Commuter Column: Take opportunities to get yourself ahead

Internships help students gain valuable experience and contacts for networking. They also have the potential to lead to jobs. In this economy the average internship is hailed as essential as a college degree for getting a job, and while having a single internship is good, it’s starting to seem like multiple internships are required.
While the value of an internship should not be devalued, the entire system favors students who can afford to take an unpaid position.
It is no secret that many students at Rider work in various jobs, both on- and off-campus. The concept that these students need to sacrifice hours at a position that is only helping to pay their tuition or other school expenses and not giving valuable experience is ridiculous. Even in the summer, when many internships take place, many students may need to work. This writer was one such student.
Although working in a big chain store is light-years away from my career aspirations, I took the job strictly for financial reasons. Luckily, I had gotten an internship offer over spring break last year and had been upfront with my boss that I would be working a paid job alongside the internship. However, I was naïve when I thought I could easily handle both.
The average number of hours I worked stayed at 45 hours between the job and internship. I worked the traditional way, going to my job and clocking in and out, and telecommuted, writing press releases on my home computer and contacting my boss and others from my cell for my internship. However, doing an internship and a job was the only option; I needed the job for pay and the internship for experience. Yet, I was lucky enough to attain it and work well with both.
The economy, which looms over our heads every single time we go to apply for work, either in a part-time capacity or for a job upon graduation, is not in a good place right now. The August jobs report showed that no jobs had been added that month. While August is traditionally slow, no growth at all is a poor sign for an economy that is supposed to be recovering from a severe recession.
What this means for all of us, especially members of the senior class, is that finding a job will not be an easy task. We entered school as the recession hit its lowest point and will graduate in an economy where jobs will not be as plentiful as they once were, making the connections we make in internships more valuable than ever.
Yet this means that those who are unable to get an internship due to work, classes and/or the inability to take an unpaid position are at a disadvantage. It is a system that is creating a group of students that will face additional difficulties in the job market. Education is supposed to be an equalizer, not another cache to separate the “haves” from the “have-nots.”
This is a problem with no easy solution. The ways to cope with the inability to take an internship are varied. Freelance work is an option in some fields, particularly those in journalism and other communication-based fields. Networking is another method that can result in making valuable connections. Getting a job in the same field in which one intends to work is probably the best option. Internships are valuable, but there are always loopholes to the rules.

– Jess Scanlon
Senior journalism major

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