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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Programs stress intern importance

For many college students, interning is a crucial step to success, so much so that more than 1 million Americans hold internships each year.

Many programs at the UA, such as journalism and political science, strongly suggest that students participate in at least one internship during their undergraduate career. As a result, students are often bombarded with internship opportunities. Determining which internships will be valuable requires time, research and commitment.

“You can’t just apply for things just to apply, or just to have something on your resume,” said Amber Mask, a political science senior and former intern with Arizona List, an organization that seeks to elect women who are pro-abortion rights into office.

According to NPR, a former intern named Alex Footman and another intern, Eric Glatt, are filing an open class-action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures. Footman is suing because his unpaid internship for the film “Black Swan” was not the learning experiences he signed up for. Footman has also filed for an order that would prevent the company from hiring unpaid interns in the future, according to NPR.

The Department of Labor prohibits unpaid interns from doing secretarial tasks like accounting and filing papers, unless that type of work compares to the kind of training an intern would receive in an educational environment. Unpaid internships must be specifically for the intern’s benefit and the employer cannot gain any direct advantage from the intern’s training.

Footman told NPR he was hoping his internship would help him break into the film industry. Instead, Footman said he spent six months doing paperwork and running errands, all of which went unpaid.

To avoid getting caught in a situation similar to Footman’s, students need to have a clear and complete picture of what an internship requires, said Amanda Armendariz, the internship coordinator and senior academic adviser for the School of Government and Public Policy.

“It’s crucial for students to really ask these questions: What skills will I be asked to bring to the table and what will I be asked to do in your internship?” she said.

Armendariz said securing an internship is critical in today’s competitive job market. Part of her job is finding internships that will engage students and teach them skills that will be useful in the future, she said. Her students are required to evaluate their experiences, and it is these recommendations that Armendariz uses to determine which internships are worthwhile.

Mask said her experience with Arizona List took her “behind the scenes” of politics. During her internship, she assisted in event planning, community organizing and outreach. She met politicians and potential candidates as well.

According to Mask, interns have to be determined, enthusiastic and hard working. Making the most of the experience, she said, takes initiative.

“You can always go to your supervisors and be like ‘Hey listen, I want more work’ or ‘I want to learn how to do this’ or ‘I want to learn how to do that,’” Mask said. “You can get as much experience and as much value out of it as you want.”

According to Harrison Frisk, a sophomore studying chemistry and physics and an intern with Students for Sustainability, the best indication of an internship’s value is the attitude of the interns themselves.

“Talk to the people who are involved and really care about it, because they’ll be able to tell you how it’s going to be for you,” he said. “You can see just how passionate they are about what they’re doing.”

Frisk said interning with the club has been unexpectedly beneficial.

He started out doing marketing, but now he manages the club’s website that he started building from scratch in September. Although he had never planned on doing web design, Frisk said he is applying the skills he learned to projects outside his internship.

“I think some of the biggest things that I’ve learned are things you wouldn’t think of immediately when you were looking at an internship: organizational skills, communication stuff, the ability to manage multiple things, multiple people at the same time … I really didn’t have any of those skills before I started this,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot more out of it than I thought I would have.”

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