An internship is a must-have on your resume, and along the same lines, internships abroad, are becoming more and more popular. In fact, even professors recognize that internship experience can be worth more, and get you hired faster, than a perfect GPA.
In an exclusive interview, ROOSTERGNN spoke to Dr. Jim Sernoe, Chair of the Mass Communication Department and the Internship Coordinator at Midwestern State University.
Read on to find out more about Dr. Sernoe’s tips for scoring that dream internship – and subsequently, how to market it to future employers.
How important are internships in increasing a student’s job prospects and “employability”?
They are critical. Far too many students get close to graduation without any experience in the field, despite what they are told over and over in classes.
My experience has been that students with high GPAs but no practical experience will get passed over in favor of students whose GPAs are still decent yet they have some practical experience.
Part of the requirement for my Internship course is that students prepare a resume and go through a mock interview with a local professional. While most have some kind of resume put together, it is always a shock for some of the students to discover that they have very little to put on a resume. In some cases the internship is the only practical experience they have in the field. They are further shocked to see their friends’ resumes, with student media experience, involvement on campus and in the community, second and third internships, part-time jobs at local media outlets, etc.
One of your students, Jessalyn Castro, successfully completed an Internship Seminar in Havana and Trinidad, Cuba, at ROOSTERGNN Academy in January 2017.
What benefits do internships abroad have, based on your experience with Midwestern State University students?
While Jessalyn is the only student who has participated through your organization, others have participated in MSU’s study abroad programs, international work through local organizations, etc. Without fail, they come back with their eyes wide open, having seen something other than the American ways of doing things. They appreciate that there are smart, talented, passionate people elsewhere, despite the “America First” rhetoric they hear so much. They also see how relatively well off we are in the U.S. Even those whose families are not wealthy see the real poverty elsewhere and realize how fortunate they are.
This ability to see the “bigger picture” (cliche, I know, but accurate) carries with them not only in traditional journalism/mass comm. jobs but throughout. The field doesn’t matter, as the new mindset can apply anywhere.
How can students effectively market their internship abroad to future employers? (e.g. on their CVs, during job interviews, etc.)
I encourage some to also mention it in their cover letters and explain how it applies to the organization with the job opening.
What is the most important piece of career advice you can give to journalism and/or communication students today?
Don’t be lazy and apathetic.
Too many are used to having things handed to them, or getting “participation trophies,” and the rest of the world, journalism and elsewhere, simply does not work like that.
Can you provide some tips for students looking for journalism/communications internships, as a starting point for their career?
- Make it clear what you can do for them. They need students for certain functions, and they aren’t as interested in how it will affect your career.
- Make it clear you are not the stereotype of the slacker millennial. Prove to them that you have ability and a work ethic.
- Start looking early (I won’t say freshman year, because we don’t require the internship until junior year).
Think carefully about what it is you want to do. Don’t just apply to local places because they are convenient. Interning at an organization that has nothing of interest to you does no one any good.
- Think carefully about how the internship will fit in with the rest of your schedule. Do you need to work at a job also? Will you be taking classes? Do you have certain family obligations? Will the organization allow you the flexibility you need?
- Seek advice from your professors about resumes, cover letters, when to call vs. e-mail, etc.