Guide to Careers and Internships
The Value of Internships
by Larry Nagengast
For a college senior, having an impressive internship on the resume is like “putting a cherry on the ice cream,” says Lynda Fuller, director of undergraduate programs in the College of Business at Wilmington University.
“Most companies offer jobs first to their interns, so the probability of being hired goes up tremendously when you have a successful internship,” says Donna Covington, dean of the College of Business at Delaware State University.
Internship standards vary among schools in the region. Some require them and offer academic credit, and others do not. Some internships are paid, and some are not.
Whether it’s required or not as part of the curriculum, completing one internship – or more – is practically a prerequisite for securing a job upon graduation. “Internships have become so critical for success” for both employment and graduate school that students start seeking them in their freshman and sophomore years, says Nathan Elton, director of career services at the University of Delaware.
Internships are beneficial for several reasons, officials agree. Not only do students have the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they have developed in the classroom, but they can also familiarize themselves with the work environment for their chosen profession and, perhaps most importantly, they can learn for themselves whether they feel comfortable in a particular line of work.
At Wilmington University, Fuller says, students in the sports management program must complete two internships. In other business school majors, internships are strongly encouraged but not required.
Students earn three credits for completing a 15-week internship, which must complement the student’s other course selections. “We’re adamant that we get a detailed job description,” Fuller says. “Our students are paying for this, for credit, and we will not have them answering phones or filing. It has to be a project, or marketing – something substantial.”
Employers should not view internships as a way to “have an extra body available,” says Mary McCaffrey, director of the Office of Career and Personal Development at Neumann University.
While internships at Wilmington University (except in accounting) are unpaid, DSU’s Covington believes that all internships should be paid. “My experience is, when people don’t pay for stuff, they don’t have a great appreciation for it,” she says.
McCaffrey agrees with Covington but notes that many nonprofit organizations, especially those in the human services field, can’t find money in their budgets to pay interns.
Delaware Technical Community builds work-based learning opportunities, most of them paid internships, into many of its programs, says Justina Sapna, vice president for academic affairs. Program leaders, deans and campus directors work with local employers to identify and maintain meaningful opportunities for Delaware Tech students, she says.
Before taking on an internship, Neumann students must participate in a workshop that covers interviews, writing resumes and how to act professionally in the workplace. Students check in with an advisor three or four times during the internship and must complete a capstone project that summarizes their experiences, McCaffrey says. In addition, Neumann checks with the employer on the student’s performance, including writing and communications skills and how they interacted with others in the workplace.
Students should not accept an internship sight unseen, McCaffrey and Elton say. When they interview for the internship, they should consider it an opportunity to interview the employer – to determine how valuable the experience will be for them.
As Covington notes, “an internship will give you a deeper understanding of what you think you want before you’re all in.”
Through their career services offices and internship programs, the region’s higher education institutions are striving to better prepare their students for the jobs they will seek after they graduate.
Higher Ed: The Job Path
by Larry Nagengast
For many years, the career services office has been a place college students didn’t utilize until a couple of months before graduation … when they suddenly realized that finding a job might really be harder than actually going to work five days a week.
University officials are working hard to break that traditional mindset.
At Delaware State University, the Career Center has developed a four-year co-curricular program to keep in touch with students from their first day of class until they receive their diplomas, says Donna Covington, dean of the College of Business at Delaware State University.
“We try to create a pathway out, lead the student on the journey they choose and coach them along the way,” she says.
Each student, Covington explains, works with an advisor to prepare an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which serves as a roadmap in working outside the classroom to secure the skills needed to succeed after graduation. Freshman year starts with identifying interests, translating them into career goals and determining what classes must be taken to achieve those goals. Sophomore year focuses on developing personal skills essential for the chosen career. Junior year is oriented toward the chosen profession, including an internship, and senior year is the transition – loaded with job applications and interviews.
At the University of Delaware, outreach also begins in freshman year, says Nathan Elton, director of career services. The typical freshman curriculum includes a “first year seminar” and the Career Services Center typically tries to make a presentation during each of these seminars, Elton says.
Students’ increasing interest in securing internships, even in their freshman and sophomore years, is drawing more students to the office earlier in their academic careers, he adds.
Career services “make a big contribution to a student’s return on investment in a college education,” says Mary McCaffrey, director of the Office of Career and Personal Development at Neumann University.
“The earlier students can figure out their direction, the more likely they are to stay in school and complete a degree,” she says. Taking the online assessments offered by the career office and seeking individual counseling can get a student on track quickly, she adds.
McCaffrey’s office reaches out to students through their professors as well. If a faculty member has a conflict and cannot teach on a particular day, the careers office will offer to make a presentation so the class doesn’t have to be canceled, she says.
Workshops geared to students in specific majors are also popular at Neumann. And, at UD, Career Services will bring in alumni and employers from specific industries so interested students can get detailed advice from professionals working in those sectors, Elton says.
The career office at Wilmington University, according to Lynda Fuller, director of undergraduate programs in the College of Business, offers students one-on-one counseling as well as help with writing resumes and improving interview skills.
At Delaware Technical Community College, in addition to the services offered by most schools, students and alumni may access online tools that provide career exploration and planning advice and techniques for handling job interviews, according to Justina Sapna, vice president for academic affairs.
UD, Delaware State, and Wilmington University all hold one or more career fairs during the year, while Neumann, as a smaller school, belongs to several consortiums of college that hold fairs for students in specific majors.
While recruiters from major employers still come to UD for a day or two at a time, the prevalence of online applications has diminished the presence of recruiters at smaller schools. “The days of flying in on an airplane are gone,” Covington says.
Despite the improving outreach of career services programs, some students still don’t get the message, officials say.
And then, McCaffrey says, “we get to see them as alumni.”
Grand Canyon University
Widener University Delaware Law School
Delaware Technical Community College
Delaware State University
University of Delaware