Eric Lu is always moving. When we sit down to talk about the value of internships, Lu has just returned from a run. He’s also an avid cyclist and rock climber.

Lu is a senior majoring in engineering physics with an emphasis in mechanics at PLNU. This semester, he starts a manufacturing internship at Solar Turbines, a subsidiary of Caterpillar, the global energy company.

Lu mentions the importance of learning about internship opportunities through professors like Maria Zack, Ph.D., who chairs PLNU’s Departments of Mathematical, Information & Computer Sciences and Physics & Engineering. Zack often hosts events with industry professionals and invites her students. Lu met Solar Turbines employees through her “career dinners” last year.

Then Lu prepared for the internship by working with his career coach, Devin Jones, from the Offices of Strengths & Vocation (OSV). “I transferred here from Purdue University, which is a huge school,” he said. “The PLNU advantage is that I could meet with Devin on an ongoing basis to review my resume and share my strengths.

Lu has completed internships with companies like SPAWAR Systems Center and General Motors. Updated research into employment trends demonstrates the benefits of Lu’s approach.

The total number of internships a student completes as an undergraduate is a major predictor of positive career outcomes six months after graduation.

Internships Provide Needed Experience

Phil Gardner, Ph.D., is director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. During a presentation last month at San Diego State University, Gardner highlighted the 48th edition of “Recruiting Trends,” Michigan State’s 2018-2019 report of 3,300 employers seeking new college talent.

Gardner said that employers expect college graduates to possess experience before applying. This shift has drastically changed the process of entering the workforce. His research shows that 77 percent of employers consider “past workplace performance” in the recruiting process.

But how will students get this experience?

Lindsey Lupo, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of History and Political Science and director of the PLNU Institute of Politics & Public Service, affirms the need for students to acquire experiences in the greater community. Internships are required for students majoring in political science and international studies.

“Internships make classroom content come to life. Students can discern their career options.”

– Lindsey Lupo, Ph.D.

“The political science major can lead you to so many different careers, besides law,” she said. “Students who major in international studies can go into social sciences, nonprofit management, and business.”

She tells students to make the most of their internships. “Internships make classroom content come to life,” she said. “Students can discern their career options.”

Related Article: Finding your life’s work takes work. Read this comprehensive guide to help you get started on finding a career you love!

Making the Most of Opportunities

Lupo encourages students to go to coffee with professionals at their internships. The required assignments for interns include asking questions about salary ranges and graduate degrees.

Students can even discover the fields that they don’t want to pursue. “I meet with students who were planning to spend thousands of dollars and hours in law school,” said Lupo, “only to complete an internship at a law firm and realize that they don’t want to practice law. That learning saves so much time and money.”

Students can also learn valuable skills that they didn’t expect. Last year, Lu applied for an internship at Tesla that he didn’t get. “I learned how to recover quickly,” he said.

Eric Liu works on a project at the USS Midway during his SPAWAR internship.

Long-term Benefits

The total number of internships a student completes as an undergraduate is a major predictor of positive career outcomes six months after graduation, according to a 2017 study from Mount Holyoke College titled “The Impact of Undergraduate Internships on Post-Graduate Outcomes for Liberal Arts.”

A 2016 Forbes feature declared that internships are “the ultimate return on investment for today’s college student.”

As college students face increased tuition and accumulating debt, the pressure rises to connect their degrees to their careers. According to the National Association of Colleges & Employees (NACE), “a paid internship with a company in the private sector is, by far, the most beneficial in promoting job-search success, because it is the most deliberately designed and the most consistently funded for converting interns into full-time, entry-level hires.”

“A paid internship with a company in the private sector is, by far, the most beneficial in promoting job-search success, because it is the most deliberately designed and the most consistently funded for converting interns into full-time, entry-level hires.”

Chrissy Conde, who manages regional talent acquisition for Enterprise in Southern California, visited PLNU and highlighted the importance of converting interns into employees at her company. “While internships can lead to increased rates for job offers and salary ranges, PLNU offers a unique perspective on internships and calling.” According to Conde, Enterprise works to convert at least 45% of their student interns to management trainees. 

“Internships are really about passion,” Lu believes. “The world is really big, and when you work on an internship, the world gets smaller.”

Rebecca Smith is Executive Director of Career Services at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Is it time for you to get career-ready?

The Offices of Strengths & Vocation (OSV) is a dedicated on-campus career center exclusively for PLNU students. OSV works with students to identify their strengths, develop their talents, write their own unqiue story, and discover who they are called to be.

Click here for some tips from OSV on designing a purposeful career, developing your God-given strengths, creating a killer resume, and connecting with employers!

PLNU’s the Viewpoint publishes relevant and vital stories that grapple with life's profound questions from a uniquely Christian perspective. In addition to the content offered online, the Viewpoint print magazine is published three times a year in spring, summer, and fall.