Internships connect the Wheaton experience to the real world

Wheaton helps students turn their potential and promise into rewarding professional careers. Through exciting experiential learning opportunities and individualized professional mentoring, Wheaton students chart their course for success.

by Matthew Wheeler, Assistant Director, Career Services

Repairing trails and riverbanks against the backdrop of the California wildfires. Facilitating a therapy group for teen girls managing the challenges of adolescence. Reviewing and updating emergency preparedness protocols for the largest city in the U.S. Bottle-feeding a baby raccoon.

What do these snapshots have in common? They’re just a few of the wildly different internship experiences Wheaton students had during summer 2020. Those students and many others shared their stories this fall in Wheaton’s 12th Annual Internship Showcase in video panels and blog posts. The Internship Showcase celebrates and highlights the accomplishments of students who received funding from the college to support their experiential learning endeavors.

For Wheaton students, learning doesn’t stop when they leave the classroom. They undertake guided research with faculty members, participate in robust campus employment experiences, volunteer in the community, and act as leaders in the over 100 clubs and organizations that keep student life at the college vibrant and engaging. And, of course, they complete internships.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which seeks to help align the practices of higher education institutions with those who hire their students:

“An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”

Often I’ll hear students wonder if they’re “ready” to pursue an internship, anxious that internships are something for their peers with clearer ideas about their professional paths after graduation. But that’s far from the case! Internships can also be about exploration, providing an opportunity to build on an interest or skill set a student developed in their major, a past experience, or through a networking conversation. Internships provide the opportunity to evaluate a potential career path and decide if it is—or is not—the right fit.

In addition to exploring an industry, internships give students a chance to use and develop their skills in a professional setting. If you’ve ever taken a writing class, you may remember your teacher saying “show, don’t tell.” Internships provide students with an arena to do some showing, to demonstrate their skills and put them into action on the job. When it comes time to interview for jobs or graduate school programs, you won’t just tell your interviewer you have excellent time management skills, you’ll show them how you used those skills to prioritize multiple tasks for the project you had to complete during your summer internship. Not to mention, you’ll often walk away with a professional reference to back it all up!

Students seek and find their internships in many different ways. Some students utilize their immediate and extended networks to find opportunities. Others reach out to businesses and organizations that interest them directly. There are many online job and internship boards that can be helpful resources in an internship search, but they can get overwhelming very quickly. We recommend students begin with Handshake, our online home for all things Career Services. Every internship posted on Wheaton’s Handshake (about 1,300, as of this writing) is from an employer who specifically indicated they wanted to recruit and hire at Wheaton. And while Wheaton’s robust internship funding program, a pillar of the Wheaton Edge, can support students pursuing unpaid internships, 900 of those 1,300 opportunities in Handshake are paid!

Regardless of how students find their internships, it’s clear what an important role they play in getting students prepared and competitive for what comes after Wheaton. We in Career Services are available to guide students through their internship search no matter where they are in the process. In addition to job and internship listings, we maintain a resource library in Handshake for things like resumes, cover letters, interviewing, networking, and job and internship searching, as well as a list of internal and external career-related events. Students can also schedule appointments with career advisors from their Handshake accounts if a one-on-one meeting would be most beneficial.

Career Services in the Filene Center is excited to support your students on their internship and career journeys and, like you, we look forward to seeing all they accomplish at Wheaton and beyond!