Employer Perspective: Creating Value Without an Internship

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This week’s blog is written by Benjamin Berry, Professional Engineer (PE) with Burns & McDonnell.

Direct work experience is one of the best ways to leverage your time in college while not actively enrolled in classes. Internships are the building blocks that let the employee and company temporarily test each other out before moving forward with a more permanent commitment.

If you didn’t get that internship you were hoping for, below are some questions to ask yourself to make the most of your summer. The type of role you have, whether it be research, volunteering, a non-technical job, or something else, all have something to gain to help propel your journey into the professional world.

What skills can you build?

Every experience is an opportunity to build new skills. As someone who hires new college graduates, I am very interested in competencies such as effective communication, time management, attention to detail, conflict resolution, and analytical problem solving to name a few. No matter what you end up doing, there is a chance to develop and enhance these areas. And in an interview setting, I want to hear about it!

What relationships can you build?

A key part of any professional role is to develop and maintain relationships. We don’t work completely with robots (yet!), and people enjoy a workplace where they have positive relationships. Regardless of what you end up doing for the summer, be intentional in connecting with people. It is also important to stretch yourself and find ways to connect with people outside of your age range, or who you naturally feel comfortable building rapport with. This will also give you practice in finding commonalities with your future interview panel.

What is your plan?

Strategy and long-term thinking are key parts of any engineering job. As you approach your summer experience, take the time to plan out a few items. Your relationships and skills to be gained should be a part of your plan. Include the tactics on how to achieve your goals and ways that you can evaluate success. A common question I ask is to explain how you went through a project, role, class, etc. and what was the outcome. I want to understand your story from start to finish and to include how the plan was developed.

Summer internships are an important step towards full-time employment. But that doesn’t always work out. Regardless of how you spend your time outside of school, find the opportunities that translate your role into something that can add value. Be proud of what you end up doing and eager to share it with future employers!

“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” — Dolly Parton

Engineering Career Services is proud to partner with Burns & McDonnell as part of our 2023-24 ECS Partner Program.