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Internships increasingly help jump-start careers

DeKALB – DurRay Torres-Sanchez knows the value of an internship.

It was 1994 when Torres-Sanchez walked into work at Kishwaukee Community Hospital as a sophomore at Kishwaukee College with a dream and a passion to become a registered nurse, but no background in the medical field.

Nineteen years later, Torres-Sanchez is still at the hospital thanks to the impression she made through the internship experience. She’s climbed the administrative ranks to manager of clinical education and simulation, where she helps today’s students pursue their dreams.

“We’re looking for our future nurses here because they are right here in our backyard,” Torres-Sanchez said. “To see [the students’] growth from the beginning of summer to the end of the internship is amazing.”

Internships are becoming increasingly important in landing a job out of college, according to statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employees.

About 63 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer after graduation, according to the 2012 Internship and Co-op Survey and Student Survey Class of 2012. Only 36 percent of those without internship experience received offers. The number of interns is expected to grow by 8.5 percent next year.

Northern Illinois University senior Carolyn Larson is completing 360 hours of unpaid training as an intern because of a partnership between McHenry County-based Centegra Health System and the university. Her daily tasks range from shadowing seasoned employees to working on spreadsheets and a variety of other hospital tasks.

“I never had any experience in the hospital setting, so this is really opening my eyes to what my degree will allow me to do,” said Larson, 22. “By the time I am done here, I will know exactly what I want to do.”

While Larson is completing her internship in her senior year, Brandon Lagana said it is never too early to start gaining professional experience that will separate a resume from the rest of the pile.

Lagana, director of marketing and information resources management at NIU Career Services, said the ideal internship experience will happen between junior and senior years because employers start looking at college recruits as they start their final year.

Lagana said career services have expanded at NIU in recent years to include more career and internship fairs, resume-building workshops and tools such as Huskies Get Hired and Perfect Interview.

Perfect Interview allows students to record answers they give to questions asked by employers in a mock video interview. Students can then assess how they answered questions and view their body language and re-record as many times as they want, Lagana said.

Huskies Get Hired is a link on NIU Career Services’ website that shows which employers are actively seeking NIU graduates and gives those students and alumni a chance to upload resumes and other materials.

“Internships address that old conundrum of ‘How can I get experience if no one will hire me?’ “ Lagana said. “It’s a huge talent identifier for employers and the number one way to stand out.”

Lagana said this is a prime time for students to pursue career opportunities because many employers are on campus until early May recruiting. The university’s next networking event is March 28 at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.

“This is one of the rare times where employers are knocking on the students’ doors,” he said. “They have a captive audience.”

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