Interviews on internships: getting an experiential education

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Illustration by Terra DeHart

Internships have been a point of emphasis in this column: Real-world experience is absolutely vital to starting a career off on the right foot.

Inspired by the tangible lessons of the volunteer spotlight, this week the focus will be on real internship experiences. I interviewed two professionals who have completed multiple internships in their field and pursued further education after their bachelor’s degrees.

The first interviewee, Rachel Perry, holds a master’s of education and interned at three different schools as a student teacher.

She interned during her bachelor’s degree and twice during her master’s degree. These experiences brought Perry’s knowledge from the hypothetical world of a college education into the real world of teaching. Placement in these internships was facilitated by Perry’s school during her master’s education.

Perry’s internship during her bachelor’s degree paired her with a teacher with over 20 years of experience. This opportunity helped Perry to learn how to connect with “the tough kids” while under the supervision of a helpful and energetic experienced teacher. Before beginning as an intern Perry expected to work normal school hours and take over just a few classes.

Two internships during her master’s education placed her at Frontier Middle School and Benson High School. While interning at Frontier Middle School, Perry worked with just one class and taught the same subject.

During her next internship at Benson High School she had the opportunity to run more classes with increased independence.

Perry quickly learned that there is a lot more to teaching than just teaching.

Beyond teaching there are parent phone calls, meetings, disciplinary issues, and the list goes on. Because of the opportunity to intern at Benson High School, Perry was better prepared for her career following school.

Perry attributes her success during these internships to time management and leaving some personal time in her schedule. That is not an easy task when a teaching internship requires more than 40 hours a week.

The next interviewee, Cynthia Anderson, completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in just three years.

Following graduation, Anderson went straight to work in finance for four years until returning to school to study law. Anderson graduated in 2016 with a Juris Doctor. During her law school education Anderson worked as a legal intern from her first summer until graduation.

Anderson interned for the U.S. District Court, the SEC, the Administrative Conference of the U.S., the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and O3b Networks—a company that builds, launches and maintains satellites. Finding these internships was a mixture of teacher recommendations and personal effort put into searching by Anderson herself.

These internships were very competitive, and several of these had more than one hundred applicants for a single spot.

Interning is the way to gain practical skills, according to Anderson. There is only so much to be learned in a classroom setting. Anderson was able to discover through internships that she liked the type of work that came with working for a smaller agency or office.

Each of her internship experiences offered different types and amounts of work, and Anderson was able to see what working in varied agencies would be like.

Two key ideas from Anderson’s interview merit highlighting: Interning is important because without one, job prospects are limited (in her field specifically, they are non-existent without this experience), and interning gives students the opportunity to experience real working conditions with a larger safety net.

An element echoed in both interviews is that internships are a necessity. The skills developed through interning are essential to becoming a competent and successful professional.

The level of confidence and depth of understanding of questions by both interviewees are a testament to the value of securing internships during a college career.

It is never too soon to start pursuing an internship. Start looking for real experience now. Develop real skills, and carve a path to success.

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