Over the past few months, I’ve had almost two dozen students come to my office expressing concern about their future.
Some are graduating seniors who now see the error of not having an internship in their fields of choice. Others are underclassmen who read the news and see the bleak prospects for employment in the years ahead.
Attending Lincoln has its advantages, but one of the distinct disadvantages is its location. When the closest city— Philadelphia — is 45 miles away and there is no public transportation to get there, students are often disconnected from opportunities. Even smaller Pennsylvania cities such as Lancaster and West Chester can take up to two hours by bus.
That’s why I organized an intern forum this week for mass communication majors. I asked a few of my friends in the business — a news director for NBC, a public affairs director for Radio One and a recruiter for INROADS, the minority internship program — to speak to Lincoln students about what they need to do to find opportunities.
The panelists agreed that finding face was the most important thing to do. Applying for an internship online or at job fairs often fails to distinguish applicants from one another. But the conversations students can have with a person with hiring power can have a significant impact.
They also noted that even for seniors, it’s not too late to find an internship. One of my panelists, Jay Nwachu, founder of the free resume review Web site remainemployable.com, said he didn’t get his first internship until he was close to graduating. He worked minimum wage for close to six months after graduating but it paid off in the end.
The panelists also noted the importance of confidence and comfort when entering an internship. A lot of my students have expressed anxiety about applying for jobs and internships because they don’t know what to say.
But sharing a life story goes a long way in distinguishing the great internship/job candidates from the rest.
After the panel, more than 40 students lined up to speak to the panelists. While not every one of them will get an internship as a result, most of them now know what they need to do to make themselves marketable for the increasingly scarce opportunities in the professional fields.
Once they do get these opportunities, I hope they can pay it forward.