AU’s Class of 2012 set a new school record with 90 percent of responding graduates completing one or more internships during their time at the university.
“AU has developed an extraordinary culture of learning by doing,” says Gihan Fernando, executive director of the Career Center. “Experiential education plays a critical role in students’ career development.”
AU’s capital location offers students a unique advantage when it comes to interning because they can be competitive year-round. And when it’s time to convert those internships into jobs, AU students can be particularly tenacious in turning short-term employment into long-term careers.
Google Maps: see where AU students are interning this spring.
Of course, transitioning an internship into a part-time or full-time job isn’t easy—and neither Erin Greenawald, CAS/BA '12; Amanda Zimmer, SOC/BA '12; nor Carolyn Reynolds, SIS/BA '11, pretends it was simple. But patience and hard work can pay off, they say.
Reynolds began as an outreach/programs intern with the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Fulbright Scholar Program. When her semester-long internship ended, Reynolds hoped to take advantage of IIE’s practice of hiring past interns.
Her strategy led to a part-time job working with IIE’s Education USA network, where she actively “started taking on more projects.” Her initiative resulted in an extension of her six-month contract and then to her current full-time position as program coordinator of adviser professional development.
“Filling in as needed was useful in order to ensure that transition into full time,” says Reynolds. “You have to not only keep your eyes open in your current division, but also look at the rest of the organization and what opportunities are springing up there. … Be vocal and proactive [in] taking advantage of your time at your internship to see what your entire organization is about.”
Intern Blog: gain more insight from AU intern bloggers.
Zimmer agrees that setting yourself apart during your internship is key to making an impression. As a former intern and current production assistant with Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Zimmer says making yourself known to everyone in your office is imperative.
“I still do a lot of what I did as an intern in my daily routine at the office, but I’ve gone out of my way to learn to do other duties around the office,” Zimmer says. “If you ask questions, do what you are supposed to do, and build relationships with people, you are remembered.”
While Reynolds and Zimmer found places for themselves within established organizations, Greenawald took a slightly different path. Her internship-turned-job with a start-up company allowed her to contribute to the corporate culture.
Interested in building her writing and editing skills, Greenawald applied to the online magazine The Daily Muse and interned virtually while studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Daily Muse was only online for four days when Greenawald applied, so she was jumping aboard at the very beginning of the enterprise.
“For 10 hours a week, I thought, ‘I definitely have time to do this,’” Greenawald says.
At the end of the summer, Greenawald emailed her supervisor and expressed interest in staying with the company. She was soon promoted to senior editorial intern.
“They were able to be very transparent with me along the way,” Greenawald says. “During my mid-summer performance review, they kind of said outright to me, ‘If things keep going as they’re going, you can expect a full-time offer at the end of the summer for when you graduate.’ So that was something I could start to keep in the back of my mind.”
And, sure enough, when the internship ended, The Daily Muse offered Greenawald the paid position of associate editor, which she began part time during her final semester at AU in fall 2012. The decision to graduate a semester early was due, in part, to the full-time offer, Greenawald says: “I decided I’d rather get to the point to devote myself full time to this more quickly.”
Learn more: the path to internships.
None of these graduates’ current positions were immediate—instead, their career trajectories have been defined by an interest in taking on more responsibility, keeping open lines of communication with their supervisors, and being available for new and challenging tasks. But those initiatives helped transform their internships into something more, and for others looking to do the same thing, all three graduates suggest taking risks and reaching for opportunities, even if they initially seem out of reach.
“I took a chance—I kept taking chances for a long time,” Greenawald says. “I took a chance and made an investment. If you really believe in something, get in with it from the start. It might pay off.”