Internships and on-campus jobs are typical ways for students to gain real-world experience, but many students choose to add a different kind of experience on their journeys to becoming professionals.
Many school organizations offer positions that give college students the chance to manage other students — an experience that some students say is more valuable than working at the bottom of the office ladder.
Ithaca College television-radio student Nick Jurczak serves as the program director for VIC, an online, student-run radio station. He said he believes that, even though the position is incredibly time-consuming, the benefits of the job outweigh that of an internship.
“I really like having a professional job as opposed to being an intern,” he said. “People look up to you as an example … while I feel that being an intern, there are a lot of negative connotations.”
Research firm Intern Bridge found in a 2010 study that 75% of students complete an internship before they graduate, compared to the 3% of undergraduates that interned in the early 1980s. This shows that students are more interested in gaining professional experience before they graduate and are required to apply for jobs.
Will Sisskind, a student at Ithaca College and a current production intern at Conan, said that club leadership positions can be just as important as internships in regard to a student’s employability.
“I think that in both club leadership roles and internships, it depends on the responsibilities the person assumes during their tenure,” Sisskind said. “An internship might only ask [interns] to push papers around and answer phones, and a club president might have to deal with logistics and inter-organization crises.”
Leadership roles in on-campus organizations attract positive attention from potential employers, according to a recent post on InternQueen.com. Running a club or serving on a leadership committee can provide hands-on experience while also displaying initiative and managerial skills, but not every club position teaches students the same skill set.
Steph Machado, a Syracuse University student majoring in broadcast journalism, works for CitrusTV News as a producer and a reporter. Having worked for CitrusTV News in multiple capacities, Machado understands the differences between the students’ roles and the individual perspective each comes with.
“When I’m producing a show, oftentimes people don’t show up for their positions,” Machado said. “It’s frustrating because although we are all college students and we aren’t getting paid, we still need everyone to show up on time. On the flipside, I definitely have resented my executive producer or news director when they want me to go shoot a story and I just want to take a nap.”
Not only do students have more chances to learn about more fields outside of their major, but they also are exposed to more social opportunities, ranging from creating friendships to learning how to handle stresses in between co-workers.
“I consider myself to have two attitudes: one dedicated to work and the other to my personal life,” Jurczak said. “I find it important not to place my social life ahead of the job itself. If something happens between a friend and myself outside of the job, I do my best to keep it outside of the actual job. There is some strain between my employees and myself at times.”
“I think it is hard to ignore your feelings about a person just because you leave work,” Machado said. “If someone does something at the station that makes me mad, I will still be mad at them when I see them out at the bar. If they disrespect me outside of the station, I will be pissed off when we are at work, but I will be cordial since we have a job to do.”
Ultimately, professionalism is key.
“Being in a position of great power takes some learning to do it correctly,” Jurczak said. “But the main repercussions end up being more personal.”
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