Written by: Justin Williams, University of Delaware student (and former award-winning “YoUDee” mascot) & Stokes Creative Group, Inc. Business Development Intern

Whether you are an aspiring engineer or cramming business analytics at a university, you are constantly pressed for time in those daunting four years prior to “the real world.” The crunch time motif stems from societal demands, yet, to excel in a career and “climb the ladder,” it truly is crucial to gain as much experience as you can. Going to college used to be enough, now it’s all about what you do while you are in college that counts just as much as the fact that you completed a degree. It is difficult for college students, often with little to no on-site practice, to beat other experienced job candidates. Those students who have interned have vast advantages over those who have not, including real-life work experience on their resume, better familiarity with the workplace and more connections in their field.

1. BUILDING A FOUNDATION: My recommendation as the golden opportunity to find an internship is in your sophomore year. Why your sophomore year? Here is the answer: Entering your sophomore year you have three years remaining in your academic career, this leaves you with three summers and winters to solidify your intern position. The company you intern with may deeply invest in you to give them a return on that investment; namely, an employee who, upon graduation, will know the ropes and have three years of competitive experience under their belt. Situations like this are where interning not only benefits you but your future employer as well.

2. EXPERIENCE: Traveling the country from New Jersey to New York City, Kansas City, Dallas, Baltimore and Philadelphia is just one example of the experiences I have gained having multiple internships. Based on my own observations, many large companies, local, state or federal government jobs require an accumulation of experience over a period that usually ranges around two to three years. Obviously, this number varies based on what type of job you are pursuing; for example, to be hired as a manager you may need more years whereas a regular entry-level job may only require one or two years.

3. CONSTRUCTING YOUR NETWORK: Building your network is key in the advancement of your personal growth and career goal achievement. I consistently tell people that being successful is all about who you know and how you can retain those connections. Through interning, you can show work ethic, how personable you are and leadership to employers and colleagues – and they can be the ones who write your letters of recommendation or be a reference on your resume.

The goal for any college student should be to surpass their academic achievement by excelling in an internship where they can gain the experience they need for bigger business, higher education, etc. Branch out, apply and succeed through internships; because after all, you are not going to gain experience by just sitting in a classroom all day – we all need to hands-on experience for true growth.

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