Why you should GET an Internship
By Sam Disston
The extrinsic rewards of participating in Work Based Learning (WBL) are easy to see: WBL leads to higher starting salaries, higher probability of being employed and finding that employment faster (see part 1 of this series: Want more money? Do an internship!). But the intangible and intrinsic rewards are just as important. Research shows that students with WBL experience are more confident and feel better prepared for the challenges that go along with fulltime employment.
According to Harvey et al. WBL can help students bridge the ‘skills-gap’ that exists between what students are learning in academia and what they need to know in order to be successful at work in the ‘real world’. We’ve all been in classes wondering why, how or if we’ll ever need to know this again or how would this even be applied in practice. These are all questions that can be investigated through an internship or co-op, during a practice period where negative consequences for failure may be less.
Survey results show that students were more confident about various transferable skills like: written and verbal communication skills, information handling, teamwork and planning after having participated in WBL. What’s more, research by Falconer shows that even after years on the job students were still using skills they learned during their internship or co-op.
WBL gives you a chance to acclimate to a work-environment where you can learn to feel more comfortable about what life will be like after graduation. “Because the students have less time [when doing WBL], they are paradoxically able to use it better in organizing and planning their daily and weekly activities also when they must meet deadlines, which has always been the main difficulty of university students” according to Zucchermaglio. This is not to say that students’ lives aren’t busy, but the pace, schedule and impact are all different in a professional work environment than they are in school. Participating in WBL can help you master these new challenges and feel better prepared to enter into the full-time workforce.
Based on a study by Floyd & Gordon it seems that what students think employers are looking for and what employers really are looking for are often in-sync, but not always. Students and employers both agree that communication skills are important but employers put more emphasis on problem solving skills than do students. “Students significantly underestimate the extent to which being below average, or even average, in any of the skill areas reduces a candidate’s likelihood of being offered a position.” This is why WBL matters; it allows you to take what you’ve learned in school and apply it in a different setting. This sets you apart from your peers and ensures that employers see you as above-average in these skill areas and that you feel comfortable rising to the challenges your new boss will assign you.
It is clear that those who come out of work based learning have a better understanding of themselves, the workplace and its culture. This in turn allows a student to exude a confidence in their skills that will be very attractive to prospective employers. WBL allows you to separate yourself from “the pack” and ensure that employers see you as not just another “new hire” but a candidate with experience and the skillset to succeed.
If you’re interested in what work-based learning can do for you; there are WBL opportunities right here at Syracuse University. The Global Enterprise Technology (GET) program here at the iSchool is designed to allow you to apply the theory you learn in class in a ‘real-world’ environment. Through either the GET Immersion Experience at a global company or an academic internship right here on campus, @GETsyr provides the opportunity to get involved with work based learning so that you can be employed upon graduation.
Sam Disston is in his second year of the M.S. Information Management program at the iSchool at Syracuse University. He works part-time for J.P. Morgan Chase as a business analyst and is a graduate assistant for the Global Enterprise Technology program at the iSchool. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Spanish from Syracuse University.
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