Internships: Edging Past the Competition

by Sarah Borich- Cedarville, OH

    It helps to have an edge. And while Cedarville University students receive world-class instruction from their professors as they prepare to pursue careers in their chosen fields, the wise collegian knows that a degree and a good GPA simply aren’t enough in an increasingly competitive job market. To succeed, they need real life, hands-on experience.

    Enter internships. Jeff Reep, assistant director of career services, stresses the importance of these short-term forays into the professional world. “A student who graduates with only a degree is at a disadvantage,” he explains. “They’ll be competing against other graduates who have had two or even three internships.”

    Fortunately, Cedarville students have an outstanding reputation among businesses and organizations that offer internships. Networking is key, and Cedarville’s career services knows how to network well. Reep says, “Often, if we get our first intern in a company, it opens doors for future internship opportunities for other students.”

The Network Edge (Marketing)
    Networking came in handy for senior marketing major Katie Pelon, who recently completed an internship with Chick-fil-A. The Cary, North Carolina, native spent the summer in south Florida as captain of a traveling marketing team. Having worked for her local Chick-fil-A for six years, she used her connections to obtain the home office internship, but still relied on career services for support.

    “They were very encouraging and constantly checked back to see how things were progressing,” says Pelon. “Applying for jobs is a waiting game, and they coached me through that process.”

    Her team equipped Chick-fil-A owner-operators and team members to carry out the company’s sales and brand growth strategy and to develop area-specific marketing tactics. Pelon’s supervisor Kanika Patrick says, “We prepare interns for the future by giving them challenging positions in which leadership, decision-making and time management skills are of utmost importance. All these skills are necessary to succeed in corporate America.”

    Pelon agrees. “I learned so much in my classes, but being able to have actual experience makes it tangible.”

    “She was excellent at rallying the troops,” Patrick adds, “and a great influence to all around her.”

The Hands-on Edge (International Studies)
    Tangible experience is also coming in handy for Laura Walach, a senior international studies major from Smithfield, Rhode Island. She spent her summer interning at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., where career services director Lew Gibbs personally handed in her application.

    Walach says she “did a little bit of everything” while she learned hands-on principles of leadership and organization. After graduation, she plans to pursue a degree in culinary arts and to travel and study abroad before returning to the district.

The Experience Edge (Political Science)
    Senior Tom Borck also spent his summer in Washington, gaining real-life experience in his field. After learning of an opportunity through career services, the political science major interned with Prison Fellowship Ministries. Borck’s many responsibilities during his internship included tracking important legislation, writing articles and memos, planning events, attending lectures, and even lobbying Congress.

    “My internship definitely helped me understand what life is like in D.C.,” the Toledo native says. “I learned things that could not have been taught in a classroom. My internship also gave me several contacts that I can refer back to for guidance and potential jobs.”

The Teamwork Edge (Accounting and Finance)
    A job has already materialized for senior accounting and finance major Devin Krupka of Hartly, Delaware, through his summer internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Baltimore office. Through the help of career services and a Cedarville alum working for PwC, he was chosen for the internship and spent his summer assisting clients in a variety of industries.

    “It was an opportunity to see what auditors who work in public accounting really do,” says Krupka. “It also taught me the importance of teamwork and networking to your career.” He will start his full-time position with PwC next fall.

The Early Edge (Mechanical Engineering)
    Michael Steele, a junior mechanical engineering student, isn’t waiting until his senior year to get a jump on the job competition. He recently completed an internship at the NASA Glenn Research Center Mechanical Components branch in Cleveland, where he performed research and tests in the area of vehicle-soil interaction for lunar applications.

    “My internship gave me a good glimpse of what working for the federal government is like,” he says. “It also gave me good hands-on experience while working on real experiments.”

    Though just a small sample of the hundreds of Cedarville students who are landing exciting internships with big-name organizations, these five demonstrate the value of laying the groundwork for a successful career long before the ink dries on the diploma.