They work hard for the experience

More and more students are dedicating their spare time to an internship, often sacrificing a steady paycheck for the opportunity to build a resume and gain work experience before graduation.

Internships help companies test potential employees while allowing students to explore career opportunities and network with professionals, says Richard Leger, director of Boston University’s Office of Career Services.

“Internships are getting more important as time goes on,” he said. “It’s one of those win-win situations.”

Many students supplement their classwork with internships during the school year, and even more spend their summers working as interns. Summer positions are often paid in order to offset living expenses.

“In general, you can’t learn this stuff sitting in the classroom,” said College of Communication senior Angela Shaw, who is currently interning at WBZ Channel 4. “You have no idea what it’s like unless you’re there, and experience is a prerequisite for getting a job.”

Shaw is receiving two credits for her work and said most of her learning is done by observation and shadowing.

Her responsibilities include manning phones and fax machines, checking on police and fire reports, tagging along with reporters, watching editing procedures and learning about graphics.

“It’s not the coffee fetching that everyone thinks it is,” she said.

Catherine Croteau, a COM senior, is also interning this semester. Now at the magazine Walking, her first internship was at Neighborhood Network News freshman year.

A junior year internship at the Beacon Hill Times, a small neighborhood weekly newspaper, led to a paid position there last summer.

Her experience at the Beacon Hill Times made Crouteau appreciate a smaller working environment.

“I can’t stress how good it is to work at a small place,” she said. “[In larger offices] you could find yourself filing and just have a name on your resume, not real experience. Smaller places have the time to teach you. It’s a very beneficial relationship.”

One of the hardest elements of an internship, however, is that many of them are unpaid.

Croteau noted that “making money isn’t a guarantee,” with an internship and it isn’t always possible to save cash.

“If you can deal with being poor for a while, the up side is that you get a lot of experience and it will help you get a job,” she said.

Croteau chose experience over money and, for now at least, she is unable to afford her own apartment when she graduates in December. Some think the sacrifice is worth it in the long run; Leger says the benefits of unpaid internships outweigh the burdens.

“The beauty is the experience they give you and the entrance into that arena,” he said. “Sometimes, internships end up becoming full time jobs or students get hired after they graduate.”

While students can start looking for internships as early as freshman year, Leger said sophomore year is a very good time to begin. The summer between junior and senior year is often considered the ideal time for internships.

“There is never a better time than right now to look,” said Leger. “What you need to do is assess the resources where internships are mentioned. The Internet is a great tool.”

Internship opportunities can be found on the Boston University website, as well as at the Office of Career Services at 19 Deerfield Street, third floor. Many companies have related information on their sites, as well, and most BU colleges offer their own internship offices.

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