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Advice for students thinking about internships and co-ops

This entry features guest writer, Geoff Sieron, who is a mechanical engineering student graduating this June. He's also President of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at OSU, an AOSCH Liaison, a member of the Mortar Board Senior Class Honor Society, and Vice President of the Epsilon Chapter of Kappa Theta Epsilon...

If I could make one recommendation for every engineering student to do in college, it would be to obtain an internship or co-op. It's by far the most important activity (outside of the classroom) for students and will impact your college experience tremendously.

The first benefit of a co-op/internship is finding out if you're truly in the right field or not. In the classroom, we learn theories and equations and solve carefully crafted problems for a particular topic. When it comes to real world applications though, things are much different. When you co-op/intern, employers expect you to have some basic engineering knowledge and problem solving skills-but they will teach you or give you the resources for you to learn everything you need to know to perform your specific job function. When you start doing actual engineering work, you really get to see what engineers do. This helps in solidifying your choice about a major. I personally know a handful of people who worked at a co-op/internship and realized that they just didn't like engineering and ended up switching out of the program. I also know people who have switched engineering majors to a different one after obtaining related experience.

Another benefit of a co-op/internship is that you get to try out various industries. Once you take a full-time job after college, it's likely you'll be in that position for a while and it won't be as easy to move to a new industry right away if you're unhappy with what you chose. With co-op/internships, you can work in whatever industries you want, and you can switch around to different ones if you don't like the one you were in previously. It's an opportunity that lets you to figure out what you like or don't like to do and allow you to hone in on that elusive "perfect job" for when you reach the end of your college career.

One of the biggest perks of a co-op/internship is the experience you gain from it. You'll learn certain skills at school, but when you work in an engineering function, you'll gain new skill sets that you would not have normally had coming straight out of college. This drastically increases your chances of getting the job you want when you graduate. Employers today are looking for engineering students who have related work experience. They know that these students (likely) did well academically but also have exposure into the professional realm of engineering and have experience doing "real" work. If you have this type of experience on your resume, your chances of getting a job will increase significantly. Sometimes you may not even need to look for a job because your co-op/internship employer will want to hire you on as a full-time employee based upon your performance as a co-op/intern.

Out of all the classes I've taken, extracurricular activities I've been involved with, and everything else I've done during my time at Ohio State, co-oping/interning has by far been the most important for my career and own personal development. If you have the opportunity, seize it!

"Life's up and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine your values and goals - think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want."
-Marsha Sinetar

Authored by an ECS guest.