The importance of an internship or practicum experience cannot be overstated to the newly graduated college student. Today employers favor employees who have done an internship or practicum prior to applying with their company or organization. A college diploma will fulfill the academic requirement for a position but it is the internship/practicum experience that concretes the theories and examples learned in the classroom by placing the new graduate in real life work situations with real live co-workers while making professional decisions.
As educators we try to impress on students the importance of getting experience in their field of study so when they graduate they are able to show that they have professional work experience. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons this does not happen and their resumes are lacking the professional experience piece. This is where the internship/practicum experience can be beneficial. Not only does an internship/practicum provide an avenue for professional experience, the process of looking for an internship/practicum experience mirrors the job search process. Interviewing for an internship/practicum, gives you opportunities to fine tune your interviewing skills and receive feedback for improvement in the future.
What does an internship/practicum do for you? Not only do you gain experience in a professional setting, but you are able to develop your soft skills. Soft skills are the technical term for effectively navigating the workplace. The majority of students lack the communication and interpersonal skills needed to work in a professional setting. While in school, the use of email as a communication tool falls behind texting and Facebook messaging which are not acceptable forms of professional communication. This leads to a steep learning curve in a business world that relies heavily on email communication between co-workers, supervisors and clients/customers.
Other soft skills that can be developed during an internship including critical thinking, collaboration and creativity with assigned tasks. Time management and general office behaviors such as professional dress, timeliness, and an overall understanding of working in a professional environment will also serve you well in your future workplace.
By completing an internship/practicum you will not only build your resume, you will also build your network. Everyone you interact with on your internship/practicum is a potential contact for your network. They are someone you can go to for advice, a reference or even job hunting help as you get closer to graduation or the completion of your internship/practicum. Check with your advisor, if an internship/practicum is not a requirement for graduation from your major, see if you can earn credits towards graduation by completing one.
Think about how you can do an internship/practicum even if you are convinced you can’t. It’s that important to the next step in your career.
Kristi Montandon PhD.
Recreation Parks and Leisure Services Department
213 Highland North
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Mankato, MN 56001