By Kennedy Mapes
While internships can be extremely beneficial to a student’s career path, the correct opportunity can be difficult to find and it can be hard to know where to start the search for the right internship.
Internships are an excellent way for students to get industry experience. They are often entry-level positions that don’t require complete degrees or prior job experience and are also often part-time positions, which is why they are ideal for college students looking to break into their desired field while still attending school.
Internships provide students with the opportunity to make connections and network with companies in order to help them find jobs in their industry upon graduation.
Grand Rapids Community College has a few different tools that can help guide students toward these opportunities.
Andrew Downs, Office Assistant in Student Employment Services, explained how students can begin their search on their own.
“If students are just trying to look on their own for opportunities, GRCC uses Handshake, which we facilitate,” Downs said. “Handshake is a third-party website used for job hosting and a lot of colleges in the area use it. Employers sign up through our website and our link, and then all of their jobs become available to students to apply for.”
Downs explained that during a normal academic year, in which a pandemic isn’t taking place, GRCC often has employers come on campus to do recruiting for jobs and internships.
Downs also mentioned that Student Employment Services helps students with building their resumes.
“We do resume workshops pretty much on demand whenever a student wants one,” Downs said. “As of right now, all of these are being conducted via Zoom or Google Meet or however, so if a student needs help with their resume, or a cover letter, or if they are prepping for an interview for an internship, we facilitate that.”
Amy Mansfield, Dean of Workforce Development, also provided some insight on internship opportunities for students.
“I would suggest starting with the department of the field you are interested in,” Manfield said. “If you are looking for an internship in business, reach out to the business department, if you are searching for a culinary internship, send an email to the program director. The faculty of each department are the people who have the hands on experience, the knowledge, the network, and the best connections that could be helpful towards a student’s search.”
Once internship opportunities are found, it is important to make sure the right one for each student is chosen. Both Mansfield and Downs shared some advice for when students are making this decision.
“If you have the ability to do so, focus on companies that you could see yourself working for longterm,” Mansfield said. “Internships can turn into real job opportunities. Companies who take on interns often hire some for real positions, so when choosing an internship, you could potentially also be choosing the place you start your career.”
Another piece of advice was to make sure the company is trustworthy.
“Make sure it’s essentially not a company that is just looking for free labor and is looking to give you the experience you are looking for, while also providing you with either pay or college credit,” Downs said.
Downs explained that that is one of the reasons why GRCC recommends using Handshake when searching because every employer that posts jobs or internship opportunities on the website must be approved by GRCC.
While paid internships are ideal, they are not always easy to come by. Most employers offer internships that are unpaid. However, if an internship is unpaid, college credit must be provided otherwise it is a violation of labor laws.
In order for an internship to count towards a student’s credits, the internship must first be approved by a faculty advisor.
Mansfield explained that each internship has a faculty advisor assigned to it that is dependent on the department it falls under. Once an internship is approved, there is a formal packet put together by this advisor that provides you with the necessary paperwork as well as the information regarding the number of hours needed to secure your credits.
“There is a minimum hour amount that equals one credit hour. So, if a student is doing an internship that equals two credit hours, that minimum work hour amount would be doubled,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield shared that GRCC has offered operational internships directly to students in the past.
“We’ve had facility interns, purchasing interns, and Student Life has also taken on interns in the past, so GRCC does offer some direct internship opportunities that focus on the operations of the campus.”
Mansfield emphasized how beneficial internships can be for a student.
“They are really devised to, not only provide hands-on experience but ideally to push you even further than perhaps we can and to provide the experience and knowledge that you can’t necessarily get in the classroom,” said Mansfield. “Internships also help build and strengthen your resume. They allow you to add real-life experience in the industry to your resume to help with future employment opportunities.”