Internships at ASU offer real-world opportunities
It’s a classic win-win situation played out daily in the halls and offices of businesses and organizations throughout the greater Phoenix metropolitan area – employer reaps the benefits of up-and-coming college students with unbridled enthusiasm and a plethora of new ideas, and said students receive a healthy dose of reality while experiencing life in the work-a-day world first-hand.
Across Arizona State University, colleges and programs offer real-world opportunities to students seeking a complement to their classroom education. Internships range from the entrepreneurial to the more traditional, and in a challenged economy businesses are taking note.
“We are very excited to have a relationship with ASU, and the standard has been very high,” says Fionn Downhill of Elixir Interactive, where New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences applied computing major Ashley Reichelt has been serving an internship since December. “These students bring a fresh face and are willing to help and do a lot of the work that doesn’t get done without them.
“Ashley is learning what it takes to be a part of a professional team and how to interact with team members. She is learning real-life business issues and how to be a part of the solution.”
Reichelt, who is concentrating on digital media and graphic design in her major, says an internship such as the one she landed at Elixir is a great way for students to test the career waters before getting in too deep. She has also developed an important list of do’s and don’ts she says is critical to fellow students entering into an internship.
“This is a great experience in so many ways,” she says. “In addition to learning new technical skills, a new culture, and how the bottom line fits into the work I am doing, there are also some important lessons to learn that apply immediately in your internship, as well as wherever you go professionally after school.
“By partaking in the internship, I found out more about the career path I had been considering, and I was able to define what I do and don’t like in a work environment,” says West, who minored in ethnic studies during her undergrad days at ASU and is now working fulltime for the Phoenix Boys and Girls Club. “The internship allowed me to be more direct and efficient in my job search and in considering a job offer.”
Like Reichelt, she developed a list she says all prospective interns should heed. West recommends students get on the internship bus early in the game.
“I wish I had pursued the opportunity earlier than my senior year. It gives you the opportunity to really see what it is like to work in a given field, and if that field is right for you.”
She also advises to examine all of your interests and define where your real motivation and passions lie; be open to trying something new, because you might find something that you hadn’t considered that is of interest to you, and still manages to fall within your skill set; try to plan your internship around a light class schedule, as an internship can be more demanding than a college course; and don’t settle for an internship that does not fulfill your expectations.
Both Reichelt and West note that a key to a successful internship is regular contact with the internship advisor. Elaine Jordan is the director of college internships for New College.
“If students start early, well before the semester begins, securing an internship can be quite easy,” says Jordan, who has placed students in positions with companies and agencies ranging from the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (AcTIC) to the state Department of Fish and Game, and from social work to the state capitol. “The list of fields or professions that are available through our internship program is pretty exhaustive, and their representatives are open to working with our students and are very supportive of the program.”
Jordan’s words of advice are simple. “Dress and act professionally and responsibly. Treat the internship like a job, and it may well turn into one."