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Internships: Experience Provides Long-term Value to Students

Laurie A. Lindow

An internship is defined as a volunteer or paid work experience in a government agency, for-profit or non-profit company (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). The purpose of an internship is to provide practice, networking opportunities and realistic work experience in the desired career field of the student involved; in this case criminology. My desire to work within the emergency management and public safety field of the criminal justice system stems from previous courses taken in the online Master of Science in Criminology degree at Regis University.

The basis of my internship was solely designed around the Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS) Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) and the Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC). As a criminology graduate student, I was able to study a wide variety of subjects that proved to be crucial in the position I held for the state of Colorado. I became fully immersed in the mission of promoting and enhancing public safety for the citizens of Colorado. My enhanced knowledge not only in the classroom setting, but also in my experiences through the CIAC gave me an enriched comprehensive view of the working environment and mission for the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

My internship experience has not only reinforced my passion for public safety and crime prevention, but also has given me opportunities that compliment what I have learned in the classroom. I focused my education and career around public safety, and this internship provided me with the qualifications that premier public safety agencies within Colorado are seeking. With over nine months of experience at the state’s fusion center, leading a groundbreaking project for Colorado, this internship through Regis gave me a priceless experience. My research and writing skills, coupled with my communication skills flourished through my education, made me a better candidate for positions in the public safety realm.

Typical internships require a specific amount of time, for example: one day per week vs. a full-time commitment; however, spending the extra time to full-fill the internship allowed for leadership to assess more responsibilities while simultaneously allowing an intern the ability to network and build trust within the organization. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), in a 2009 survey of U.S. employers with interns, they found that 67% of those interns were given job offers after their terms were complete (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2014). On many occasions I spent 30 or more hours a week in the office. As a result, co-workers and management were able to get a better grasp of my work habits and work ethic, which led to recommendations for positions at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

My greatest accomplishment throughout this internship experience and ultimately my academic career at Regis was not only receiving a master’s degree, but also successfully getting a job with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. This was a long and often stressful experience in terms of applying for numerous positions, as well as the state application process. From the beginning of my academics, I knew I wanted a career in the public safety and crime prevention field of criminology. Regis has provided me with the tools to not only excel in this career field, but also interact and network with individuals in all areas of expertise within criminology. My career at Regis opened a variety of doors outside of the academic portion of my degree. From my classmates to professors, I was able to come into contact with a wide array of people who all provided helpful advice and insight on a career within the public safety sector.

One of the most important things that I learned through this experience was how the application process works at the state level of government. The application itself was primarily focused on the amount of information you put on there to “sell” yourself, while also matching terms found in the job description field of each job listing. Basically, the first stage of the application process is where a computer matches as many terms from your personal application to keywords in the job listing. If you meet a minimum requirement of these, as well as the minimum requirements pertaining to experience and education, than you move on to the next step. The next step is usually another review of your application for more specific qualifications, and then an interview. The key to getting an interview is making sure your application has as many keywords from the job listing as possible, than you just have to nail the interview!

The most valuable advice I can provide is that once you are in an internship, make sure you shake hands and meet as many people as you can. You are ultimately the brand of your career, and showing face and meeting people is the epitome of brand exposure. Volunteer with as many events, meetings, briefings, and conferences as you can, and make a presence at these events. This means networking and meeting people from all career fields; you never know when you will need to count on those people for something in the future. I also made sure that I worked hard when I was at the office and not only produced results/ideas, but everyone in the CIAC knew who I was and what my project entailed. Down the road when I needed references and recommendations for jobs, it was easy to put a solid list together.

My final recommendation is that an internship is definitely what you make of it. Go into the experience with clear goals and expectations, and make sure that your supervisors and advisors are aware of these. Many times students believe that internships automatically lead to a job within the organization just because they “put in the time”. This is only a fraction of the traits needed to get a job, you also need to make a great impression and build relationships with the people around you. Make sure to verbalize with your supervisor what it is you are looking to get out of this experience. I made it clear that I was looking to network and meet people, as well as get a realistic experience within my career of choice. I also stated that this was a part of my academic career at Regis, and that there were specific qualifications that I needed to meet. Lastly, go into this process with an open mind and get the most out of it you can- whether that means you changed your mind on a career, or it reinforced your desire and passion to pursue it.

Want to learn more about criminology? Request more information or call 877-820-0581 to speak with an admissions counselor today.

References:

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). (2014). Internship and Co-op Survey. Retrieved from: https://www.naceweb.org
U.S. Department of Labor- Wage and Hour Division. (2010). Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Retrieved from: https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf