Hard work key for interns, employers say


Sebastian Alvarez said the 2012 fall semester was the most difficult semester for him since he started college. Alvarez, senior international business major, works as a paid, part-time intern for GfK Kynetec, a marketing research firm in St. Louis.

Alvarez said he balanced undergraduate and graduate classes, soccer, a work-study job, school organizations and his internship with GfK Kynetec at the same time.

Alvarez said his internship was originally just for the summer, but GfK Kynetec offered him additional work for the fall semester. During the summer, Alvarez said he built a pricing model the company currently uses in the United Kingdom, France, Poland, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Germany and the United States.

“I’m really proud of (the pricing model). It took me the whole summer,” Alvarez said. “I guess that is why they liked me and why they ended up hiring me for the fall semester, too.”

Alvarez’s hard work could prove to pay off in the future. The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found students who completed an internship while in college earned more than students who didn’t complete an internship. The students who had internships earned nearly 15 percent more on average — $30,000 versus $26,000 — than those who did not undertake an internship.

“Sometimes students come out of school and don’t have an understanding of what you do in the workplace,” said Ryan Clark, a certified public accountant at Hoffman Clark LLC in Clayton. “I’m looking for someone who has worked and knows how to work.”

Clark said Hoffman Clark LLC considers academic credentials as well as work ethic when the firm hires interns. Interns are put into a role of an entry-level accountant and paid for their work.

“From the employer’s perspective, it’s a good situation for us to really get a feel for a student in regards to future employment,” Clark said.

Clark said it is a challenge to find self-motivated and hard-working internship applicants. He seeks applicants with prior work experience.

Joseph Miller, executive director of Lift for Life Gym, said when he hires an intern, he looks for people who will “get the job done.”

“We’re looking for someone who is going to follow through, not somebody who just has a great appearance and shows up on time,” Miller said. “We’re looking for someone we can trust, has initiative, is hard-working and will represent the organization well.”

But to Joe Roberts, internship coordinator for Webster’s department of management, not all internships prove to be worthwhile for both the intern and employer.

“The challenge is finding a provider, workplace, supervisor or company that will take an internship seriously enough that they will actually give (the intern) something meaningful to do,” Roberts said.

Roberts said Webster wants its students to find internships that will provide them with meaningful learning experiences. It’s important for the student and employer to have a clear understanding of what both parties will take from the internship, Roberts said. Part of his job as an internship coordinator is to meet with students before their internship begins to assess their learning expectations for the internship.

“When interns can step in and actually perform some of the work, that is the best way to learn, by doing,” Roberts said.


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