Internships and Experiential Learning Often Helps Students Stand Out

Stand out from the crowd at Vector Marketing

How important is experiential learning to your development as a student? I recently caught up with University of Texas at San Antonio's Experiential Learning Coordinator, Christian Corrales, who shared some interesting thoughts with me.

“Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, Outliers, explores the ‘story of success’ of exceptional achievers. He reveals recurring themes that catapulted these rare individuals to a level of success unique among their peers.

In his book, Gladwell highlights that such success is attributed when talent intersects opportunity and when that opportunity provides the 10,000 hours of experience required to develop mastery in a given field.

The evidence shows that extensive experience early brings mastery and keys to success. Conversely, if experience is limited and/or delayed, success will be stunted. This leads to a critical question for our students:

What priority do you place in experiential learning?

I have the privilege to discuss the importance of internships to students on a daily basis. I explain to students that an internship is a necessary component of their professional development. I often use the following analogy to make my point:

A college degree is essential; however, it does not illustrate to an employer how you are capable of performing the job at hand.

Think about when you received your driver’s license. What type of preparation was involved in that process? Better yet, how hard was it to convince your parents to lend you their car without previous driving experience? I assume it was pretty hard. Now, reflect on the actual driver’s license examination. Most states require a two-part test; written and driving. In order to obtain your license you need to successfully pass both; if not, you do not get your license.

Most college students focus on the written part (academics) and pay little attention to the driving (experiential/practical). Internships are the practical piece to your professional development that will showcase your abilities and skills set.

Now more than ever, employers are highly selective about whom they hire. In a highly competitive job market, you will need to make yourself stand out among others. Since employers prefer to hire individuals who have career-related work experience, internships can be crucial to your job search.

The experience you gain might not perfectly match your major or your chosen career path, but it will give you transferrable skills, a notable work ethic, and a competitive edge.

Your internship experience will also expose you to professionalism and allow you to observe how skills and ideas are applied in the real world. Internships do more than just look good on your resume. You can build a network of professional and personal contacts, develop the skills employers are seeking and build confidence, motivation and professional work habits you need to excel.

Ultimately, an internship can get your foot in the door with major companies or influential organizations.”

Do you plan on getting an internship? Have you already done one? What is your experience?