Education without Experience…Think Again!

by Sally Richards

Natalie Spencer at NASA Glenn Research Center

We tend to retain…

10% of what we hear

15% of what we see

20% of what we see and hear

40% of what we discuss

80% of what we EXPERIENCE

Co-op/Internship IS EXPERIENCE!

Experience is the best teacher. Most of us are familiar hearing this American idiom.  An internship experience combined with an excellent Embry-Riddle academic education makes for a first-rate candidate in any job market.

But you’ve been thinking about graduating without any practical work experience, without real world experience, without hands on experience. THINK AGAIN!

“I just want to graduate in 4 years.”

“I didn’t have time to apply to companies…I was so busy with my classes.”

“My parents just want me to finish school as soon as possible.”

“I just want to get out of school and start making money.”

“I’m tired of going to school and just want to start working in my field.”

Are you guilty of any of these thoughts?  Although these plans can make sense for some individuals, the plan to do an internship will prove to be more valuable. Don’t skip doing a co-op/internship because you’re in a rush to graduate.  You’re going to be out of college for most of your life.  If you graduate with less experience than your peers, your job search may be tougher and you might regret it.

The reality is, “Do you have an offer on the table for a full-time career opportunity when you graduate?”  If not, an internship experience will help you gain that competitive edge over other students when applying for full-time opportunities.

You already planned to spend 4 or 5+ years to earn your college degree.  Wouldn’t an additional 4 months of experiential education and time spent working with professionals in an industry/organization environment actually add an additional component to your value as a future candidate?  Wouldn’t the experience make you stand out from the crowd in the recruiting process?  You can see how academics and practical experience are intertwined.  You will understand concepts better from both perspectives, therefore making you a better student and a better employee.  Those few months of practical experience can favorably impact your classroom studies and future career since an internship experience will allow you to build your contact network and provide positive reinforcement.

Employers want to hire graduating students who have career-related work experience during college and experience that exposes them to professionalism and to how skills and ideas are applied in the real world. Think of it this way; you will already have a professional experience in industry and have the ability to work in a team environment towards a common goal.  Employers will see you have already made the transition from student to professional and will not have to start from the ground up.  You have already attained the next level and saved the company money in training costs.

When other graduating seniors are still having their resumes critiqued, and going through the “7 Steps to Use when Applying Online,” or attending Career Expo, just think, you may already have been hired by the company where you did an internship.  Now you can spend your last semester concentrating on achieving superior grades in your final classes and projects.

Do you have a dream job or dream company in mind that you want to work for?  By successfully completing an internship, you have just put yourself in a category above all other graduates with a similar academic skill set and diploma whether they are from Embry-Riddle, Purdue or FIT.  You have EXPERIENCE.  In an interview, you now have real industry projects and situations to talk about with that company’s hiring manager.

Participating in a Co-op or Internship experience can open doors to the world.  As an intern you may have the good fortune of attending meetings with the executive board…can you believe it?  A special benefit of your internship could include a connection to the decision makers of the company.  How else could you have gotten this opportunity as a college student if you were not participating in the company’s internship? You are getting experience in a corporate culture, building your network and making contacts with industry leaders, all important pieces to a successful career.

A former intern sums it up best. “The fundamentals and theories are important and essential for getting any position, but experience is also necessary.  While I am aware that most students do not want to postpone graduating a semester later than originally anticipated (I was one of those people not too long ago), it is completely worth it!  You go to school to get a job—if you’re being offered job experience while you are still in school—there is no reason to decline it.  I have many friends who were extremely successful in school, but they have graduated and cannot secure a job because they lack experience.  An internship gives you exactly that!”

If:  Education + Experience = Excellent Candidate; Then: Education + Internship = Success

Sally Richards has 30 years of experience in higher education with a proven track record in Career Services. Sally started her career with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aeronautical Engineering Department.  Currently as the Career Services Cooperative Education/Internship Program Manager, she manages and facilitates operations of the Co-op/Intern Program for the team of Program Managers and ensures adherence of Co-op policies and procedures while overseeing conflict resolution for co-op situations. Her credentials include aviation/airline industry experience in flight recruiting, maintenance planning and passenger service with two major airlines and one regional carrier, as well as studies at Kent State University in Ohio.

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