Baylor professors and students weigh in on intern experience

In fall 2016, Katy junior Didi Martinez, Lariat digital managing editor, had an internship in Washington, D.C., with NBC. Photo credit: Deidre Martinez

The image that comes to mind when many people say “internship” is a young college student frantically running around getting coffee and not getting paid to do so, but the intern experience is much more than that, according to students and professors.

“I think there is no such thing as a bad internship because even a bad one will teach valuable lessons,” Macarena Hernandez, the Fred Hartman Distinguished Professor of Journalism, said. “When I was a sophomore in college, I went to Washington D.C. thinking I would eventually work in politics in some capacity, but I came away realizing what I really wanted to be was a journalist.”

The intern experience can be a significant investment for any company, as they take time and care to recruit and train interns for the hope the intern will come back for a job, according to Forbes.

Dr. Cassy Burleson, a senior lecturer in The Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media, also said companies are more likely to hire someone that has already interned with them because the companies know that the employee already knows the skills necessary for that company.

As Hernandez said, internships can show students where they do want to work, which is just as valuable as learning where a student does want to work. Forbes said the internship experience is mutually beneficial as the company can invest in potential full-time hires and interns can get necessary career experience.

“I think the job market is so competitive that people want to know that you know how to work in an actual environment because a classroom is very different from an office,” Hernandez said. “A company wants to know if they hire you that you’ve already had a three-month experience with a real job. In the long run, that can help you land a better job. It wasn’t enough 20 years ago to graduate with a diploma, so it’s certainly not enough today.”

Another beneficial part of the intern experience is the plethora of opportunities it provides to students. Burleson and Hernandez both said internships are a great way to begin networking and meeting people that may be good connections in the future. Burleson said internships serve as a transition between the school world and the work world as they are a learning experience that teach interns the skills necessary for the career world.

“Through my experiences and conversations with people who are really experts in education in general, it became quite clear that students needed to have more affiliation and experience in work,” Burleson said. “Sort of one foot in the classroom and one foot in the workplace before they actually graduated from both high school and college to make that transition much easier for them and to also show them what they didn’t know.”

Waco senior Mackenzie Stone spent last summer interning with Sewell Infiniti of Dallas and enjoyed it, so she decided to come back for another summer at Sewell Subaru of Dallas. Stone is double majoring in marketing and management and said internships are crucial in her field because they provide a hands-on experience that is not available in a classroom. The benefits from this internship have included networking and applications of theories and ideas learned in class, Stone said.

“When you’re looking for internships, never count anything out,” Stone said. “If you asked me two years ago if I wanted to work at a car dealership, I would say absolutely not. Now, I’m returning for a second internship with Sewell and I could not be happier. It’s also important to pay attention to the people you’ll be surrounded by. Culture is such a major part of a career, and if you don’t like the people you work with, you’re going to have a bad time.”

Burleson said internships are helpful for students of all majors because there are multiple levels to internships. The best way to prepare is to have a good resume that is free of typos and up to date on what qualifies as a good resume, both Burleson and Hernandez said. Don’t wait until the last minute, Hernandez said, because it is a competitive world and it is obvious if a student procrastinated on gathering their materials. Students should have a specific idea for what type of internship they desire and never be intimidated by an internship, Hernandez and Burleson said.

“Be ready to work and learn as you go,” Burleson said. “Be self-sufficient as much as possible- you need to know how to learn.”