From intern to employee

Anna Staver

How internships can help students stand out in the job market

Last spring, finance major Nick Epifano had the opportunity to live and work in Washington D.C. There he met with dozens of companies, government organizations and political figures.

This fall as Epifano prepares to graduate, he’s already had one job offer, several interviews and a group of Kent alumni in Washington D.C. helping him find a job.

A 2010 National Association of Colleges and Employers student survey found that 43 percent of students who had an internship during college received at least one job offer after graduation, compared with 30 percent of students without one. And students with internships were consistently offered a higher starting salary.

Epifano, along with 23 other Kent State students, participated in the Washington Program in National Issues. Through WPNI he found an internship with the General Accounting Office and the chance to make valuable contacts and connections.

He credits his time in D.C. as being a key component of his future success.

“It immediately jumps off the page and employers want to know more about D.C.,” Epifano said. “It’s a great conversation starter.”

But here on Kent’s campus, only one out of every two graduating seniors take an internship prior to graduation, according to the 2008 National Survey of Student Engagement.

And that’s a problem, Assistant Director of Career Services Robin Pijor said.

“Every semester employers will say to me 10 times over they would rather have a student with experience than one without,” Pijor said.

“And often employers say they’d rather have a student with two internships.”

Epifano took a second internship this semester with Area Wide Protective.

“I think as much experience as you can get before you get out of college is important,” Epifano said. “It can differentiate you from the next person.”

To help students find their first or even second internship, Career Services is hosting the Job and Internship Fair from noon to 4 p.m. October 27 in the Student Center ballroom.

Students can prepare for the fair by making an appointment with Career Services for a resume counseling session or even set up a time to conduct a mock interview, Pijor said.

IT Projects Lead for Goodyear David Westfall will be attending the Job and Internship Fair and is looking to fill approximately 10 paid internship positions for this summer.

And some of his interns may end up with more than experience at the end of the summer.

“We are trying to see how many positions we can fill and find spots for them in the development program,” Westfall said. “It’s a full time hire and job for them after graduation.”

Westfall said that an internship is often the deciding factor for employers like Goodyear.

“If you have two candidates come in fresh out of college and both interview equally well, the job will most likely go to the candidate with the internship,” Westfall said.

“I would encourage anyone to go out and get an internship before they get out of school.”

This is a point that Epifano said he agrees with. Throughout WPNI, Epifano met with employers and organizations that stressed the importance of internships.

“Employers always want to know about my work experience. What challenges I faced and how I worked with other people,” Epifano said, now that he is interviewing for a job.

WPNI Director Richard Robyn said that the internship experience, at the core of his program, has proven hugely successful for his former students.

“We can never guarantee they are going to get a full time job offer at the end of the semester, but every year at least half a dozen students receive one,” Robyn said. “And we currently have over 300 alums living and working in D.C.”

At the end of last year’s WPNI, broadcast journalism major Malena Caruso was offered a full time position from ABC News where she had been an intern. Caruso remained in D.C. after the semester, and she currently works as a field producer and booker.

WPNI is not the only way students can gain real world experience here at Kent. Geology Professor Joe Ortiz seeks out funding from organizations like the National Science Fund to create internship opportunities for his students.

Kent State alumnus Dan Peacock went with Ortiz on a research trip last year. They traveled to British Columbia and Alberta, Canada to collect lake samples and conduct field research.

Three days after returning to Kent, Peacock had a job offer based on the recommendation that Ortiz said he was able to give him.

Internships can cost students a significant amount time and money. Most internships require a commitment of 20 hours per week, and often come without a paycheck. When Epifano first applied to WPNI, he actually wasn’t sure he would accept.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money on another semester of school,” Epifano said.

He was set to graduate last spring and going on the program meant postponing his graduation and incurring almost $10,000 in additional debt.

But Ortiz cautions his students against thinking on an internship in dollars and cents. “There’s good debt and there’s bad debt,” said Ortiz. “Debt that doesn’t help you better yourself is what I would call bad debt. But debt that can help you get a job and further your career choice, that’s good debt.”

In the end Epifano said his time in Washington was worth every penny.

“I think a little money spent on the Washington program now, will lead to a lot more for me later on.”

More information:

Washington Program in National Issues

Fall Job and Internship Fair

Wednesday 10-27-2010

Noon to 4 p.m.

Kent Student Center ballroom

Contact Anna Staver at [email protected].