UB students and faculty talk about the importance of internships

Internships help students put their best foot forward


Emma Callinan has always planned on pursuing a career in event planning. Last summer, Callinan landed an internship at Brilliant Event Planning in New York City and said the experience was invaluable.

About 56 percent of recent graduates who did not have an internship during college have full-time jobs in their field, according to a survey conducted by Gallup and Purdue University. But the survey found 71 percent of students who did have an internship have full-time jobs in their field. Because of statistics like these, UB professors and faculty in Career Services stress the importance of students landing internships as a first step to working in their desired field.

“Seeing that I’m a communication major and there aren’t any classes offered at UB on event planning, this was definitely the experience I needed to eventually work my way up to where I want to be in the professional world,” said Callinan, a senior. “I have told people time and time again that I feel as if I learned more at [my] internship than I ever learned in any class.”

Internship experience is also taken into account when applying for undergraduate and graduate programs.

Terry Connell is the director of admissions for the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences (IGPBS) as well as the director of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). Hundreds of applications a year make their way into his office and he always looks for two things in each applicant: internship experience and previous experience in the field, Connell said.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago that Connell realized just how important internships were.

Connell reviewed a stunning application from a student for the IGPBS. With a 4.0 grade point average, impressive GRE scores and glowing letters of recommendation, the applicant’s lack of an internship and research experience seemed unimportant.

The applicant was accepted and the hiring was a success. At first.

The student ended up being “a natural” at research. She studied in Connell’s lab and became one of his favorite and best students.

But one day she came into lab and told Connell, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Although the applicant’s talent in the research field was unaffected by her lack of undergraduate experience, the field just wasn’t what she thought it would be.

Internships are necessary to fully understanding a potential career, according to Connell. Connell rarely considers applicants who have no internship and field experience to avoid situations like the one the student found herself in – wanting to quit the program.

Derek Ellefsen, a senior civil engineering major, had a similar experience to Connell’s hire. But his story had a different ending.

Last summer, Ellefsen got an internship at STV Group, Inc., a firm offering engineering, architectural, planning, environmental and construction management services.

Before interning at STV, Ellefsen wasn’t sure he wanted to continue studying civil engineering.

“Throughout my college career, I took several required classes for my major that made me doubt whether or not I wanted to continue along the civil engineering path,” Ellefsen said.

Working in the real world showed Ellefsen that he didn’t need some of the classes he took since he wouldn’t have to deal with those specific subjects in his everyday life. The experience solidified his interest in engineering as a potential career, he said.

Internship experience not only gave Ellefsen a better idea of his prospective field, but also gave him an advantage when he applied for a job.

Ellefsen said networking was the most important result of his internship. Ellefsen was hired to work full time at STV Group, Inc. once he graduates.

“I was able to work with so many other companies that have positions within them similar to the one I will be filling with STV. I know from talking to my boss that offers will roll in from other companies once I start working on the job site,” Ellefsen said. “I will be able to shop around for positions that suit my needs better as I grow older and wish to relocate and work somewhere else.”

Internships may make hunting for a job easier and the internship hunt can be relatively easy, too, according to Callinan, who found her internship online.

“To many people’s surprise, I just Googled event planning companies in New York City and applied to a couple that came up in my search,” Callinan said.

But for students who find the internship application process daunting, UB’s Career Services offers practice interviews and helps students build their resumes.

An interview is a student’s best opportunity to show an employer that he or she is the best candidate for the position. In an interview, students can show how their experience and personality fit the position’s organizational needs, according to UB’s Career Services website.

Students who are seeking help about how to find, apply for and succeed in an internship can go to UB’s Career Services at 259 Capen Hall weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Students can call the office to schedule an hour of counseling or a 20-minute express appointment.

Editor’s note: Emma Callinan worked on The Spectrum’s advertisement staff for the 2013-14 academic year.

Sophia McKeone is a features staff writer and can be contacted at features@ubspectrum.com