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I want to work in Environmental Consulting

earthEmily Gallagher, a freelance writer, compiled the following information for PM Environmental, an environmental engineering firm. The original post can be found on the PM Environmental website.  Emiliee has given me permission to reprint it here.

PM Environmental discovered that many students express interest in environmental consulting careers, but that there wasn’t much practical information available about what a career in this environmental consulting looks like. With that in mind, Emiliee asked some successful environmental consulting professionals about their thoughts on career paths, advice on classes, starting positions and much more.   Their responses are below.

If a student were looking to get into environmental consulting, what courses should they focus on and what skills should will be most valuable in the industry and most important in helping them succeed?

It depends what type of consulting they are interested in. The environmental sector is really broad, and is probably going to continue to spread into different areas in the future. Clean Tech, Supply Chain, Environmental/Green Design, Sustainable Business Practices, etc. all have different areas of expertise; but, in general I would say focus on the hard skills (math, science, design, engineering, environmental economics, etc.) that pertain to your area of interest. These are more marketable, are likely going to pay more, and are more difficult to learn/master once you are out of a college environment.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Students looking to enter the environmental consulting industry should do their research and determine what aspect of environmental consulting they are interested in making a career.  If environmental due diligence (i.e. Phase I ESA, Phase II ESA, etc.) is the area  students wish to get into, students should focus on environmental policy, environmental chemistry, geology/hydrology, and writing courses. Most courses are not going to cover the basics of writing a Phase I or Phase II ESA, however, if you have a good background in the policy and science involved, you will stand out as an applicant and consultant. 

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

The environmental due diligence consulting that we do at AEI is primarily related to helping people evaluate property for the presence of contamination – it’s a bit like environmental detective work.  Environmental history plays a role in understanding how land use can affect property with legacy issues.  Geology and hydrogeology are important in regards to subsurface sampling and remediation of soil, soil vapor and groundwater.  GIS and geography can help with the presentation of the information that we gather.  One of the most important skills in environmental consulting, in my view, is the ability to take complex information and present it in a well-written, easily understandable format for the layperson.  Conducting research and preparing written findings of your research is one of the most important skills you gain during your studies.

 Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

There are many branches of environmental engineering. Examples include water (potable) and wastewater plant construction, operations and management, infrastructure impact planning, mining operation amelioration, energy conservation, etc. Other aspects include helping governments in the US and overseas develop environmental legislation and regulations for industrial, commercial and residential polluters or those industries that specialize in pollution cleanup.

In addition to technical courses, students should take a foreign language, economics, accounting or finance, political science/government, sociology and writing because consultants are required to be conversant with a range of issues and comfortable communicating with diverse groups of stakeholders.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Earth science, biology, chemistry, and public policy. Learn to write an intelligible report, unlike what engineers tend to crank out. Read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White, or some other such manual.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

LEED AP – then work on energy modeling and audits that show how to pay for improvements.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

If there were such a thing as a “typical career path,” what would it look like?

Internship, associate, manager, director….I’d say that the corporate ladder in the environmental sector is much the same as anywhere else. Which sector you are working in will dictate a bit of how that path looks, and many people in the environmental field cross sectors throughout their career.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

A typical career path starts out with an internship or entry level consultant.  The next step depends on the specific type of consulting and the company you are working for.  You may transition to a project manager and find that is best for you, or you may have management opportunities and find that is the career path for you.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

In the environmental due diligence field, people generally start out assisting with field work or research under the guidance of a Project Manager.  They then grow into a Project Manager role where they are responsible for all aspects of the project.  Over time, they can progress towards more senior roles such as managing teams of Project Managers and providing technical expertise and working with clients directly.

Holly Neber
President and a principal at AEI Consultants

In an entry level position, what types of tasks and responsibilities should a student expect to take on?

Sector (public, private, or nonprofit) and business size (large, medium, small) will play a large role in terms of what types of tasks and responsibilities an entry level employee will be faced with. In general, larger agencies tend to have more structured roles, opportunities, and larger budgets. Smaller companies and nonprofits tend to have more diverse needs, less structure, and less disposable income. Both of these can have pros and cons, depending on what your goals and needs are. I would say that after looking at sector and business size, the next variable is your manager or managing team. These people, and their working styles, will usually play a big role in terms of what responsibilities will be delegated to you and/or how open your managing team is to you taking initiative as a new hire.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Entry level tasks will focus on learning and building on various aspects of the area of consulting you have chosen.  The training period can vary, and within our company the first year is considered your training period. You will help with research, site visits, information gathering, report writing and preparation, and client communications. All of these will build on each other and as you become more skilled, the projects you are working on will increase in difficulty. As an entry level employee, you should take this time to ask questions and absorb as much information as you can from senior staff members because you will be able to apply all of that information to future projects.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Connsultant, PM Environmental

Example tasks would be conducting site research at local agencies or conducting soil or groundwater sampling at the site.

Holly Neber
President and aPprincipal at AEI Consultants

Most beginning engineers are assigned to a mixture of duties and projects that will teach them the basics of the industry in which they have chosen to work. They will hone their skills as mining engineers, dam designers, energy auditors, etc. They also may be asked to take some accounting or finance courses if they have not done so as undergraduates to prepare them for preparing budgets or capital justifications. They may be asked to go into the field to conduct environmental assessments. In most cases, the work, while interesting, is not glamorous. They may spend several years as part of a team conducting a survey of the water and geological resources in a site scheduled for development.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Grunt work, carrying gear around, helping more senior staff finish reports.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

What kinds of varying positions / jobs / experiences should a new hire seek out to become well-rounded as an environmental consultant and make them marketable in the industry?

In environmental work, I would say seek out projects/jobs/roles that allow you to flex some of those skills (math, science, design, engineering, sales, networking, legal work, etc)–especially skills that you can quantify and talk about in a resume. Project management, which many young environmental professionals do, can be a bit vague. It can be a hard sell. You should learn to back that up with either technical skills (that you can demonstrate you have used at work) or soft skills (Are you a good networker? Do you write really professional emails? Can people refer you to others?). Word of mouth, and having a great network, are really important in the professional world. Of course, in order for your network to work for you, you also have to be good at what you do.

If you want to work abroad, you should definitely spend several months in that area–either as a volunteer or in a paid capacity. If you want to work in or with a country that speaks a foreign language, you should also speak that language.

Working in different sectors–maybe even all of them–would also be great. Unlike other industries, environmental issues cross all three sectors. Having experience working at a non-profit, government agency, and for-profit will give you insider knowledge about culture and operations of each of these types of businesses. It can also be very attractive on your resume, depending on what a particular job is looking for.

For me, when considering potential hires for entry level positions at a social venture start-up, these two main things have popped up as “issues”: (1) This person does not have the hard skills and/or experience we need for this specific project and (2) This person does not have the soft skills we need for someone to be a part of our team (they are a bit awkward, don’t feel comfortable networking, their emails are a bit odd and unprofessional sounding). These soft skills will not be taught in school, you kind of have to learn by doing… and the earlier you start, the better.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Internships are valuable experiences and stand out on a resume and application. If you know your career path early in your college career, you should seek out internships with similar skills. As we all know, you do not necessarily know what your career path will be until your last year in college or even after you graduate. However, internships are still very important and will provide you with valuable skills that you will be able to apply to a future career. If you are unsure of your future path in the environmental industry, seek out a range of internships that include field work, data collection, report writing, etc. Any of these can be applied to an environmental consulting career.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessment research is a good place to start because you get exposed to the regulatory oversight agencies and reviewing the other phases of work that often occur (Phase II investigations and remediation projects).   However, it is a mistake to think of a Phase I position as an entry-level job.  Phase I ESAs can be very complex, depending on the type of site you are evaluating.  If you can work under the guidance of a top notch Phase I Project Manager, you will gain a great skill set and a well-rounded view of the overall industry.   Joining a Subsurface Investigation department as an entry level person can also be helpful in terms of understanding typical contaminants and how they behave in the subsurface of a property.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

Study federal and state regulations and local industrial history.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

What differences are there between working for a large (national or international) environmental consulting firm compared to a smaller, regional one?

For starters: bureaucracy. Larger companies have much bigger food chains, and rely more heavily on bureaucratic processes to get things done. Smaller companies have more of an opportunity for a more democratic or “flat” hierarchical structure–but that is not necessarily always the case.

Second, opportunities and/or requirements for travel and professional development will likely vary between the two.

Third, benefits–and that could go in either direction. Environmental companies tend to be a bit more socially-minded and often offer great “quality-of-life” benefits, but that is really dependent on company culture.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Smaller firms typically allow their staff to “wear more hats” which allows for more variation in your job responsibilities.  If you join a growing smaller firm, there is often more opportunity to advance to levels of more responsibility quickly.  A larger firm may offer more opportunity to work on extremely large or complex remediation jobs or the ability to work internationally.

Holly Neber
President and Principal at AEI Consultants

Larger international or national environmental consulting firms, or the environmental divisions of a large construction or international development firm may work on larger projects in more locations. Smaller firms tend to work locally or partner as subcontractors to larger firms for a piece of a large contract, foreign or domestic. The contract manager usually comes from the larger firm. I am an international consultant who has been a project manager as well as a subcontractor to large multinational corporations.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Large tends to be more for big or quick spill cleanups under EPA oversight; small tends to be more geared towards local conditions such as endangered species, watershed issues, etc.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

If you had one piece of advice for a student looking to get into a career in environmental consulting, what would it be?

Develop your professional skill-set as quickly as possible. Get networking. Everyone hates it, but there is no substitute for it.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Do your research. Self evaluate your skills and match those with an aspect of environmental consulting that is consistent with those skills.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

When you get your first job, be a hard worker.  Show your company’s management that you are up to any challenge.   Opportunities will open up to you from there.   Internships are also great.  We’ve hired a few people that originally worked for us as interns.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

Technical advice: Water – access to clean water and the reuse of process water and waste water- is the single most important issue affecting the world today. Life does not exist without water.

Personal advice: Learn to write well and to be comfortable speaking with people of different backgrounds.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Get a job with a government agency first for the experience. Stay there if you can.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental 

Based on your experience, what are the most surprising or unexpected elements about working in environmental consulting?

In general, it’s less about what I learned in school, and more about how well you do the job. But, I always love how often I get to use economic principles in my job and use project design skills from school when analyzing impact.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

The most surprising aspect of environmental due diligence is the standardization of the process. Although every state has their own regulations, I have had experience completing Phase I ESA reports throughout the eastern and southeastern United States because of the standardized process.

The most unexpected element is the number of industries you will encounter and the manufacturing processes you will have an opportunity to observe.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Every state has a unique regulatory environment so working in Michigan can be quite different from working in Illinois, even on the same type of project.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

The most surprising aspect of environmental consulting is the extent to which projects are subject to politics, both in the US and abroad.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Congress yanking funds from programs.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

Not wanting to study to pass the LEED AP exam and then go on to work on projects.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Essentially being my own boss and being really creative and strategic about solving social and environmental problems.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

The most rewarding aspect of my career is the ability to be a resource for our clients.  We have clients that are just as knowledgeable as we are, and we have clients that have never even heard of environmental due diligence. I am able to provide valuable information to clients on both ends of the spectrum, and in between.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

I love working with our clients to find solutions to environmental issues, and I love building a collaborative team with my co-workers.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

The most rewarding aspect of my career is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Doing public education. It’s amazing how concerned but uninformed people still are about all this stuff.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

 

It’s the future.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

Biographies of Respondents

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Prior to her involvement with Pipeline Fellowship, Lauren worked in the nonprofit sector in economic development, environmental issues, and women’s empowerment. A long-time sustainability advocate, Lauren has analyzed the Kyoto Protocol with the U.S. Department of State in Brussels and worked on environmental projects in both Spain and Australia. Her interest in social and environmental issues led to her involvement in social entrepreneurship where her focus has been on strategic planning, social impact assessment, and executing mission-based business strategies.

She currently serves on the New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE) Events Committee and is a former Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of New York City (YNPN-NYC) board member.

Lauren has a B.A. in English Literature and Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.P.A. in Economic Development and Comparative & International Affairs from Indiana University’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). She is also a proud School for International Training (SIT) alumna. You can find Lauren on Twitter (@laurenabele).

www.pipelinefellowship.com

Holly Neber
President, AEI Consultants

Holly Neber is President and a principal at AEI Consultants, a national environmental and engineering firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area.  AEI performs environmental and engineering due diligence, investigation and remediation projects with 14 offices located across the US.  Holly’s educational background consists of a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas and a Masters of Education from Holy Names College.   She is a Registered Environmental Assessor (REA) in California, and oversees the day to day operations of AEI.  AEI’s website is www.aeiconsultants.com

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Ms. Carla Sydney Stone is the founder and principal of International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC, a firm that delivers projects that improve people’s lives. It provides consulting services to companies, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies. Ms. Stone has a proven ability to initiate and build international partnerships to achieve results. A mining engineer, with additional training and certificates in water and wastewater operations, she also acts as a consultant to governments on the critical areas of environment, human capability, and resource management. She has considerable experience in developing, managing and implementing training programs, project management and public information programs for stakeholder support.

Carla Stone is a graduate of Columbia University’s (New York) Henry Krumb School of Mines with a B.S. degree in Mining Engineering, Geophysics Option and M. S. degree in Mining Engineering and Mineral Economics. She also holds certificates in Wastewater III (Delaware) and Water Operations (Delaware). She is a Member of the Board of Directors of People to People International, Delaware Chapter, a Past Member of the Board of the World Trade Center Institute Delaware, and serves on the International Council of Delaware. She also is a member of the Water Environment Federation, the Society of Mining Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, and the Project Management Institute. She has been Chair of the Council of Economics of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers. She also served as Economics Committee Chair for the Delaware Delegation to the White House Conference on Small Business.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental
http://rlcarlson.wordpress.com/

Chuck Lohre, LEED AP+
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

http://www.green-cincinnati.com

In 2007 we started to promote LEED by holding afternoon seminars as forums for prominent LEED pioneers to address the community of architects, engineers, contractors and the public. From there we started to volunteer with the Cincinnati Regional Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and helped develop their web site and trade show exhibit materials. Promotion doesn’t come without education and we registered our offices as a LEED CI project as well as Chuck Lohre passing the LEED AP exam. After developing educational materials for the Fernald Preserve Visitors Center we created classes to help individuals pass the LEED AP exam with one-on-one mentoring and tutoring. With the push to achieve LEED AP status by June 30, 2009, several classes were held. A unique aspect of the classes was actual tours of many regional LEED projects. We received LEED Platinum May, 5, 2011 on our office.

 

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Can an international student do a summer internship?

20120717_InternMax from Oklahoma City University asked:

I am an international student in my second semester of my graduate study. I want to do a summer internship, but a friend told me that I can’t  because of my status as an international student.  He also told me there are many other things that I need to do before I can apply for an internship.   Can you tell me what I need to do so that I can apply for a internship?

Hi Max –

Getting an internship as an international student in the U.S. certainly can be challenging.  Precisely how challenging depends largely on your visa status, your field of study and your degree requirements and options.

You visa status will determine what you can and cannot do legally.  Your field of study will determine how challenging it will be for you to find an internship in your desired professional field.  You degree requirements and options will determine whether or not an internship for academic credit is an option or, perhaps, a requirement for your degree.

You must look at these three elements together.  So, here is my advice:

First, consult the International Student Office at your University

Oklahoma City University’s International Student Office has a web page dedicated to Employment Information.  It is your responsibility to understand  what you can and cannot do under the terms of your visa.  Every individual situation is unique, so you cannot expect potential employers to have those answers for you.  When an employer asks “As an international student, are you eligible to to an internships?”, you must be ready to answer the question.  Your International Student Office can help.

Next, work with your campus Career Services Office

Did you know that OCU Career Services has resources specifically for international students? Based upon your field of study and your stated career objectives, your career services office can help you understand your internship options, recognize the challenges you will face pursuing an internship in your chose field, and take advantage of the internship search resources available.  Seek the advice of your campus career center.

Finally, talk to your academic advisor about internship options in your degree plan

Does your degree plan require an internship?  If not, does it offer the option to do an internship for academic credit? Your academic advisor will be able to help you identify if and how an internship might fit into your curriculum and/or meet some of your degree requirements.

Good luck!

matt-signature

What can I do with a Master’s in Educational Technology?

Marcia from DeVry University asked: 

What can I do with a Master’s in Educational Technology if I am not working in a school district? How can I get an internship or experience in Instructional Design?

Hi Marcia

Want a quick overview of the field of Educational Technology?

Check out the following two videos.  You will see potential pathways both within and outside of school districts.

How do you find a job or internship in instructional design?

Look where the opportunities are likely to be posted. In this case, that means educational-focused online job boards and trade publications and through related professional associations.  I have listed a lot of options below for you to review to get some ideas.

HigherEdJobs.com – Information Technology & Design

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Instructional Technology/Design Jobs

Indeed.com: Educational Technology

Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) Job Listings

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Career Center

American Association for Computing in Education (AACE) Career Center

American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Job Bank

International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) Career Center

Society for Applied Learning Technology (SALT) Current Jobs

Where do you start?

If you are looking for an internship while you are in school, the geographic scope of your search is probably going to be limited to your local area. Translation:  You probably need to intern near where you are in school, right!

In this case, look to the colleges and universities. and (if there are any in your area) educational publishers, online training and software companies and game developers.  All of these types of organizations probably have people working in some form of educations technology,  instructional design or user interface design – the need for instructional designers goes beyond the your local school district. Talk to folks in these worlds to get first hand information on their fields (this is called an informational interview) and inquire about internship opportunities.

Chances are, most of these internships will not be posted on the big national job boards.  Some of them might not be posted at all.  Some won’t even exist until you ask about them.

Where do you begin?

  • With research to learn as much about the field as you can
  • With that first phone call, email or visit to someone in your area working in educational technology
  • With a plan of action for pursuing job opportunities

I hope this information helps you get started.

Good luck,

matt-signature

Is it possible to get a good summer internship while completing a part-time MBA?

Brooklyn Academy Of Music Hosts Career Fair For Job SeekersMark from the University of Colorado at Denver asked: 

Is it possible to get a good summer internship while completing a part-time MBA program?

Hi Mark –

To be completely honest – it’s going to be challenging.  Not impossible, but challenging.

People enrolled in part-time MBA programs are typically (or thought to be typically) employed full-time.  Why else would they be in school only part-time, right?

So, the general perception what a “part-time MBA student is” will be working against you.  Perception can be more powerful than reality, so you have to manage that message carefully.

So, where do you start?

How do you define a “good summer internship”?

This is a really important questions because your definition of “good” may be very different from someone else’s definition of good.

What industries are you hoping to explore through this internship?  What kind of experience are you seeking?  How competitive are the fields you wish to enter?  How much do you hope/expect to earn during the internship?  How far are you willing to travel to do the internship?

Put your MBA training to work: Do a quick SWOT analysis on yourself and the job market in the fields you wish to enter.  Layer these analyses on top of each other to see where your strengths and opportunities align with those of the fields you are targeting and to identify the obstacles and threats you may be facing in pursuit of the internship.

Are you using the resources available to you?

Are you using Graduate Career Connections at CU Denver?  Are you taking advantage of the resources and services provided by the CU Denver Career Center? They cannot place you into an internship, but they can be a good source of opportunities, connections advice and assistance. Don’t neglect the help available on your campus.

How hard are you willing to work to find an internship?

As I mentioned at the start, you face an uphill climb.  You have to make you understandable, relevant and desirable to potential employers. You have to give them reasons to consider you.  They don’t inherently “get” you, what you want, or what you offer.  If you can’t tell them why they should hire you, how are they supposed to figure it out?  Managing your message is really important.

You may be well down this path already – I hope so! Regardless, finding a “good” internship is a process not a transaction.  Approach this process the same way you approach a sales and marketing case study in grad school.  You have a product to sell (You!).  Develop a thorough understanding of your product and the ability to position it to potential buyers (employers).  At the same time, do your market research to identify the best opportunities.  Then, pursue those opportunities and try to make the sale!

Good luck!

matt-signature

How can I get experience in a new field when I work full-time and go to school?

juggleMelissa from the University of Minnesota asked: 

I am trying to get experience so that I can eventually become an academic advisor. My challenge is that I work full-time (1 1/2 hours away from my university),  and  I take a bus (which makes for a 4-hour round trip commute),  so I don’t have time to volunteer. What can I do to try and gain experience?   By the way, I previously worked at two community colleges in work-study positions for at total of six years.  Is that experience beneficial?

Hi Melissa –

Yours is a challenging problem.  With only 24 hours in the day and so many demands on your time, it’s not a question of how can you do more things; it’s a question of how can you use the time you have differently to incorporate you desire to gain relevant experience and explore a career as an academic advisor.  Here are some ideas:

Leverage your relationship with your own academic advisors

As a student, you have a really good reason to visit with your academic advisors on a regular basis and get to know them well (and, of course, give them the chance to get to know you!).

Use the time you have with your academic advisors to get advised AND  learn more about the field and what it entails.  Every meeting with an academic advisor gives you some insight into what being an academic advisor is like and gives your academic advisors the opportunity to get to know you, you background and your qualifications.  Referrals and recommendations are very important, and the more people in the academic advising profession who know you and will refer and/or recommend you the better.

Get involved in your university community

Very often colleges and universities assemble committees to address specific topics and issues, and frequently they look for student members for these committees.  Ask your academic advising department if there are any opportunities for you to serve as a student representative on a department or university committee focusing on advising, student affairs or student life.  Committee service requires less time than do internships and offer similar exposure to working professionals and work environment. Translation:  More opportunity for you to get to know others and for them to get to know you! You might be able to squeeze in a hour or two every couple of weeks for committee service.  It might pay off!

Look for experiential learning and career exploration opportunities in your classes

A lot of classes have group projects and other elements that allow you to “do” rather than just “study” topics.  If they are available and will help you advance toward your degree, take these classes and use the projects to gain experience.

None of these are clean and easy solutions, but the challenge you are facing is not an easy one to address, so you have to get creative.

And yes, . . . .

Your experience working as a work-study student is beneficial

This experience shows that you are familiar with college work environments; that you know what it means to show up on time, work a full shift, support university operations and juggle responsibilities and priorities.

All of these are good things, but you can’t assume potential employers will see their value just because you listed the jobs on your resume.  Through your interpersonal communication, correspondence and resume, you have to help employers understand the qualifications you offer.

Lastly,

Pay attention to what is going on in the profession

A great way to show employers you are interested in their profession is to prove you are paying attention to what is going on in their world.  How do you do this?  Read the trade publications and follow the professional associations that connect professionals in your fields.  For academic advising and other work in higher education, I recommend you visit the following site regularly and become familiar with what is going on you the profession you wish to join:

Academic 360
AcademicCareers.com
The Chronicle of Higher Education Online Job Board
HigherEdJobs.com
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Position Announcements
National Association of Student Affairs Professionals (NASAP) Job Announcements
Student Affairs.com Position Listings

Good luck,

matt-signature

How can I find an internship when I’m not enrolled in school?

Jahanara from Stonybrook University asked the following question:

I recently completed a Business certification and have have more than 12 years experience in Credit. I want an internship in this field but not being a recent graduate, I am having difficulty finding one. Most unpaid internships require I get college credit, and other paid internships to which I have applied have not responded.

How should I approach  this hurdle so that I can get an internship?

Hi Jahanara –

Thanks for your question.

Just out of curiosity, with 12 years of experience in credit already, why are you looking for an internship in the same field and not a job?  I imagine employers are asking the same question when they see your application:  Why is someone with so much experience looking for pre-entry level work?

Most internships are designed and targeted for pre-level candidates, and most employers define pre-entry level candidates as enrolled college students and/or students who just completed a degree. Internships give them an opportunity to sample new talent without having to make a commitment to hire; and internships give the student interns some hands-on experience sampling a potential career path.  The motivations and pay-offs for employers and students are very clear.

Employers offering unpaid internships are requiring that you receive college credit because that is the only legal way that a for-profit company can have you work/intern for them and not pay you. It has to be part of your formal education.

Why have employers offering paid internships not responded to your applications?

I really don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that employers consider candidates that do a good job (in their resumes, cover letters and other communication) of telling them why they want the internship, why they believe they are a good candidate for the internship, why they want to work in their industry, and why they want to work for their company,  Those are four very important questions you need to be able to answer as a job/internship seeker, because you have to make yourself understandable to employers.

So with that in mind, can you answer the following questions?  If you can, you are in a good position to be successful in your search.

  • What type of internship are you seeking?
  • What qualifications (skills, qualities, education and experience) are needed to do that work?
  • Do you possess these qualifications?
  • Does your resume highlight/emphasize these qualifications?  Does it market you for the kind of internship you are seeking?
  • Do your cover letters present your qualifications in relation to the qualifications being sought by employers?
  • What employers in your area offer the kind of internships you are seeking?  How many are there and how much do you know about them?
  • Who do you know that might be in a position to assist you with advice or referrals, and how well do these people know what you offer employers and what you are looking for in a job/internship?

I am not going to lie to you – trying to get an internship when you are not a current student or recent graduate is hard to do.  You have to convince an employer that you are worth the investment of their time and energy, and that takes more than searching job boards and submitting applications.

Perhaps you should consider looking or a job in the field that interests you to get you foot in the door with a company and they work your way up from there.  This may be a viable alternative.

Check with the career center at your university to see if you have access to any kind of alumni career services.  Even more importantly – spend some time really understanding what you want and what you offer so that you will be prepared to sell what you offer to potential employers.

I hope this advice helps.

I’m a senior – is it too late for me to do an internship?

Nick from the University of Texas asked: 

I am entering my senior year. I have a pretty low GPA. I am international and am looking for an internship in the business field. Is it too late?

Hi Nick –  it is never too late to start; just realize that there are some hurdles you will need to overcome.

First, as an international student you need to be fully aware of what your student visa does and doesn’t allow

Check with the International Student office at your university.  The International Student Advisers should be able to tell you your options.  This can be complicated for international students.  Some students can only work or do internships on campus.  Others can only do unpaid internships (and unpaid internships usually require that you receive academic credit).  Still others can only work by tapping into their Optional Practical Training (OPT).  Like I said, it’s complicated and what might be a option for one student may not be an option for another. Every student’s situation is unique.

Second, “Is it too late?” has a lot of possible answers

Is it too late to do an internship for academic credit for this fall semester?  I don’t know, but I would guess the answer to that question (on Sept 23rd) is Yes – it is too late.

Is it too late to do a paid internship for the fall without earning credit?  No, you just have to find one for which are eligible.

Is it too late, in general, to do an internship?  No!  Your senior year is a ideal time to do an internship.  And, if you only have one opportunity, your senior year is probably the best time to do an internship. You want an employer to see what you can do at a time when they might actually be able to hire you at the conclusion of the internship.  By that standard, Spring 2013 is a great time for a May 2013 student to intern.  Perhaps the best time.

Lastly, will your low GPA get in the way of you getting an internship?

Having  low GPA will take you out of the running for some internships but not for all internships, so you can’t use that as a reason not to look!

If you are looking for an internship, you had better be ready to have the “Why is your GPA low? Is your GPA reflective of your ability to perform in the workplace?” conversation.  It’s bound to come up.  You cannot avoid it altogether, so you have to be prepared to have that conversation.

By the way, employers can generally tell when you are not being truthful with them, so don’t try to spin up a story that isn’t true to explain away your GPA.  Employers can also tell when you are being truthful and authentic (and they really appreciate it!).

A couple of weeks ago I responded to the question “What is the best way for a first-timer to look for a job?” I think the advice I shared in that post applies equally well in your situation.  Whether you are looking for a job or for an internship, an employer will consider you when you give them good reasons to do so.  Those reasons can include attitude, motivation, intellect, passion, academic performance, prior experience, specific training, specific interests, etc. . . . the list can go on and on.

If you are not able to tell an employer why they should consider you for an internship, how can you expect them to figure it out?  Be prepared to market yourself to prospective employers.

My final advice:  Seek the counsel of your campus career center!  I bet they will have some good advice and resources for you, as well!

Good luck,