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Test run your career in college with internships

Gaining real-world experience in your field of study as part of your college experience is one huge benefit of internships—think of it as “trying on” your career to make sure it’ll fit. Internships are a smart move for many reasons, including providing an opportunity to learn new skills, enhance existing skills, network within your desired field, gain confidence and leadership abilities, enhance your resume and, in some cases, be compensated financially.

“Internships are differentiators, as they allow our students to stand out as job candidates,” says Kurt A. Stahura, Ph.D., professor and dean of Niagara University (NU) College of Hospitality & Tourism Management. “Prospective employers are impressed with the experience our students already have that relate to the job for which they’re interviewing.”

Mikayla Miloshevski, an NU College of Hospitality & Tourism senior, hopes to become general manager of a major hotel. Last summer, she interned at the four-star Grand Hotel Imperial in Moltrasio, Italy as part of her studies.

“It was a great experience,” says Miloshevski. “European hotel service standards are much higher than ours. I was able to participate in many aspects of customer service at a four-star hotel as I improved my Italian.”

Miloshevski credits her NU professors with preparing her well for her overseas internship. “Most have worked in the industry, so they know what’s expected and share their insight and expertise with us. I learned so much, met a lot of great people and the experience will definitely strengthen my resume.”

For Lucas Santos, a senior Animation major at Daemen College, the internship he completed at production/post production company dPost in downtown Buffalo fit perfectly with his career goal of becoming a 3D animator.

“The knowledge I gained at dPost is helping me as I work on my senior film project,” says Santos. “Their 3D animators are extremely talented. They taught me techniques that greatly improved my film, and I was able to apply what I’ve learned at Daemen, so the experience was very worthwhile for me.”

And it’s not just the students who benefit from internships. Beth Donovan, APR, senior vice president at dPost, said staff members learn from interns as much as the students learn from them.

“Mentoring interns gives our staff supervision experience, and also challenges them to take their expertise and experience and translate it as a teacher,” she says. “We’re jazzed when students share something new with us from the classroom. My husband Andy (dPost president) and I both got a jumpstart on our careers because of invaluable internship experiences. We are committed to paying it forward.”

M&T Bank views its internship program as a way to give back to the community and to gain earlier access to potential new hires. Its partnership with Buffalo State College provides students the opportunity to explore the variety of jobs that exist within banking.

“We encourage students in all majors to apply, as there are possibilities throughout the bank, including technology, marketing, cyber security and compliance,” says Andy Smith, vice president and campus recruiting team manager, who says M&T looks for well-rounded students with excellent academic performance and on- and off-campus involvement, leadership experience and good interpersonal skills.

Nigel Peters’ dream is to eventually travel the world, working in IT for a major hotel. That’s why the Queens, New York native—who recently graduated from Buffalo State with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and a minor in Hospitality and Tourism—eagerly participated in a 10-week paid internship last summer in M&T Bank’s Retail Credit Risk Department.

“My internship was an invaluable experience for me, both personally and professionally,” says Peters. “Not only did it confirm I’m in the right field, but it provided the opportunity to enhance my programming skills and my personal development skills.”

Peters says he participated in several projects with M&T mentors that gave him hands-on experience in his field of study.

“I learned things I will use throughout my career, no matter what I do or where I work,” he says. “I learned to work on a team, and how to dress for and communicate in a professional setting.”

Competition for entry-level positions is often fierce, and an internship can mean the difference between your getting a job “that offers a paycheck” and one that will kick start the career of your dreams. As you begin your college search, make sure you explore whether your colleges of choice offer internship programs.

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