By: Sean Nasi, DePaul University digital cinema major ’15
DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.
What makes an internship a great experience? For Anna Hamelin, an economics major at DePaul, her job experience at Southwest Airlines was unlike any other.
Time literally flew by while interning at the company. Internships as phenomenal as Anna’s are not hard to come by, but they do take time and energy to find. Here are some questions to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to apply to an internship or accept an offer for one!
What Will I Learn?
The biggest thing that separates great internships from good ones is the learning components. As college students, we are still developing our skills and learning how to apply them to the workforce. At Southwest, Anna never filed papers or went out for coffee runs for her superiors. Instead, she learned how to plan events and collaborate with companies to create a satisfying final product. “They trust the interns…and give them projects that are important. That makes everyone work extremely hard to make sure everything comes out perfect,” Anna said.
Who Will Teach Me?
It is one thing to simply gain experience at an internship, but it’s another thing to learn from and make connections with industry professionals. Mentorship is another big component of an internship, and it can come through supervision or by leading through example. At Southwest, Anna received both types of mentorship. “The people who work here are happy and approachable, so it’s a great environment to learn,” Anna said.
The people who work here [Southwest Airlines] are happy and approachable, so it’s a great environment to learn.
It’s important to select an internship that will complement your work style. Organizations in Chicago offer all kinds of internship programs, and some environments are not suitable for everyone. Some companies are high-pressure and fast-paced, while others are more laid-back. Some companies even look for interns to work remotely. Anna enjoyed the laid-back environment at Southwest. “Southwest does a lot to ensure that their employees are genuinely happy,” Anna said. “They want you to work hard, but they also want you to have fun and enjoy your job and coworkers. The people at Southwest know how to work hard and play hard.”
How Will I Be Compensated for My Time?
Contrary to popular belief, not all internships are unpaid. In fact, roughly 65% of the internships posted at DePaul are paid. Additionally, some unpaid internships offer non-monetary perks, such as free lunches, or stipends to cover expenses. For example, Southwest not only offered paid internships, but also gave interns the opportunity to travel for free anywhere Southwest flies. “I’ve been able to travel almost every weekend…It’s been a semester long adventure, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” Anna expressed.
Am I Qualified for the Position?
“When I was a freshman, I was looking up the top internship programs in the country, and Southwest was high on the list,” Anna recalled. “At the time, I wasn’t qualified, but as soon as I was I applied to a few different positions and ended up getting my current internship!”
Many students experience anxiety when applying for positions for which they feel underqualified. Most employers understand students are still learning, and are willing to overlook a lack of experience if they exhibit ambition and enthusiasm. If you possess the minimum position requirements, it never hurts to apply for an internship position, even if you feel it may be “out of your league.” The worst that can happen is they either don’t respond, or say no. Even if they say no, never be afraid to reapply in the future when you meet more of their qualifications.
It never hurts to apply for an internship position, even if you feel it may be “out of your league.
Where Could This Lead?
Many companies offer opportunities for full- or part-time employment post internship. However, even if there is no opportunity to move up, the networking opportunities available, both with full-time staff members and other interns, will last a lifetime. At Southwest, Anna enjoyed regular interactions with both staff members and other interns. “There are 90 interns in my class, so I’ve met a ton of awesome people from around the country and have developed friendships that will last…,” Anna said.
Anna made the most of her time at Southwest, and would encourage prospective interns to “enjoy every minute and work as hard as you can because time goes by way too fast.” It also never hurts to be open-minded to new opportunities. If you are on the fence about applying to a certain internship, apply anyway. You can always decide after the interview if it’s really a company worth working for!
Want to learn about DePaul’s University Internship Program? Check it out, here, or send inquiries to UIP@depaul.edu. Need help finding an internship? Visit depaul.joinhandshake.com, or come into DePaul’s Career Center to meet with an advisor.