The Right Stuff: The Truth About Internships

by Sally Richards

intern8There are often rumors about what is true or not true in the pursuit of internship positions.  I want to expose the myths about internships and encourage you to consider this great opportunity.   

Myth: I can’t do an internship. I need to graduate in four years so I can get out of school and get a job.
Truth:  I’ve heard this many times that students do not want to extend their graduation dates “just to do an internship.” First of all, internships are offered each of the 3 semesters during the school year. You can arrange your schedule to open up one of the terms for a work experience WITHOUT extending your graduation date. It just takes a little preplanning when you are considering your four year scheduling. Think of it this way…by doing an internship you can devote one semester to building your skill set, enhancing your resume and making yourself more attractive and marketable to employers.  Why would you be so set on graduating in four years and yet have no experience to help you stand out in the pile of resumes sitting on an employer’s desk?

Myth: I won’t be considered a full-time student if I do a co-op/internship.
Truth: As long as you participate in a full-time work experience for the full semester and are registered for credit, you will be enrolled as a full-time student by the University and for most scholarships and insurance.  If applicable, Records and Registration will be able to furnish a Verification of Enrollment to show your full-time status.

Myth: I can’t earn academic credit for the semester if I am doing a co-op/internship.
Truth: You may earn college credit for your internship. To receive credit for an internship, a student will have to meet the eligibility requirements set forth by University policy in order to participate in the Co-op/Intern Program.  Documentation from the employer and University registration are required in order to earn credit for an internship.  ERAU requires a student to complete specific requirements designated by his or her department’s criteria, including a satisfactory paper, satisfactory supervisor performance evaluation and completing the full semester.  A student earns a Pass or Fail grade for the work term. 

Myth: My GPA is only a 2.8; I won’t get hired for a co-op/internship.
Truth:  Some companies do require a 3.0 or higher GPA, but many use the GPA as one of many factors to determine who they will select for internships.  Demonstrating a good attitude; displaying confidence; having good interpersonal, oral and verbal communication; showing organizational skills; being knowledgeable in basic office skills; exhibiting leadership skills; and working in teams allows the recruiters to evaluate the character and abilities of a well-rounded individual.  What you lack in one area may be overshadowed by a strength in another.

Myth: I have a traffic violation on my driving record. I don’t think I will get hired.
Truth:  The key to dealing with blemishes on your record is honesty. Be sure that you are truthful on all applications and in all your answers to employers. There are several factors that will be considered by an employer.  What age were you when you had the violation?  Have you had a clean record since? Did you learn from the mistake? Or do you have repeated violations indicating you didn’t learn a lesson?  Either way, be truthful.  Take responsibility for your bad judgment or teenage infallibility. Don’t blame the cause on someone or something besides yourself. Explain what you learned from this mistake. Remember, most companies do background checks, and an investigation in this technological world will reveal any secrets you think you can hide.  An employer does not want to be surprised by actions you should have revealed in your application or during the interview process; they may end up having to dismiss you for lying after you are hired.

Myth: I can only do an internship during the summer.
Truth:  Students can apply to co-ops/internships for any semester: spring, summer, or fall.  Opportunities are more abundant during the summer semester, but you may find less competition for openings during the other terms.  For any semester, you should apply for opportunities as soon as possible, but at least by the semester BEFORE you anticipate doing the work experience, as the process of researching, locating, and applying for an internship can take some time. Some companies have deadlines that are six or more months ahead of the actual experience, and government agencies and defense contractors do extensive background checks that take many months to complete.  It is best if you are flexible with the internship timing and stay on top of the deadlines for opportunities you want to pursue.

Myth: I should only apply to positions that are paid.
Truth:  Identify your goals first.  Unless you are in a tight financial situation, money should not be the deciding factor in which internship you accept.  If money is not the motivator, what will motivate you?

Do you want to work for a particular company or in a specific geographical area? Do you like the work itself? Are there opportunities for achievement and recognition? Will there be opportunities for career development?

Myth: I’ll lose my financial aid if I do an internship.  I’ll have to pay back student loans if I’m not at school.
Truth: As long as you are enrolled in the official Co-op/Internship Program and are working at the internship full-time for the required number of weeks in the semester, you are considered a student and may be eligible to receive financial aid.  Therefore, you will not have to start paying back student loans as long as you are a current student in good standing with the University and working full-time. 

Myth: It will be difficult to find housing at the internship location.
Truth: While housing can be a concern, there are various options that you can explore.  Some companies do offer housing or a housing stipend, or they may assist students with housing arrangements during their internship semester.  Typically bigger corporations, companies with a long standing co-op/intern program, or companies that hire a number of co-ops/interns each semester will offer this benefit.  Additional assistance can come from the HR Department or Manger of your company, online classifieds like Craig’s List, current or former interns, alumni, low tech bulletin boards that advertise availability of crash pads/shared housing or family and friends who might be willing to share space with you (and even a home cooked meal). 

Myth: I can only apply to Internships through the EagleHire Network.
Truth: EagleHire Network is Embry-Riddle’s career management system.  As long as you meet University and your campus’ requirements, you may have access to apply to co-op/internship positions posted on EagleHire.  To find opportunities outside of EagleHire, consider speaking with faculty, alums and professionals at conferences.  Build your network to help you find opportunities.  You can also review career resources in order to locate the internship that fits you. 

Myth: I should look for a position with a big name well-established company.
Truth: There are advantages of seeking an internship with a well-established company, but many organizations, both big and small, provide high quality internships that may provide a broad range of responsibilities. 

Myth: If I’m International, I won’t be able to do an internship.
Truth:   Before graduation, International students are eligible to participate in co-ops/internships as long as they meet the eligibility requirements of the Co-op/Intern Program and the employer’s qualifications. International students obtain official documents from the SEVIS Coordinator so they can use their Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorization to maintain their legal immigration status.  Companies recruit and hire International students for internship experiences; government, defense contractors, and space agencies would be the exception.   Use the Career Services resources and links to external websites.

Myth: I will be doing menial tasks, schlepping coffee and filing documents for the employees.
Truth: Embry-Riddle’s Co-op/Intern Program requires that a co-op or internship work experience be relevant to your degree.  A position is approved by your department after the advisor determines that the work experience will be worthwhile.  You will be challenged, applying what you’ve learned in class, learning new skills and developing a professional work ethic.  In most cases, you’ll be treated as a valuable staff member, working on real projects and being given responsibilities just like a new hire.  With all professional experiences, there are always administrative tasks in every job category in order to accomplish the mission and goals of an organizational structure.

Myth: You’re guaranteed a full-time job if you do an internship.
Truth:  Companies most often use internships to recruit the best and the brightest students for full-time positions; therefore, internships are more likely to open doors to entry-level positions.  Sometimes interns are hired by employers directly, but this action would depend on the intern having the right skills, attitude and experience. In addition, the economy, financial standing of a company and potential new contracts should also be factored into an offer of full-time employment. In reality, an internship is a 15 week interview with you in the spotlight…what a perfect setting for a company to evaluate the capabilities, performance, attitude, and initiative of prospective employees. Students may not get a full-time position offer from the company they interned for, but the experience they gained during their term will make them more marketable to other companies when going through the recruiting process.

For every rumor you hear about internships or the Embry-Riddle Co-op/Internship Program, it is important to find the correct answers.  Discuss your questions with your campus co-op/internship contact and consider participating in this valuable work experience.

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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