For many of our students, the internship is of crucial importance because it is their first opportunity to work in a professional capacity in an organizational setting or field of their choice. Whether it be a hospital, social service agency, manufacturing or high tech facility, or whether it be corporate, public, private or not for profit voluntary organization, internships will vary depending upon 1) the nature of the placement organization and 2) the internship's location within the organization. For example, some students may find a placement in the human resource department of a hospital or a company while others are interested in finding an internship in a social service agency or criminal justice facility working with counselors or probation officers. The point is that the experience and context of an internship places many of students on the first step of a path that will deeply influence their future choices and possibilities.
Another reason why the internship is important is that with the rapid emergence of the global economy, attaining a meaningful career will continue to be challenging. New technology, international competition and a more diverse workforce have produced a far more interconnected, interdependent, fast changing world. The result is that organizations must adapt and act much more quickly to keep up and innovate. Flexibility is crucial. The bureaucratic, rigid, top-down workplace simply can't handle the change. Some large corporations are making efforts toward more participatory cooperative forms of organization in order to mediate change. These corporations have found the transformation in management styles challenging. For this reason, they need new workers with innovative ideas to facilitate change.
The changing marketplace is one of the reasons that the nature of work is being transformed. Whole occupations decline, new ones appear while more familiar ones reappear requiring new forms of knowledge and skill. Overly specialized, strictly technical jobs are being redefined and often require broadbased generalized skills. And, broadbased generalized skills are, of course, precisely the skills we emphasize in the Employment Relations concentration in sociology.
One implication of all this is that the job market is likely to remain in a permanent state of flux. Job seekers must be flexible and be prepared to ride the waves of change. This may mean performing a variety of tasks or jobs and understanding how they fit into larger projects and goals. It may also mean working in groups and doing team-based problem solving. Or, it may require being able to quickly take on new projects or even move on to a new job or organization!
The internship is one of the few ways to get inside an organization and begin getting the kind of experience and know how that will help you maneuver in an increasingly complex labor market and employment setting.
In today’s economy, attaining a meaningful career can be challenging. Corporations have handled global competition by moving high-paying manufacturing jobs to developing countries. As a result, our economy is presently dominated by service sector employment opportunities.
The service sector is composed of both high-paid, stable jobs and low-paid, marginal jobs. For instance, computer specialists, lawyers and doctors are well-positioned in the service sector. While food workers, telephone operators and day care providers are rarely paid above minimum wage.
How can a student with a liberal studies background find comfortable employment in such an economy? ----- The answer is through an internship.
There are employment opportunities within the service economy that do not require more education than a bachelor’s degree. However, these jobs are highly competitive. Internships show employers that the student is serious, eager and committed to work. Thus, ultimately, an internship provides the employment relations student with a competitive edge.
Through an internship, students can apply their sociological background to the job. Skills such as diversity awareness, problem-solving, group management and change-making are imperative in today’s labor market. These, as well as other classroom-taught skills, will be enhanced through actual experience in a paid work setting.