By: Melissa Fraser, Staff Writer
An internship gives students a chance to take what they learn in the classroom into a professional setting. For many, the objectives are to develop professional connections, build a resume and hopefully get a job offer. But sometimes, learning what you don’t want to do is just as valuable.
“After you’re done with an internship, whether you like it or not, you have a definite and concrete answer. You’re either going to come out and say ‘I really loved that, I want to pursue that as a career’ or you’re going to say, ‘you know what, that was a great experience, but it’s not the right fit for me’ Either way, it’s a good experience,” said Abdirahman Issack, a senior social work major with a minor in political science.
At USM, students on the hunt for an internship have an advantage — an internship coordinator — a person within their department who is dedicated to connecting them with local employers.
Once an initial connection has been made, the student is responsible for landing the job. Each application process will be different, some more rigorous than others.
There will be cover letters to tailor, resumes to tweak, applications to fill out and hopefully a memorable interview or two. That’s par for the course.
Great, you got the job! Now what?
Of the five students interviewed for this article, all five said that it’s important to build a relationship with a mentor. Identify a person who is motivated and passionate about their work, suggests Keirstin Salisbury.
Salisbury, a USM graduate who studied communications and marketing, found her internship at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital (BBCH) with the help of her department internship advisor, Russell Kivatisky. At BBCH, Salisbury found a mentor, a manager, to offer support, guidance and inspiration.
It can be a challenge to strike a balance between work, school, an internship and everyday life. Time management is an important piece of the puzzle, according to Issack.
Issack would usually spend his winter break taking on additional hours at work to increase his paycheck. Now his priorities have shifted, during the upcoming break he will spend his free time at his unpaid internship with the Gateway Community Service and Hope Acts organization.
An internship allows for an active role in a professional environment. As with any new experience, mistakes will be made. And that’s okay.
“I might make a mistake one day, but the next day is a clean slate,” said Anna Pezzullo, who is interning at Narragansett School in Gorham. Pezzullo is a graduate student pursuing her master’s in teaching through the Extended Teacher Education Program (ETTP).
In fact, mistakes can be a great way to develop professionally. “I was able to make mistakes, ask questions, learn and try again. Through this process my confidence in a work setting grew immensely,” said Salisbury.
According to the students interviewed, an internship can also help clarify what a major is really all about. “Prior to my internship I had a very surface level understanding of philanthropy and how my degree would apply. I soon realized that communication was an essential element of philanthropy,” said Salisbury.
Hard work, dedication and fortunate circumstances can even lead to a job offer after graduation. “Not only did I find a career path that I am passionate about, I also was able to transition from a full-time intern to a full-time employee,” said Salisbury.
Even if it doesn’t turn into a full-time job, it’s still a valuable experience, according to the students.
“It teaches you the things that aren’t always in the textbook. An internship is a great way to learn and build a portfolio to help an eventual job search after graduation,” said Shaun McKinnon, a senior year history major with an education pathway and a minor in political science.
“It confirmed to me that I want to be a secondary education teacher,” McKinnon stated. He is now an intern teaching eighth grade civics at Scarborough Middle School.
With a professional job also comes professional networking. “It’s also a great way to make connections with professionals in the Greater Portland Area once you graduate and are looking for a place to start your career,” said Colby Willis, a media studies major who will graduate at the end of this semester.
Willis has been an intern at the Portland Press Herald since September. He recommends starting the search for the right internship early on, “maybe a month or so before the semester starts and really look for a place that fits you.”
According to the USM website, “Our 2018 graduates were 20 percent more likely to have a full-time job upon graduation if they completed an internship.”
Don’t wait, start looking for that spring internship now.