Build Now, Be Successful Later: Why Internships, Networking Are Important

By Kara Apel, Alumna of the University of South Carolina

In the college classroom, we are constantly reminded by our professors and advisers about the importance of internships and networking — almost to the point where we get tired of hearing about it.

Surely, a job will be easy to find after graduation, right? I don't need to have all of these experiences before I graduate college, right? WRONG.

The job market isn't the same as it once was. Just having a college diploma in hand is no longer an adequate qualification to find a full-time job in your field of choice. You need to have preparation in both the classroom and in the "real world" for any employer to hire you.

As scary as this sounds, it is true. If you don't believe me, feel free to ask the thousands of unemployed post-graduates out there who are scrambling to find full-time work. What is frustrating is that the vast majority of these people have done everything right — they've gotten good grades and probably even had an internship (or two) and still aren't able to find work.

What will set you apart from all of the other fish in the vast sea of desperate job seekers is your ability to not only prove that you've been able to accumulate experience but also that you have people in your field of study who can vouch for your character and your work.

Starting your network base starts now. And it's not as hard or scary as it sounds. You'll want to build friendships with your professors as well as your fellow classmates, as you never know who may be able to help you on your journey. It is also never too early to start attending career fairs — I started going my freshman year of college. Even though I didn't have any experience, I was able to meet many different employers in my field and get my name in their heads. I truly believe this is what helped me to get an internship at a major newspaper the following summer. Had I not taken the simple step of attending that career fair, I'm not so sure it would have worked out so easily.

Once you are able to find your internship, the real work begins. Internships are definitely not easy. There are times when you are going to get frustrated or upset — that is inevitable — but you must keep your composure and work hard, despite whatever circumstances you are dealt. Come in every single day with a positive attitude. Get your work done in a timely fashion. Maintain a professional composure — dress appropriately, don't diss your fellow interns and  try to stay in consistent contact with your supervisor.

In all of this, it's easy to forget the most important piece of advice I wish someone would have told me: Be yourself. Don't try to fake being someone you aren't. While you will want to be the best version of yourself when you are on the job, you'll want to remain as authentic to yourself as you possibly can.

To help those of you who are pursuing careers in the journalism and communications field, University Chic will be hosting at Twitter chat tonight at 9 p.m. ET with Cindy Hatcher, who is a senior editor at Cooking Light magazine. She'll be able to answer your questions on what it's like breaking into the world of journalism and give you advice on what you can expect. Use the #UChic hashtag to join our conversation. We hope to see you there!


Image: digitalart /

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