Stop whining, get an internship

Most students do not utilize the University’s career resources before graduation.

Nora Leinen

Four years ago, the best career advice was to go to college and get a degree in anything, because it was a surefire way to a stable career. Now, when an undergraduate mentions the specific date of their intended graduation, youâÄôre likely to hear a response like, âÄúNow? WouldnâÄôt you want to wait a little bit? You know, see what happens?âÄù or sometimes the not-so-subtle, âÄúAre you crazy?âÄù Perhaps these reactions are not unfounded. For recent college grads ages 24 and under âÄî a group that usually experiences unemployment rates of 2 to 3 percent âÄî 7.9 percent filed for jobless claims nationwide in December, down from earlier in the year when it reached almost 9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For those with a bachelorâÄôs degree or higher, the rate was up to 5 percent in December for ages 25 and above, meaning there are more candidates in the market with degrees. It seems that every time we see a news story about college graduates, itâÄôs another woeful account of living with parents, looking for a job and heavy sighing while filling out graduate school applications. Because of this, many with a bachelorâÄôs degree and no job are heading back to school. In fact, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Graduate School has seen an 18 percent increase in applications since last year. Has education been devalued so much that studentsâÄô only option is either more school or a parentâÄôs couch? Have our four or more years of studying been spent in vain? According to Paul Timmins, career services director at the UniversityâÄôs Community and Career Learning Center, it doesnâÄôt have to be this way. He said a graduateâÄôs ability to find a job is greatly improved by contacting career services while still in school. ItâÄôs not surprising the career services director has this opinion, but he has a point. We pay for these career counselors to help us find jobs, and they coordinate extensive services like career fairs and practice interviews to connect students with and prepare them for potential employers. Despite those efforts, Timmins reports that last year the CCLC office, which services the College of Liberal Arts, experienced only about 2,000 unique visitors out of the roughly 14,000 students enrolled in CLA âÄî not the best statistics for the CCLC, but also not the best statistics for students. If we pay for these services, why are we not utilizing them? Sara Nagel Newberg, director of the St. Paul Campus Career Center, which advises the colleges of Continuing Education, Design, Agriculture and Food and Natural Resources said trends in the market are making career services more important, especially for finding internships. âÄúItâÄôs going to be a tougher market for full-time employment, but the internship market is remaining steady,âÄù said Newberg. âÄúI think weâÄôre seeing a trend, no matter what, companies are hiring more interns.âÄù Both Newberg and Timmins believe that companies are looking to hire more interns as a way to get to know the student before making a full-time hire. But what kind of internship should a student look for? According to a recent Michigan State University recruiting trends report, employers are now more open to hiring across disciplines, so students should no longer fear the idea that one must have a specific career in mind when choosing a major or internship. âÄúEmployers are focusing on skills,âÄù Timmins said, and students must convince the employer they have those skills. Timmins and Newberg said supplementary activities such as internships, directed research, service-learning courses and volunteer experience can help do that. Internship choices should be centered on a skill set that a student would like to use in their future career. Quit worrying about âÄúwhat you are going to do with that majorâÄù and start trying things out through internships and service learning. âÄúAn internship is a convenient way to test the waters,âÄù Timmins said, âÄúfor both the student and the employer.âÄù One of the greatest challenges of career services is that the students generally have to choose to use them, said Timmins. No longer are the days when the degree itself proves a student with skills and determination. Now, supplementary activities are increasing in importance and could become the make or break when looking for a job after graduation. IâÄôm not saying we shouldnâÄôt cross our fingers and hope that the job market gets better âÄî everyone can use a little luck. But until then, get off Facebook, go to your career counselor and let them help you get a job. Otherwise, you may as well start filling out that grad school application. Nora Leinen welcomes comments at [email protected]