Director of Career Services Julie Janik made it clear how passionate young college students at the University of Dallas can pursue and cultivate their interests.
“If you really love something, you’ll do it beyond just homework,” Janik said. “Your choices show where your heart lies. If you aren’t compelled to do something, then maybe you’re not interested in that field.”
One way of pursuing interests outside of the classroom besides volunteering and participating in related extracurricular activities is interning in a prospective field.
“Internships can help you rule things in and rule things out,” Janik said. “You may think you want to do one thing but learn that’s not the case. [Internships] are an important part of the discernment process.”
Working as an intern can provide a college student with valuable work experience that can often be the deciding factor when employers are trying to choose between two otherwise equally qualified employees.
UD students of all ages and majors have had internships with institutions both unknown and prestigious, local and distant, ranging from Hewlet-Packard and Dallas’ George W. Bush Presidential Library to the U.S. Department of State and the World Youth Alliance at the United Nations.
Senior Anna Schnoebelen interned last year as a formulation chemist with NCH Corporation, across the street from UD.
“I was tasked with product development and reformulation and subsequent testing steps of the new or reformulated products,” Schnoebelen said. “I mostly worked with the pet product line and also with cleaning products. For example, [in] one product the company already had used a certain chemical that recently got really expensive, so I used a different chemical and attempted to get the same results.”
Schnoebelen said she heard about the internship from a friend who recently graduated from UD and currently works at NCH.
“She gave a recommendation for me to the manager and they kept me in contact to fill out an application and come do an interview,” Schnoebelen said. “It was more internal than external, so networking is really an important skill to develop.”
The Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) tries to make networking easy for students by inviting employers specifically searching for UD students to campus and by notifying students through the Remind system of time-sensitive job leads and upcoming events.
Still, Janik said, she often finds students resistant to the idea of attending career fairs and interning.
“I hear students here saying they don’t want desk jobs, but [then] what are you really saying?” Janik said. “There’s a kind of arrogance there. No job is meaningless. A job you think is low-level is probably essential. If you’re curious about how what you’re doing fits into the big picture, ask. Everyone has to do drudgery, but this is what makes you great. There’s so much power that a good employee holds, and most people don’t realize that.”
Janik added that according to a survey of recently graduated UD students, a high percentage did not intern during their time in college and only 23 percent volunteered once a month or more, despite UD’s mission of service.
“We have more opportunities than students interested,” Janik said, adding that Charity Week’s volunteer fair often fails to garner significant interest among students. “I know some students think they’re too busy [with school] to intern, but that’s just not good work/life/student balance. Other schools are hard, too, but those people manage to get things done.”
Schnoebelen said that while having an internship during the school year presented scheduling difficulties, she learned time management skills that helped her balance her internship and course load.
Janik emphasized that besides weakening resumes, reluctance to apply for internships and volunteer positions leaves students unaware of the diversity beyond the UD Bubble.
“When you intern, you’re opening up your eyes to others,” Janik said. “You gain empathy and learn others’ opinions in the workplace. It’s like the first line of The Great Gatsby . . . ‘Remember that all the people in this world haven’t the advantages that you’ve had.’ You really learn that when you intern.”
Schnoebelen and Janik offered advice for students who have decided to apply for internships or who are just beginning their first days on the job.
“I would recommend for people to think about how many hours an internship will be, also including time to and from the job,” Schnoebelen said. “I think it’s really important to have a strong resume tailored to the position for which you’re being interviewed … I found it’s always better to ask lots of questions, and to try and get to know my coworkers on a more personal level.”
Janik also emphasized the importance of being inquisitive and curious while adding a few tips of her own.
“Always write thank you notes, and keep in touch after your internship,” Janik said.
She said these proactive steps, while seemingly small and perhaps bothersome to students who already feel too busy, make all the difference for new college graduates looking for work.
“It takes discipline,” Janik said. “But you have to dip your toe into the pond if you want to change the world.”