Importance of internship experience

Samantha Martin is a current senior at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. She is a Sociology major and has a minor in Psychology. She was recently inducted into Alpha Kappa Delta, the International Sociology Honors Society. Her current research interests include Race, Gender, Inequity in Education, Juvenile Criminalization and Incarceration, as they relate to the School to Prison Pipeline. She currently works as a research assistant in the Policy Research Collaborative at Roosevelt University, as well as a Field Interviewer for the Survey Research Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Samantha has been accepted into the Accelerated Master’s Program in Sociology at Roosevelt University and ultimately plans on attaining a PhD in Sociology. She also has plans on developing intervention and restorative justice programs in Chicago to assist impoverished, delinquent, and gang affiliated youth in their social, educational, and professional development.

“What in the world are you going to do with that major?”
Here we go again. It’s the holiday season, and that means tons of awkward questions from your family members. “How’s college going?”; “What are you studying?”; “What do you plan on doing with [insert liberal arts/humanities subject here].”
As a sociology student, nobody in my family seems to understand what I’m doing at college and assume that I want to be a social worker or a psychologist. It’s absolutely infuriating. But have you actually ever thought about it? Maybe you do want to be a psychologist, or maybe you have a passion for broadcast journalism, or maybe you haven’t thought about it at all. While you’d probably rather stuff your face with macaroni and cheese than answer your obnoxious uncle’s questions about what you plan on doing with your life three years from now, it might be worth it to take some serious consideration: internships are a great way to figure that out.
Let’s face it. Even if you do have a clear idea of what you want to pursue, nobody is going to hand you that career without any related experience underneath your belt. Nowadays, entry level jobs require more than just your degree, and that part-time retail job might not make the cut. Not to mention, you might get to that job market and find out that what you are doing isn’t really what you had in mind in the first place.
So where do you start? It’s going to be different for every field, but the best place to look for answers is going to be at your school. Schedule an appointment with your advisor, and talk to them about what you might think you want to do with your major. They may have a program of interest at your college, or they may be able to guide you to specific programs or local organizations that offer undergraduate internships in your field. Regardless of your field of study, there are always opportunities lingering around.
If you still can’t find anything, don’t fret! You can always make your own internship. If you know of a place that offers the kinds of career that you see for yourself, but does not formally offer internships, give their office a call or an email and ask them if they need any extra help. Some people are always willing to have some extra hands around, especially if you show some initiative. While this route will almost always end up in an unpaid opportunity, the unique experience you get will be so much more rewarding in the long run. My first experience was an unpaid research internship in one of the learning departments at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois. Although my wallet took a punch, I had my first opportunity to work independently and experience a real working environment in my field. More importantly, though, it showed me what I did not like about that kind of job and helped me figure out what I needed to do differently for the career I actually wanted.
That first experience has opened the door to many other internships during my college career, as well as a clear pathway after I graduate this spring. So do yourself a favor, and start seeking out an internship now. Not only will it help you proudly respond to your family’s attempts to diminish your field of study, but you will be experienced, confident, and prepared for the next steps after graduation day.
Samantha Martin
Senior, Roosevelt University
Chicago, Illinois

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