Internships and Co-Ops: An Investment in Your Future Success. (2001 Career Planning & Job Search Guide)

Article excerpt

Erica Tinker planned her future well. A graduate of Clark Atlanta University's Graduate School, Erica knew that while earning a master's degree in marketing was a major accomplishment, it would take more than just the degree to make her career dreams come true. She knew that experience was a major plus with employers, even when considering graduates. Without a degree in hand, there was only one way Erica could think of to gain the experience she needed, and to get a preview of the field she had chosen for her future: Internships and co-ops.

Internships and co-ops are opportunities that allow students to apply classroom education to practical situations. While gaining this experience, you can also get a sneak preview of what your future may be like in your chosen field, and do some company research too. Erica held internship positions throughout college, and benefited strongly from both. "My internship experience has been great. It prepared me for the position I have today. During my internship, I was able to narrow down exactly what I wanted to do with my career. I was exposed to senior-level management, which gave me the opportunity to find a mentor and become involved in challenging projects."

There are two types of internship assignments: academic and non-academic. Your school is a major player in academic internships, as it often maintains relationships with companies that welcome interns and offer students good practical training. Your school can also help you select the best internships for you, based on how relevant the training will be to your studies, and help you arrange a schedule that is balanced with your class load and study schedule. The school will also determine whether academic credit will be awarded, based on the number of hours you work, your assigned duties, and/or your performance.

Non-academic internships are usually sought by the student, and arranged between you and the employer. Look for gaining experience only if you arrange this type of internship, as they normally offer little to no pay or academic credit. However, this is an excellent option if you cannot arrange an internship through your school. Non-academic internships are also a great option if you are hoping to work for a particular company after graduation.

Cooperative education combines your class load with paid employment. Many employers hire students from their co-op programs immediately after graduation. These programs also offer you a chance to gain insight into your field, and they allow you to measure your level of on-the-job performance. Co-op assignments can be arranged around your school schedule, so that you may complete both the assignment and your studies within a specific time frame. Options include:

* Alternating a semester of full-time work with a semester of full-time study

* Attend classes full-time while working part-time

* Work full-time while attending classes part-time

Be sure to plan your schedule carefully, keeping in mind that classroom time replaced by work hours may extend your time in school. Whether you choose an internship or co-op program, each offers benefits that you can use not only to land the job you want, but also to develop yourself as a professional.

Theresa Bennett held a co-op position as a clerical worker while attending Temple University for business management. She believes that working in a paid position improved her performance. "I think that I worked harder, because it really was my job," says Theresa." I was held to an even higher standard, because not only was I being paid for my performance, but I was being evaluated for possible employment in my field after graduation. I got to take a good look at myself as a professional." Theresa used her experience to identify her strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. This is another valuable tool, one that companies will also use to determine, if you are a candidate for employment after graduation. …