Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Fall 2014
GPAs and extracurriculars aside, it seems that little matters more these days to a student’s post-collegiate prospects than an internship.
“Over the last five years, since the recession, it’s been absolutely critical,” said Bob Soules, director of Union’s Becker Career Center. “The larger employers we work with often tell us they’d like to convert 75 percent of their interns into full-time personnel.”
Indeed, according to a 2013 Forbes.com article, 36 percent more companies offered internships in 2013 than did in 2012. Additionally, Forbes found, an intern has a 7 in 10 chance of being hired permanently by the company he or she interned with.
Just why, exactly, are businesses so keen on internships? Turns out, the arrangements benefit employers just as much as they do students like those at Union.
“The summer between my junior and senior year I was a trading intern at Morgan Stanley, and now I’m full-time on the fixed income trading desk,” Kyle Christine ’13 said. “The most important part of any internship is figuring out if that job is what you want to do, and then gaining actual work experience.”
“But you also have to prove that you can do the work, that the company can rely on you,” he added. “They spend three months training you as an intern; they want to see you can handle it before they hire you.”
Pat Haskell ’94, managing director and head of Morgan Stanley’s municipal securities division, agrees.
“I had an internship myself as a student and it was critical. I really enjoyed my liberal arts education, but clearly you need to show you can practically apply that knowledge,” said Haskell, who studied economics at Union. “There’s no better way to do this than to have an internship, it dramatically increases opportunities for gainful employment.”
In fact, at Morgan Stanley, many interns who prove their value and skill are hired permanently after college.
“The internship is basically an 8-week-long interview,” Haskell said. “After that we have a pretty good idea of what you can do and how you fit at Morgan Stanley.”
Haskell, incidentally, is Christine’s boss and he’s the person Christine was put in contact with when he was looking for an internship. Haskell is also the one who began facilitating these kinds of opportunities for Union students in the first place.
“When I got involved with virtual recruiting, I did it with the understanding that I would include Union,” he said. “Union was a very big part of my life, I feel indebted to the institution, so I’m happy to help now.”
So is Jamie (Aronson) Gorman ’95. She’s one of many alumni who act as bridges between their companies and the College to provide internship opportunities across a variety of industries.
Gorman, who founded and operates Only Nine, a missy and plus-size sportswear company specializing in moderately priced fashion novelty knits in New York City, has never been disappointed by a Union student.
“I’ve had great success hiring interns from the College, they are enthusiastic, eager to learn and excited to be part of my company,” she said. “My interns learn all aspects of Only Nine, from design to merchandising to sales and shipping. Like all internships, it’s a wonderful chance for young people to explore an industry and their passions while they’re still students.”
Gorman is particularly proud that those who intern with her go on to find success, whether through continued work with Only Nine or elsewhere.
“One Union student became a full-time employee of mine, and after three years, she left to advance her career in visual merchandising with Georgio Armani,” she said. “I’m thrilled to know her positive experience at Only Nine contributed to her achievements.”
Gorman, like many employers who seek interns, also understands the importance of what she can learn from students.
“They teach me too, especially about social media and the e-commerce business that is so important for my company,” she said. “When I was at Union, there were no computers or email, there wasn’t even the internet. Evolving to compete in this virtual world is a constant learning process, one I’m happy to include interns in.”
The educational value of interns and internships has many facets. Take the Class of 1973 Community Service Internship Endowed Fund. Established in 2008 in honor of the class’s 35th ReUnion to support a non-profit internship for one student per summer, the fund has grown to allow two students this unique experience each year.
“This internship allows students to think beyond his or her self, to think of the needs of the wider world. The Class of 1973 wants Union students to be able to consider the possibility of nonprofit work as a career,” George Bain ’73 said. “And even if the nonprofit world isn’t where students end up, this experience will have reminded them that part of their responsibility as good citizens is to give back.”
Since the internship’s inception, students have worked with Community Hospice of Schenectady, Educational Alliance in New York City, the Center for Community Justice in Schenectady, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, and Schools on Wheels (Mass. and Calif.), among others.
According to Bain, Tatum Weishaupt ’09 wrote this of her time with Community Hospice: “The experience had a substantial impact on my perspective of becoming a physician and will certainly shape how I consider patient care. I cannot imagine a more meaningful opportunity and body of knowledge to take with me.”
Weishaupt went on to receive a master’s in biomedical science from Georgetown University and George Mason University. She is coordinator of the long-term follow-up program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
The variety of internships Union and its alumni are able to collaboratively offer a student is immense. These positions are accessible through the Becker Career Center, which provides instruction on everything from resume and cover letters to interviewing and networking. At the center, students can also use national databases and the College’s exclusive database – HireU – to search for openings.
While it’s difficult to quantify exactly how many individuals secure internships directly through the career center, Union students are certainly gaining the necessary early career experience.
“We do a first destination survey in early May that is administered to all graduating seniors,” said Keri Willis, assistant director of internship programs. “Of the 80 to 85 percent who complete the survey, 70 percent say they have done an internship or summer research by the time they leave Union.”
And this fact seems to help lead to gainful pursuits following Commencement.
“Sixty-five percent of graduates find full-time employment, 30 percent head to graduate school and 5 percent elect to travel or do other things,” Soules said.