The irony may be as old as work itself. You need experience to get a job but you can’t get experience without first having a job.
To bridge the school-work chasm, programs across campus are encouraging or requiring students to work one or more internships and many students not only build knowledge and contacts through their experience but land a first job.
This spring, students from dozens of Rowan programs are working extracurricular internships in a wide range of industries – from entertainment and journalism to engineering and marketing – laying the groundwork for great careers.
While programs vary – some are paid, some unpaid, some for credit, some not for credit – they all provide valuable experience however the internship plays out – with a job offer, a confirmation of a career path, or a realization that a particular field may not be the best fit.
“Internships build skills, boost confidence and gives students a real feel for working in their field,” said Lizziel Sullivan-Williams, director of Rowan’s Career Management Center.
Describing the programs, which are especially common in the spring and over summer break, Sullivan-Williams said they are like a test drive for both employer and employee.
“You may think you want to be a corporate accountant but until you do that internship you won’t know for sure what a corporate accountant does,” she said.
Stephanie Wolff, a junior history major from West Deptford, hopes to be an educator but not in a traditional classroom. As an intern at the U.S. Constitution Center in Philadelphia this spring she’s found a happy middle ground.
“What I love best is the interaction with history,” said Wolff, 21, who in her free time sews colonial period costumes and portrays characters at the Red Bank Battlefield Park in Gloucester County.
At the Constitution Center she’s been involved with the current main exhibit, American Spirits: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition, and is helping in the production of upcoming exhibits.
Working 8-10 hours per week, her required internship has confirmed a passion for museum work.
“Public history is interactive, outside the classroom,” she said. “I want to teach the public.”
The virtual internship
Arielle Mason always loved music. And now she’s promoting it as an intern with ‘Stache Media, an indie music marketing agency in New York City.
A “college lifestyle representative,” the business management and marketing dual major rarely goes into the office and uses social media almost exclusively to promote bands affiliated with ‘Stache.
“My job is to create awareness and excitement in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area,” said Mason, a 21-year-old senior from Cherry Hill. “I utilize peer-to-peer marketing (including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram) to raise market awareness.”
Ironically, she said, technology that hurt the music industry through easy pirating is now helping it through the promotional power of social media.
“A lot of bands, especially newer ones, aren’t selling as many CDs in the traditional sense but through social media we’re driving fans to the shows where they support the music through ticket and CD sales, t-shirts and other stuff.”
Soup is on
Jamie Coulter’s career began at a Rowan career fair. Or maybe it began with her job in a deli.
Either way, the chemical engineering major said, her education, combined with her work experience, made her a great candidate for an internship program with Progresso in Vineland. The internship led to a part-time job and that led to a full-time, management track position waiting for her upon graduation in May.
During her non-credit, paid internship, Coulter, 22, a senior from Audubon, managed ten to 15 people in the production of some of the 90 popular soups Progresso makes in Vineland like Chicken Noodle, Italian Wedding, and Hearty Black Bean.
“I ensured product output and quality,” she said.
One of seven interns in the 350-person plant, she was soon offered a flexible part time position, which she’s working now, and subsequently a spot in parent company General Mill’s Milwaukee operation. There she’ll be a manufacturing and engineering associate in the two-year management program.
“I’m a little nervous,” she said. “I was born and raised in South Jersey and attended Rowan a half hour from home. But I’m looking forward to the independence, excited about the new experiences I’m going to have and the people I’m going to meet.”
Rowan hat trick
This semester, not one but three Rowan students are interning with the Philadelphia Flyers, serving the NHL franchise in positions from the front office to the press box to the locker room, seemingly everywhere but center ice.
Rhyan Truett, a senior public relations major, said her required internship has confirmed a career path she’s dreamed of since high school.
“I’ve been a Flyers fan as long as I can remember,” said Truett, 20, of Pittsgrove. “But this is not about being a fan. It’s about learning and then contributing to profession.
“I want to be a part of sustaining the team’s popularity and maintaining its fan-friendly image for future generations.”
Truett is part of a busy public relations team whose job it is to mediate interaction between players, coaching staff and the media.
Her duties include delivering game notes to both teams and, after the game, recording and transcribing media interviews with the coaches, Flyers and members of the visiting team.
Truett, Jeffrey Chance, an MBA student, and Kyle Phillippi, a journalism major, are among 11 interns serving with the team this spring.
She hopes for a full-time position with the Flyers or one of their minor league affiliates upon graduation but said between her education, love of the game, and experience there are dozens of potential employers.
“My goal is that if an opportunity arises, I will be ready,” she said. “I love this team but I love the sport more. I really hate the snow but if I have to go to Minnesota – or even Winnipeg – I’ll go.”
Psychology major Amanda Chrzanowski is spending her internship behind bars.
But she’s allowed to leave.
Chrzanowski, 22, of Manahawkin, is taking an optional internship course this semester to build experience she hopes will help launch her criminal justice career.
Fascinated by all aspects of law enforcement, her internship at the Salem County Correctional Facility in Woodstown puts her face to face with recently arrested inmates, some of whom are on suicide watch pending a trial.
She does not interact with the inmates directly, simply observing as her mentor, forensic psychologist Dr. Jan Segal, conducts interviews for the state.
“He assesses them on whether they should remain on suicide watch or should be released into the general population,” Chrzanowski said.
While her goal is police work, Chrzanowski said she’s interested in all aspects of the legal spectrum, from patrol to probation, parole to corrections.
“Going behind bars, with doors slamming behind me, kind of freaked me out at first but there’s an adrenaline rush that’s kind of addicting,” Chrzanowski said. “You’re staring into the eyes of (alleged) criminals, knowing they’ve done horrible things, and it’s kind of scary. But it’s also intriguing.”