Career Services director gives advice to students in preparation of graduation

Aside from the academic and social aspects of college, the anticipated outcome of gaining higher education is to not only increase a person’s academic background but also to aid in the job-hunting and career-making process which takes place post-college.

In an attempt to bring peace to students who find themselves in this confusing point in their college careers, Pan Laughlin, director of Career Services at Sam Houston State University, offered her expert advice on the internship and job-hunting experiences.

According to Laughlin, every student should strive to complete at least one internship prior to graduation. The majority of students apply for said opportunities during their junior years and, upon being hired, work in these positions during the summer prior to their senior year.

“The benefits of an internship are many,” Laughlin said. “Employers want to see evidence of an internship and work experience on a student’s résumé. The student gains valuable experience outside the classroom. It’s a ‘win-win’ for both the student and his or her employer in that both get to see if there is a good fit between the two. About half of internships result in full-time job offers from the company – the successful intern has a proven track record and is less of a hiring risk.”

Some of the aspects of internship opportunities that students should take into consideration when applying include whether or not they will receive academic credit for the internship, whether or not the internship is paid, where the internship is located and how relevant the experience is to anticipated career goals.

“[Students] should check with their academic program to see if there is already an established major-specific internship program,” Laughlin said. “If so, there already may be established lists of employers who hire interns from that particular college or their major and/or minor academic program. The student is more likely to earn course credits for their internship if it is approved by their academic department chair or the dean of their college.”

According to Laughlin, although every student is different and each academic program is unique, having an internship experience prior to graduation can increase a student’s chances of having a job either waiting for them upon graduation or soon after.

“There are many types of internship opportunities available so it is important to become aware of these opportunities early in a student’s academic career and as soon as possible to find those that most directly align with his or her career goals,” she said.

As far as tackling the “real world” goes, Laughlin said students should begin applying for jobs by at least the start of their senior year in college.

“The job should be a good fit in terms of the student’s interests, skills, personality and work-related values,” Laughlin said. “The students should try to determine what the culture of the organization is like by visiting their website, asking questions and being observant during on-site visits. Students obviously will want to know about salary and equally important, benefits offered by the organization but never should ask about these during the first interview. Discussions about salary and benefits should happen during subsequent interviews or when the job offer is made.”

Laughlin said students can begin preparing for their futures post-college, during college.

“The students can have a well-rounded resume by maintaining a good GPA, being active in campus and community organizations, volunteering, establishing good networking skills to gain helpful referrals and recommendations and showing evidence of work and internship experiences,” she said. “Learning a second language or gaining special skills in an industry-specific area is beneficial too.”

Career Services is a program dedicated to preparing students for future internship and career opportunities by offering a wide variety of services students can benefit from utilizing.

“We offer resume-writing and cover-letter writing assistance, face-to-face and online mock interviews, workshops, over nine job fairs, employer information sessions and on-campus interviews with employers,” Laughlin said. “We have friendly and professional career counselors and an employment specialist whose passion is to assist SHSU students and alumni in all things career-related.”

Although maintaining GPA’s and gaining work experience during college is an important part in pursuing long-term career goals, according to Laughlin one of the most beneficial aspects students should also work on is cultivating relationships.

“I would encourage them to make the most of their college experience and to use the resources available to them designed to help facilitate their success while at SHSU and beyond,” Laughlin said. “I would encourage them to start with the end in mind, to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to the career decision making process…and I would encourage them to start early. Finally, I would encourage them to find a mentor while they are in college and also the first year they are beginning their new career—these people can be instrumental in keeping them on track and in providing the wisdom and encouragement necessary for success.”

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