Inside every Bruin there is a coffee-getting, paper-stapling, photocopying expert. Could a fall internship be the best time to unleash yours?
As fall quarter begins, so does the desire of every student to furnish their CVs with work experience. The Quad’s guide to securing an internship is here to help you every step of the way.
Why are internships such a popular choice for students who want to be hired?
It all comes down to experiential learning, the umbrella term used to explain the process of learning outside the classroom. This can encompass many different experiences such as an internship, a fellowship or volunteer work.
Christine Wilson, the UCLA Career Center’s interim director, says although students feel pressure to secure internships, they are not the only way to prepare for the postgraduate struggle.
“We also want students to know that they can gain the skills and competencies from a number of different experiences such as on-campus jobs and leadership positions,” said Wilson.
The internship boom
While acquiring skills is a huge part of the popularity of internships, there’s another reason this employment is so desirable: the edge factor.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers found in their Class of 2019 Student Survey that of all graduating seniors that got at least one job offer, 57.5% had an internship on their CV.
The internship phenomenon goes even further. 2018 marked the biggest year of intern conversion rate since 2016, meaning companies are hiring their interns to become full-time employees at a larger rate than previous years.
For Tamara Mmbuka, a fifth-year chemistry/materials science student, internships represent something more.
“I think the experience of having an internship is a huge source of confidence,” she said. “They let you know that you can do it, that you can succeed in the real world.”
Searching for a job today looks a little different than it used to. Recruiters have turned to one of the 21st century’s most powerful tools for hiring: social media. Therefore, it’s important for students to stay connected.
Websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and even Facebook are amazing ways to forge digital connections. However, like any social media platform, these websites give employers a view into your life that old practices didn’t. It’s key that they are maintained responsibly.
The UCLA Career Center advises students to network with UCLA alumni on LinkedIn, follow recruiters in your field, edit and outline your career interests in your profile, use industry-relevant keywords and perhaps most importantly, be patient.
Additionally, UCLA uses a job-search platform called Handshake. On Handshake, you’ll see opportunities specifically tailored to your interests, year, location and more. Handshake also provides something that social media recruitment does not: an added layer of safety.
“The problem is that there are people who have become very good at tricking students, taking advantage of students and ripping them off. With Handshake, you have a lot of information about an employer. If an employer asks for us to set up an account for them, we’re able to see a trust score based on the experiences of other schools who have dealt with them,” Wilson said.
If students choose to apply to internships through social media or any other means, Wilson advises them to use a checklist to make sure their employer is not fraudulent. For example, be cautious if you are being offered a job without an internship and verify your employer has official business email addresses.
Wilson added that students should look for internships everywhere around campus, attend career fairs and talk to professors, developmental officers and fellow students.
How to market yourself
In the world of job-searching, it’s essential to know how to brand yourself. This often comes in the form of a resume, cover letter, interview and possibly even faculty recommendations.
Lana Frazier, a fifth-year political science student who is currently interning as a financial analyst at Great American Group, emphasizes showcasing extracurricular activities. She said she believes an essential part of her getting a recent internship was the fact that she included her self-made eBay business in her resume.
“You should include any work experience, any volunteer work and things that show employers you are doing more than just school,” Frazier said. “The way that you describe these experiences, for example using keywords tailored to the field you want to go into, is very important.”
Wilson also believes that one of the most valuable skills when it comes to resume building and earning experience through internships is the ability to articulate the skills that you have learned.
The Career Center has many resume, cover letter and interview workshops this fall. It will also have specific pop-up opportunities at the Transfer Student Center, Academic Advancement Program and Community Programs Office.
The student budget
Being an intern is expensive. There are important costs such as transportation, housing and clothes. For the average student, having this kind of financial stress without any sort of paycheck can be a burden, making unpaid internships challenging.
An internship can legally be unpaid if the employer is a nonprofit, the student is volunteering or the intern is found to be the primary beneficiary of the employment, which is determined by a seven-step process by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Wilson explains that there are certain industries in which unpaid internships are more common such as entertainment, government and media.
Additionally, if a student is taking an internship in the summer and would like to validate it for credit, they must also pay the university.
“My advice for students who can’t afford an unpaid internship is to check as many outside funding sources as you can. Sometimes you can find scholarships or grants, don’t give up on looking for outside extramural funding sources,” Wilson said.
For help in searching for outside sources of funding, students can also utilize the Scholarship Resource Center.
However, there are also subsidized UCLA programs such as the D.C. Fellows Summer in Washington Program. Mmbuka said that while in D.C., UCLA was able to take care of her rent and make the experience more worthwhile.
A balancing act
Maintaining an internship takes hard work, as UCLA students navigate the field of experiential learning while also looking out for their academics.
An important resource for students is the UCLA Center for Community Learning, where you can arrange internship credit by enrolling in a 195CE internship course. This fall, they will be taking appointments from Wednesday to Oct. 11. Additionally, you can earn credit through specific departmental programs, available at each department’s website.
Once you’ve got your internship, it can be a challenge to balance it with academics. Frazier suggests scheduling classes as close together as possible to maximize time.
Securing an internship is no easy feat, but for many students, it’s worth the struggle. When you’re sitting in the lobby waiting for that job interview, a strong resume filled with relevant experience can give you the confidence you need to make sure the person who shakes your hand will want you on their team.