The Way To A Successful Career: Internships

On every single holiday break, there’s that one dreaded question that all college students just hate to hear, making their skin crawl and the hair stand up on their arms… “What do you want to do with your degree?” It’s such a loaded question. You’re a junior in college, trying to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies.

Internships are vital today. Beth Braccio-Herring, of CareerBuilder.com, states in her 2010 article “Why Are Internships So Important?” that such opportunities benefit students because it allows us to establish relationships with mentors, it gives us an introduction to the field’s culture and etiquette. She said that students can “accumulate new skills and gain a ‘real world’ perspective on an occupation.”

JMU SCOM Internship program coordinator, Dr. Toni Whitfield agrees, stating, “Try out a career. Many students really don’t know what they might want to do and have very romantic ideas about the workplace—so getting involved in a site can help them [you] see the work them [you] want or may not want to do.”

Ok, so internships are important. But how do we go about getting them? Lucky for you, SCOM provides us with a number of options for fully admitted majors. Whitfield said she helps students find a placement or suggests ways of finding a placement. “Interested students can find internship experiences any semester, fall, spring or summer,” added Whitfield.

To get academic credit for any internship, you need to complete 160 hours during the semester you are completing the internship. In addition, some general requirements include completing the SCOM core classes with a C or better and 75 hours of course credit. More information about the requirements can be found here: https://www.jmu.edu/commstudies/Internships-ALL.shtml

Here are more of Dr. Whitfield’s tips and tricks on internships:

  • What skills and tools are necessary to gain an internship? SCOM is all about internship or any job seeking but it is always good to make sure that you are doing the right things—for instance—your first contact needs to be professional, no typos (if an email) and you have to be enthusiastic and many internship sites will ask, “Why do you want this internship.” The answer had better be more detailed than “It would look good on my resume!”
  • How is the JMU SCOM Internship program balanced with class time? A Fall or Spring internship usually means you are going to class full time, and may be working in addition to the internship—which needs 10 hours a week to reach the 160 hours.
  • Have you heard any feedback from JMU SCOM alumni or seniors who have had internships through this program, and their experience has benefitted them? All have had wonderful things to say about how their internships helped them—make career decisions, got them a job offer, helped connect them to future employers, and overall helped them gain vital experience that all employers are looking for.

With all of that said…YES. Internships will give you experience that can increase your portfolio. You are also building a network for future careers. In his article, “5 Ways to Motivate Your Interns to Get Stuff Done,” author Michael Adams states that “Internships are an opportunity to work with smart, talented young students. They’re an opportunity to craft an incredible experience.“ Hopefully, with Thanksgiving break right around the corner, you’ll be able to confidently answer that original question.

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