Getting the Job By Doing the Job
|Date: Tuesday, January 31st, 2012||Return to Archive|
Getting the Job By Doing the Job
On-the-job training with internships and co-op education
"Anyone can write down that they've had experience in a pharmacy," Matthew Greenwell explains. "But when you get course credit for it, for an actual letter grade, you have evaluations. You have to write a paper about what you've learned. You have course objectives. It's something that I can show and prove on my transcript that I accomplished, and there's a certain accountability there that you wouldn't have in just a paid job."
For Western Kentucky University senior Matthew Greenwell, a Meade County RECC member from Union Star, internships offer a crucial leg-up when applying to graduate or professional school.
Greenwell, who has worked as a pharmacy tech for more than four years, opted to also do an academic internship at a Walgreens pharmacy in Bowling Green last semester, a move he hopes will make his pharmacy school applications even more attractive.
Greenwell has loved having the daily, hands-on experience of working in a pharmacy—filling prescriptions, working with insurance companies, helping patients.
"Internships let you try out a career path. They let you know what you're getting into," he says. "If you've only had classroom work and you step out into a job after college, it would be hard to know what to expect."
Kacy Wilson, a biology junior at Western Kentucky University with a pre-med concentration, interned with a nonprofit organization called Unite for Sight, which works with communities around the globe to improve eye health.
Wilson, a Taylor County RECC member from Columbia, spent the latter part of May last year doing an internship—in Accra, Ghana.
She signed in patients for their surgeries in Accra and traveled with a team of doctors and nurses into distant villages where she'd help dispense medication and eyeglasses to some 200 patients a day.
"When people told me, 'I can read again' after their surgery, it reaffirmed my desire to become a physician," Wilson says. "Just knowing that I'd helped someone was so incredible."
Greenwell's working pharmacy internship and Wilson's unique, international internship are just a couple of examples in an array of interesting, exciting, on-the-job training experiences available to today's college students at home and abroad.
Gone are the days of photocopying, errand-running, and mindless busywork.
Today's college interns are getting real, practical training that's not only a great resume boost—it's also fun!
Just ask Shelbyville native Adam Knecht, a sophomore at the University of Louisville studying computer science and computer engineering. Knecht snagged a coveted position as a Google intern last summer, working in the company's New York office on a 10-person technical support team.
"I loved being in the office. It was like being in a playground," Knecht says. "We only had to work until 5, but most nights we had dinner served in the office and we'd stay until 8 or 9 o'clock. The whole experience at Google spoils you. You get to work with a group of people who aren't just co-workers, they become your best friends."
Marshall County native Jeremy Turner, who received his bachelor's degree in occupational safety and health from Murray State University this past December, knew to expect fun when he applied for an internship with Disney in spring 2009—what wouldn't be fun about working at Disney World, after all?
But what surprised even Turner is how many doors that internship has opened since: "Every time I go into a job interview now, the interviewer immediately wants to ask me about working at Disney," he says.
The experience helped Turner land another impressive internship last summer with Hoar Construction, working to ensure safety and health compliance on construction of a new, $92 million hospital complex near Austin, Texas. And this spring, Turner is back at Disney again, this time working in a professional internship helping oversee health and safety at the Magic Kingdom's expansion of Fantasy World.
As Turner has seen, internships offer a great way for students to get their foot in the door of a particular company or field and begin networking for possible positions after graduation.
"Internships make students so much more marketable to employers," says Margaret Cambron, director of career development at Kentucky Wesleyan College. "It's just not enough anymore to only have the academic component. Students also need that work experience, to see what a particular profession is like, and to learn what will be expected of them on the job."
"An internship provides credibility for students on the job search and allows them to make stronger decisions about the career direction they would like to pursue," agrees Ann Zeman, director of careers development and counseling at Bellarmine University, where nearly 75 percent of the campus body participates in an internship or clinical experience before graduation.
Recalling how influential his own 10-month internship experience at Land Between The Lakes was after college, Richard Kessler, Environmental Studies program coordinator, made creating a similar program at Campbellsville University a priority. Since its launch in 2008, five students have taken part in the competitive Campbellsville University Environmental Studies Experience (CUES), and all of them have found it to be life-changing, Kessler says.
Thanks to their summer CUES internships, 2011 graduate Amy Etherington and current Campbellsville senior Spencer Adams partnered with biologists from Mammoth Cave National Park, the Nature Conservancy, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and the Kentucky Division of Forestry to conduct bird and bat counts. Adams also helped to eradicate non-native, invasive species in a prairie restoration effort at Mammoth Cave National Park, among many other projects.
After graduation, Etherington went on to pursue another internship—this one with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at North Carolina's Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge—where she helped with turtle patrols along the beaches and tagged juvenile brown pelicans for tracking.
"It really gave us an idea of what it would be like to be out there in the field collecting data, like a professional biologist would," she says.
Sometimes, internships lead students to their calling. Lora Shoulders, a 2011 graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College, credits her i