USM grads move up with internship experience

University of Southern Missisippi graduates have proven that gaining skills in their fields through internships has major advantages in their careers. These experiences allow students and graduates to meet qualifications when applying for their first post-graduation jobs. In today’s competitive job industry, employers are looking for applicants who have prior experience in their fields, and graduating students with internships under their belts are top picks.

The NACE Foundation funded a study that examined the benefits of unpaid internships. The study found that students who participated in unpaid internships were more likely to say the experience helped them to verify or change career interests, set career goals and network. Also, students who participated in unpaid internships were more likely to say the experience was beneficial in understanding academic work.

Every person met in an internship is a contact, whether he or she can offer advice, referrals or a letter of recommendation.

Serena Buckley graduated from Southern Miss with a master’s degree in economic development. To fulfill a graduate program requirement, Buckley participated in a three-month paid internship with the Katy Area Economic Development Council (EDC) in Katy, Texas in 2015.

“During this internship, I was able to employ strategies and witness real-world applications of the economic development practices I was studying as a graduate student,” she said. “The internship gave me a foot in the door.”

Buckley said she was hired on the spot at an interview with the EDC.

“Overall, this internship afforded me an extended professional network, the opportunity to work with new software, a chance to ‘test the waters’ as a collegian and the confidence to move my career forward in a field relevant to community and economic development,” she said.

Broadcast journalism major Alexis Ware graduated last May. She has participated in two internships – one paid and the other unpaid.

“I did the internship at the Jackson Free Press while I was in school, and it helped me gain a lot for some of the skills I would later need in my upper level course as well as working for other newspapers as a paid employee,” Ware said. “I chose to intern for the JFP because, during that time, I did not have much experience in my field of journalism, and it was the summer before my senior year, so I knew I needed that experience.”

Ware currently freelance reports. Her paid internship was with National Public Radio (NPR).

“I did my internship at NPR right after I graduated, so I chose to do that for a stepping pad to launch my career,” Alexis Ware. “It was a great experience, and at the end of the summer I was offered a temporary position, but I decided to go a different direction career-wise.”

Kristen Dupard graduated in December 2016 with a degree in biochemistry. She is currently an intern in the United States Senate as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

“I chose to do this internship because of the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill,” Dupard said. “Given my interests in health policy and health law, Capitol Hill is a space in which I can learn and put those acquired skills to work. Opportunities for professional school and employment present themselves daily. Washington, D.C. is a place saturated with opportunity.”

Whether or not an internship is paid, it can add to students’ academic experiences and prepare them for what they plan to do in the future. Internships allow people to test their skills and knowledge and end the day with more than money in their pockets.