Searching for success

April 15, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Undergraduate internships vital to landing post-graduate jobs

News | Patnacia Goodman

Anyone who has seen the 2009 film Post Grad has witnessed Hollywood’s take on the situation that many college graduates face when entering a competitive job market. In the fi lm, Alexis Bledel plays a recent graduate who has difficulty finding a professional job in the wake of the recession. According to a January Reuter’s article on post-grad employment trends, the difficulty is not far from reality.

The article places the unemployment rate for recent grads at around seven percent, with variations depending on major, and the underemployment rate, employment in jobs which degree holders are overqualified for, at around 37 percent and rising as of mid-2013.

With this knowledge of the job market, the question arises of what Bethel students are and should be doing to put their foot in the proverbial door.

Journalism professor and internship advisor Phyllis Alsdurf acknowledges how difficult it can be for students to begin looking for internships and making post-graduation plans while taking classes.

“What students often fail to realize is that they may find that more doors open for them when they are enrolled in classes than afterward. Many professionals are eager to give informational interviews and advice to students preparing for a certain profession.”

Alsdurf urges students to apply for internships as early as they can in their academic careers and to get involved in extracurricular activity and volunteer work.

“Look for ways to be of service and provide the extra edge that other interns or volunteers do not. Probably more than anything, people notice your work ethic and the quality of your character. Those things speak volumes, and this is an area where Bethel students have a reputation of excellence.”

Senior Amber Nehotte recognized how volunteer work aided her when she began applying for jobs this school year.

Nehotte, a biology major, knew she wanted to be involved in education and work with human development rather than research. That desire led her to apply for Teach for America in the fall of 2013, but when she was not hired she had to look for other opportunities.

While compiling a list of options including teaching abroad, a Google search led Nehotte to a holistic, sustainable living program in Hawaii called Pacific Quest that works with at-risk youth. After a few months of prayer and encouraging conversation, Nehotte applied and was offered a job to work with adolescents in the program.

“My experience fit perfectly into what they were looking for. Without the skills I gathered from the nine years I spent working with at-risk youth at camp and the two I’ve spent as an RA, I feel like I wouldn’t have had applicable things to talk about in my application and interview because they questions were very experience based.”

Nehotte added how helpful it was to have a networked contact to talk to while in the process.

Networking can happen through many venues in this age. LinkedIn, a social networking website for professional networking, can be a great tool for college students. “LinkedIn can be very useful, especially for connecting Bethel students with alumni in their fields who can be valuable resources for informational interviews and job-seeking advice,” Alsdurf said.

Alsdurf also talked about showing initiative both in finding internships and establishing an impressive work ethic.

“A couple years ago one of our graduates had a highly competitive internship at the Star Tribune. Her commitment to the job and “smaller” stories led to some great assignments, and as a result, she was asked to stay on to do freelance work after the internship ended.”

December 2013 grad Marcus Eckert also experienced his internship lead to a full-time job offer. As a business finance major with a double minor in Biblical and Theological Studies and leadership, Eckert put off getting an internship while taking a full credit load. The reality of making post-graduation plans really hit him senior year after watching his friends find success in their job searches.

“I began the process of looking for jobs, but knew I needed my internship first, which is why I highly recommend not doing what I did in putting off an internship. I ended up having to stay an extra semester because of that.”

He began his search by talking to his professors and attending the MN Private College Internship & Job Fair. After networking with a few companies Eckert decided he did not want to work for a large company, and instead shifted his focus to non-profits and organizations aimed at impacting people directly.

“Last summer I emailed the Business Department’s placement coordinator, Lela Sanchez Oslin. She forwarded me a posting or Eagle Brook Church in their business operations/expansion department and I felt the fit was perfect.

What began as a three-month internship in August turned into a full-time job for Eckert. His responsibilities as “Ministry Expansion Coordinator” include working with finances as well as overseeing all business operations dealing with church expansion. While it isn’t what he thought he’d be doing as a student, Eckert sees his job as “tangibly carrying out the great commission”, which he finds very rewarding.

The overwhelming advice for Bethel students is to begin preparation for post-graduation plans early. Students can begin their search for internships and jobs by visiting the Office of Career Development and Calling for information on job fairs, workshops and one-one-one career counseling. They can also talk to professors within their departments for possible internship opportunities.

Alsdurf encourages students to take initiative by looking at professional networks that feature job and internship listings, and to be willing to look in locations outside of the immediate metro area.

“Think of the job search as a gigantic puzzle to be solved, she said. "There are many ways to get to the end goal of a job in your field; use the job search itself as a way to demonstrate what sets you apart from the many others who are vying for that job.”

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