Waking up at 5:30 a.m. was out of the norm for Sarah Hansen. The 21-year-old senior Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) student at the University of West Alabama (UWA) accepted her first internship at Clarke-Washington Electric Membership Corporation (CWEMC) for the summer of 2017.
On that first morning, Hansen fixed a cup of coffee that consisted of more sugar than coffee and packed her lunch. When she arrived at CWEMC, the doors swung open, and she felt a rush of cold air and excitement. As she walked uncertainly down the hall to her office, unfamiliar faces welcomed her and made her feel at home.
“Before I began my internship, I did not know what a cooperative was, and it was important for me to learn about the history and the service they provide,” Hansen said.
Hansen knew that the summer held many new opportunities and learning experiences. One thing that excited the new intern was her “big girl title,” Communications Specialist. As a college student, it was exciting to be given an actual title.
Hansen said, “My responsibilities as the Communications Specialist consisted of writing articles for the Alabama Living magazine as well as advertising, creating graphics, coordinating the Washington Youth Tour and working the phone when needed.”
These real-life experiences gave her the chance to further her skills as an IMC student. One unique feature about the IMC program is an internship is a required class.
Hansen said, “Having an internship helps you grow and makes it easier to network with future employers.”
At a UWA Career Services event in September for the College of Liberal Arts Hansen was one of four students to participate on the student intern panel. Students serving on the panel explained how their personal experiences changed the outlook of their future and helped them develop a career plan.
“Take the risk and try new things,” Hansen explained. “It may not be what you think you exactly want in a career but you could possibly find your future career.”
Randa Simpson, UWA Alumni and IMC major, who also served as a member on the panel, said, “One thing I wish I would’ve known before graduation- It’s okay to not do exactly what you thought you were going to do or wanted to do.”
For any student searching for an internship this statement rings true. For Hansen, it summed up how she felt about accepting the position at CWEMC. She thought of herself as a visual person and graphic designer. However, a major part of the internship was writing articles for the Alabama Living Magazine. This frightened Hansen because she never considered herself a strong writer.
Once the first deadline approached after only her first week, Hansen realized that designing was a major component in compiling the articles.
“Honestly, my first week, I freaked out because I was unsure where to begin,” Hansen said.
Networking is a big part of internships but Hansen really learned how to dig deep into research and evolve her interviewing skills. One part of writing the articles was to have facts on the subject. She never formally interviewed someone before the internship and as a result, second guessed herself many times. The day of her first interview she wrote out pages of possible questions to ask so she could be completely prepared.
Hansen said, “I took over an hour to come up with possible interview questions and rehearsed each one of them prior the interview.”
Hansen had the opportunity to attend a communications conference for CWEMC while there, she gained a new-found confidence in interviewing people for articles. Along with learning interviewing skills, she also learned people interaction skills.
After the conference, something clicked with Hansen. She realized the internship not only helped her future career but it helped her develop new life skills. Hansen can now interview someone with ease and have confidence in her work. She also doesn’t dread answering the phone anymore. Her first day to work the switchboard, she became anxious because she did not have the confidence to speak with customers.
Hansen said, “I was a nervous wreck doing this because I was terrified I was going to mess up or hang up on somebody. Looking back on it now, I have no idea why I was so nervous.”
Reflecting on the summer, Hansen has confidence and excitement for the future. Throughout the summer she learned new skills, broadened her design skills and learned how to better communicate. She met many new people, networked with employers, made new friends and most importantly found her passion as an IMC student. Graduation is quickly approaching for the senior and she feels that she is completely prepared for the workforce.
Hansen said, “I consider myself very lucky to have been given the opportunity for an internship at CWEMC and very grateful for CWEMC welcoming me as I continue to learn.”
Internships provide students opportunities and further their education outside of the classroom. At the University of West Alabama, Career Services is the perfect place on campus to find guidance for future internships and jobs.
Tammy White, director of Career Services encourages students to take advantage of the resources the office provides for students.
Career Services allows students to build resumes, practice interviews and find possible internships and jobs.
“It’s important for a student to have an internship to gain experience in the workplace, as well as network with professionals in their industry. Employers view internships as valuable experience when determining new hires,” White said.