In Friday’s edition of The Signpost, Winn Stanger, the director of Career Services, hinted at the overwhelming importance and aid of an internship. As companies and other entities across the globe begin the internship application process for summer 2012, I thought of my own internship experience in Washington, D.C., in Senator Orrin Hatch’s office.

In today’s competitive world, it is of the utmost importance that students distinguish themselves — both in written and verbal forms. A student’s resume says a lot about him or her and acts as the initial method of getting to know who you are. Especially in highly sought jobs, interviewers have two piles: the reject pile and the hopeful pile.  Among hundreds of possible fellow applicants, what can set you apart? What can you put into your cover letter and resume that shows that you are capable, qualified and deserving of such a position? There are many solutions to this dilemma.

Internships

Internships are extremely helpful in securing a future position at your desired place of employment. According to www.fredonia.edu, “on average, more than 50 percent of students are offered a full-time job after completing an internship.” Statistically, it is in your favor to complete an internship, particularly with the company where you see yourself in 10 or 20 years. The benefits of taking on an internship far outweigh reasons not to do an internship.

Build your “soft skills”

Dale Carnegie Training suggests there is a set of skills referred to as the “soft skills.”  These skills cannot be learned in the classroom and cannot be garnered from a book, but are nonetheless indispensable for professional and personal advancement. Such soft skills are divided into five categories: confidence, personal leadership, communication skills, people skills and attitude control. You can “nurture the executive within” and fine-tune your soft skills by means of an internship. The workplace is the best environment to do such.

Internships and career exploration

An internship affords you the opportunity to explore career options related to your interests, values, skills and personality. Many freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and, of course, super-seniors worry constantly if they have chosen the right major.  What better way to test the waters than to submerse yourself in an internship where you can gather insight into a particular industry or organizational culture, develop work-related experience, and apply knowledge learned from the classroom?

It’s all about the connections

One of the most crucial parts to an internship is the capability to establish and facilitate connections and build a network of contacts. Always approach an internship with enthusiasm, willing to take on new assignments. Be prepared to show off your talents. While students might not give a second thought to PowerPoint creations, social media, smart phones, and the latest and greatest trends, your employers will need your help to be kept up to date as they seek to contemporize themselves in what can be an intimidating new technological world for them.

The ‘elevator pitch’

And lastly — and this does not just pertain to internship hopefuls — Peter Handal, CEO and president of Dale Carnegie Training, exclaims to students to “always have an ‘elevator pitch’ — a brief description or anecdote about your experiences that, if you find yourself in an elevator with someone from upper management, intrigues them and puts you high on their radar. Always leave them wanting more!”

Make no mistake — the season for receiving applications for summertime internships has begun. Do your duty and find yourself an internship that will help you on your way to success.

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