Internships: Why are they so important, how do I get one?

1b3c8be7-3051-4868-b223-65e255d364e6.jpgLast week’s career fair on Cougar Walk was a big reminder for some students: Internship application season is here.

Higher education shows dedication and knowledge, but according to Office of Career Services’ Associate Director Doug Stude, students need more than a four-year degree or even a master’s to land a job. They need related work experience, which often comes in the form of internships.

“If you think about the future, you want to kind of look at what experiences will help gain the skills, the achievement, the qualifications, that a certain industry employer is going to have or want or need in terms of a job and occupation,” Stude said.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, graduates who had internship experience received a higher starting salary and were 67 percent more likely to get offered a job than those who did not. Nearly 58 percent of interns later became full-time employees.

Finding an internship can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when managing an already-congested class schedule. The Office of Career Services offers a variety of helpful tools and services, including assistance with the search and application process. They also work with students to strengthen resumes and prepare them by staging mock interviews.

Through the Career Services office, students have access to the APU Career board, an online forum for students and alums to view valid jobs and internship positions. Students also have access to a paid subscription to (, which allows exclusive access to internships and job opportunities for APU students.

Several APU majors such as global studies, applied exercise science, social work, marketing and Christian ministries require students to complete a for-credit internship. Other majors, such as Spanish, theatre arts and business management, encourage students to obtain an internship by offering elective credit.

For students like Maegan Collett, an APU alumna who graduated May of 2013 with a graphic design degree, multiple internships were valuable even though her major only required one.

“I started early. I realized as a graphic design major, it really is about your connections,” she said.

Collett began accumulating her internships as early as sophomore year. She began at SWIRE marketing, a local agency where she learned the basics of design. Simultaneously, she interned at Softline Solutions, an online marketing solutions provider.

“I was able to stand out because I had prior experience, even with those two small internships,” Collett said.

Then during her junior year, Collett landed a coveted internship position at DreamWorks, where she worked on popular film projects such as “Turbo” and “The Croods.”

Collett continued her experience with internships and received numerous other positions at Interbrand, Midnight Oil Creative and her favorite internship, LAgraphico.

“I got to watch this guy do the LEDs for Tron. … I had this really positive experience [at LAgraphico] because I was so passionate about what I was doing,” Collett said. “That’s what I recommend to other people: try to work for a position that you tailor to what you’re passionate about.”

Collett also advised students to have a strong cover letter when applying for internships.

“Be mindful of who you are applying to,” Collett said. “Create it as if you know everything about this company. You are speaking to them.”

Some internships are found through word-of-mouth and APU’s Career Network. Others can be found through other listings or simple Google searches. Some internships may not even be promoted online; potential interns need to be proactive in seeking them out.

In addition, some study-abroad programs also help place students into internships. The semester in Ecuador, for example, allows students to complete such an experience while studying the South American culture.

Other study-abroad summer programs also offer internship opportunities, although the deadline for this upcoming session has passed, according to a Center for Global Learning and Engagement Office representative.

Career services offers assistance to all alumni as well – not just current students.

“A lot of the state institutions and other private institutions cut you off at a six-month period and require that you pay for it. Our service to our alumni is free, so your use of APU Network continues on and on,” Stude said.

APU Career Network is available to all students at under the “Quick Links” tab. Students can walk in during their drop-in hours (Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) or schedule an appointment.

Internship tips

Network, Network, Network:
Use the “4 F’s”: Family, Friends, Faculty, Facebook (or any social media) to ask, “Who do I know that knows about a possible job?” –Doug Stude

In terms of juggling school and internships:

“Know what you can handle. If you have an internship, try to lessen your classes.” –Maegan Collett

Is quality or quantity of internships more important?

“Obviously, employers are impressed with longevity, but they don’t expect that from a college student. It’s the skills that you’ve acquired that it really comes down to.” –Doug Stude

If you’re stuck making coffee:

“Talk to your supervisor. Be very specific. Say, ‘I want to learn some things. So I can learn about customer service skills.’” –Doug Stude

Remain professional:

“Don’t use your school email address. Show that you are your own person outside of your school. … Learn to communicate with people in a business environment. They don’t have a lot of time.” –Maegan Collett