the hang of the basics, you have the opportunity to improve in what you do by practicing everyday and applying what you’ve learned in the classroom to your tasks. A single internship can also offer very diverse experiences. Each day can offer something completely different from the last and use skills developed not only from your major classes, but even from classes you never thought you’d use. **Cough** GEC’s.  
 Internships are also a great way to decide if you are even in the right field. If you get an internship while you are still in school and decide that it is not the right place for you, you still have time to make the proper adjustments to your major or better understand what kind of job you want after college. Do you like an office setting, or do you prefer to work in the field? Do you even like anything about what you are doing? If not, it may be time to reevaluate your major and pick something that you think you will enjoy more. Once college is over, there is not much you can do to switch fields completely without going back to school. So try out as many options as you can and figure out what works best for you, preferably before graduation.
 Another reason internships are so important when it comes to job hunting is because of networking. The more people who know who you are or even just recognize your name, the better chance you have of finding a job. It is important now more than ever to meet the right people and make the right impressions. In many cases, who you know can become just as important, if not more, than what you know. Getting your foot in the door is the first step when looking for a job and already knowing someone on the inside can make a huge difference.
 Contrary to popular belief and reality TV, most people have to work hard and make sacrifices to land that dream job. Your social life and extra-curricular activities may have to take a hit in order for you to ultimately get what you want, but it is completely up to you what sacrifices and trade offs you are willing to make.

             As I’ve said before, grades are important, but the life lessons and experiences to be learned on the job during an internship are what really pave the way to success as well as happiness. So get out there, work hard, and APPLY, APPLY, APPLY to all kinds of internships!

Hannah George is a senior at the Ohio State University in Fisheries and Wildlife Management.  She will graduate this spring.  We'll be  very sad to see her go.