Students use their summers to gain job experience

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The Appalachian Online

Jordan Boles

For college students, summer break is usually revered as a three-month hiatus from all responsibility.  However, according the Walker College of Business and the National Association of Colleges and Employers, there’s a much better way to spend your time this summer.

Summer-long, semester-long and even year-long internships have become a key role to success in today’s workplace. NACE research shows that college graduates who have had an internship are more likely to receive job offers and higher starting salaries than graduates who have not.

Alison Reaves, the associate director for the career development area of the BB&T student leadership center in the Walker College of Business, provides career coaching for students. She also serves as the internship manager for Walker College’s academic internship program.

“Internships really are just absolutely invaluable,” Reaves said. “They are an opportunity to take your academic experience and apply it to the real world.”

Reaves strongly encourages all 2,400 of the business majors she works with to take advantage of every opportunity available that’s relevant and that will be applicable to their careers in the future.

“The more internships the student does, the more likely they are to really get their dream job,” she said. “Even the part time jobs that students do to pay the bills, which are admirable, they show work ethic. It usually gives a lot of transferable skills. Students ought to further leverage those skills to get their first internship.”

Reaves said that it’s important to keep the work relevant and timely.

“It’s crucial for any major to do an internship between their junior and senior year,” she said. “A lot of those lead to full-time offers. If they don’t directly lead to an offer in that company, it can open doors within that company or it can give a student that excellent experience to help them apply for whatever job they want.”

Appalachian State University students have earned a reputation with local employers due to their willingness to work hard and drive to succeed, Reaves said. Appalachian polls employers and compared analyses to NACE studies.

The collaboration of Appalachian and NACE found that employers look for three main aspects on a resume: GPA, – they want to see over a 3.0 – leadership on campus and relevant experience.

“They look for more than just the part-time pay the bill jobs,” Reaves said. “Someone who has done an internship is always going to win out in the application process.”

51 percent of Walker College of Business majors have completed at least one internship before they graduate. Over 84 percent of its graduates have jobs six months after college directly in relation to their internships.

Danelle Chilcott, senior finance and banking major completed an internship with Bank of America last summer. She discovered the opportunity through Appalachian’s Career Gear service.

Chilcott was able to work closely not only with other interns, but also full-time professionals at the bank. The networking and internship experience led to an offer of full-time work as a professional financial management associate after she graduates.

“This internship helped me grow in a lot of ways,” Chilcott said. “As long as I completed my work, networking never took away from my experience. It only added to my internship and allowed me to grasp a better understanding for the culture at Bank of America and different job opportunities that I can later explore during my career with the company.”

Chilcott said she also learned many professional skills such as how to manage her time and how to work with others on a team.

“I had to learn how to ask questions,” she said. “As an intern, it is supposed to be a learning opportunity and it was my chance to question different processes and retain information. I was also the youngest person working on my team, so I was able to learn how to work with adults who are experienced in their career.”

Chilcott made it clear she felt internships were beneficial for all students to complete.

“From attending corporate meetings, networking, using [Microsoft] Excel, understanding the banks systems, having one on one meetings with my manager and setting goals, there is a lot more accountability and less structure in the real world,” she said. “There is no teacher guiding you throughout each step, sometimes you have to work on your own to figure things out.”

Amanda Carter, junior finance and banking major, will also be completing an internship with BB&T this summer.

“I think the biggest benefit that anyone can take from a summer internship is the possibility of a job offer,” Carter said. “Internships are essentially summer-long interviews, and if I’m lucky and work hard enough, hopefully this internship will lead to a job offer.”

Reaves said watching students grow is one of her favorite parts of her job.

“It’s incredible to see a student who starts out as a freshman and isn’t really sure what they want to do,” she said. “They’re articulate and smart, but they come back from the internships and they are professionals. It’s amazing to watch that transformation.”

Story: Jordan Boles, Intern News Reporter