Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Advising Advice: Internships and how they can help you

Posted on February 25, 2017 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Travis Blair, Coordinator of Internships, travis.blair@maine.edu

This personal account, by Travis Blair, UNH ‘09 graduate, shares his personal story to explain what internships can do for you:

When I graduated from college in 2009, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career.  My major, Tourism Planning and Development, didn’t neatly correlate to a specific career path like some of my friends’ majors such as Marketing and Computer Science.  It didn’t help that the recession was in full force and many companies were in a hiring freeze.  I survived, and eventually found my current job that I love as USM’s Coordinator of Internships.  I’ve learned a number of truths along the way about the world of work, and one of the most important is this: the most effective way to transition from the insulated academic bubble into the dynamic world of real work is through experiential learning such as an internship.

An internship is meant to integrate the knowledge and theory that you have learned in the classroom with practical applications and skills development in a professional setting. For this reason it is best to complete an internship in the second half of your time in school, so that you have a foundation of academic knowledge to draw from.  For example, USM has chemistry and biology students that complete their introductory courses and labs in their first two years, giving them the skills necessary to assist in cutting-edge research at IDEXX Laboratories and Maine Medical Center Research Institute during their junior and senior years.

There are many benefits to completing an internship, including that it is a perfect way to try out a company or line of work to see if it’s a good fit for you.  It’s also a great way to build your network in your field.  Most internships are now paid, at rates around $10 – $14 an hour or even more.  Finally, studies have shown that an internship leads to a full time job offer 65 percent of the time.

When I was an undergraduate student, I assumed that I wasn’t the kind of person who could do an internship – maybe I thought I wasn’t qualified or competent enough.  What I failed to realize is that I was just as qualified as all the students who were actually out there doing internships.  The only difference is that they understood that an internship is meant to be a learning experience, and all that employers are looking for are students passionate to learn and contribute.

So if you’re like me and have ever thought “I’m not good/smart/qualified enough to do an internship,” remember this: the 1,000+ USM students who interned during the 2015-2016 academic year were also undergraduate students who only had a partial grasp of their field, and most had little work experience.

If you are interested in an internship for credit, ask within your department about the options available to you.  If you are looking to find a paid internship site, you can search the USMCareerConnections database available through your myUSM Portal.  If you ever have any questions at all related to internships, service, or careers, reach out to our office, Community Engagement and Career Development.  You can visit us on the web at www.usm.maine.edu/cecd , in Luther Bonney 140, or by phone at 207-228-8091.