Every morning when I walk outside, I see the view of the nation’s Capitol. Coming from South Central Los Angeles, I am doing the unimaginable. I told my high school counselor I wanted to be lawyer and a public servant and she told me to “just attend a community college and pick up a trade like doing hair.” I was often told I wouldn’t be college material, and I stand today as proof that I am. Dillard University gave me the chance to become “college material” and to work hard toward my goal of being a lawyer. An internship put me closer to realizing that I can be a lawyer and public servant with enough dedication.
In 2012, the Associated Press reported that nearly 53 percent of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the end of 2010, black Americans, 25 years old and older, with a college education had an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent, while the rate for white college graduates was 4.2 percent.
Understanding the importance of securing an internship before your senior year may help to build your resume and give you practical experience in your field – something that you can offer your employer after graduation day. There are four main steps to finding an internship:
Check out all available resources. There are so many internships programs! it is up to you to do the research to find them. If you are interested in public policy, law, or government, consider the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s internship program. They will place you in a congressional or federal office, house you, and give you the tools necessary to succeed during the internship and when the internship is over. Also utilize your school’s career centers; there are so many programs and opportunities for students, especially black students, attending HBCU’s that should be taken advantage of. You should also do your research online for programs. UNCF (United Negro College Fund) has internships for students from all fields, including STEM.
Develop the perfect resume. Include your community service, previous work experience, skills that can be transferrable to the internship you want, research and involvement in organizations related to that particular field. Companies and organizations want to see that you are knowledgeable about the field, and have taken the extra effort to learn more.
Engage in some soul searching. You have to understand what you are passionate about. If you grossed out about blood, maybe taking an internship at a hospital’s emergency room isn’t the best idea. Be real with yourself and understand where you can seriously see yourself. Your internship should be the lens that takes a peek into your future. If your lens is a little disoriented, take time to think of what needs to be done to clear it up.
APPLY! Most summer internships have application deadlines in late winter and early spring. You must do the research and ensure you have everything in on time. Also, keep in mind that most internship programs will require a letter of recommendation, your resume, an essay explaining why you should be selected, and a copy of your transcript.
You have to be in charge of your professional development and career. And although some internships are not paid, understand that the experience that you will gain is worth more than money. Judge Greg Mathis once said, “most college students do not have the foresight to recognize that the knowledge gained and contacts made while working for nothing may soon prove their weight in gold.” An internship is definitely worth your time and effort.
Nicole A. Tinson is a Political Science Major from Los Angeles, California. She is a Junior at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nicole has interned with the Mellon Foundation, Superbowl XLVII, and is currently a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Emerging Leaders Intern working in the office of Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (LA-02).