When making the transition from the military to the civilian workforce, obtaining a post-secondary education is certainly an important element in securing gainful employment. Why?
- Having either a bachelor’s or master’s degree will help to separate your résumé from the hundreds of other applicants for a particular job.
- Having a relevant degree in the industry in which you are looking to obtain employment will further separate you from the pack.
BUT what will make you a real contender for a position is having relative experience within the industry along with the right post-secondary credential.
As a military service member, you certainly have “work experience,” experience that some employers value very highly. The challenge is how to obtain “relative” work experience while serving your country.
How can you do this?
One way is completing an internship as part of your degree program.
Not all internship programs are created equal. Ask if your prospective institution offers college credit for internships. The number of credit hours for an internship is specific to each college, but they are largely based on the number of hours of the internship and the level of academic engagement throughout the program.
For active-duty service members, trying to complete an internship may be problematic; however, it is not impossible. If the internship is or can be part of your degree program, then you can use your military tuition assistance benefit. For veterans using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, participating in an internship may help you to maintain your enrollment when classes are not in session so you can keep receiving your benefits. It just depends on how the school structures the internship opportunity for you.
As part of your research in looking for a college with which to pursue your education, look at their experience with internships and experiential learning. Does the school offer them? What assistance do they provide to students in finding and applying for an internship program? Is the program flexible to meet your time constraints, can you participate in the program on nights and weekends? Is it a paid or unpaid internship? Do you have to get approval from your chain of command to participate in the internship? Can you use your current duty position and unit as your internship?
When selecting an internship program there are some things you should take into consideration in order to gain the maximum benefit from them. Here are a few things to consider:
- At the beginning of the internship, meet with your supervisor and set goals. Discuss skills you are interested in mastering during the internship.
- The internship is a workplace and so behave professionally including dress standards and reporting on time.
- Take every advantage to develop and expand your professional network.
- When in doubt, ask questions or seek clarification on work assignments during the internship. Be a sponge and soak in all the information you can.
- Make sure that while in the internship, you will actually do a substantial amount of work and not just fetch coffee or run errands for the boss. Remember you are working to build experience for your résumé.
- When the internship is over, follow up with a simple thank you card to the internship coordinator and supervisor where you did the internship.
As a current or former member of our nation’s military, you certainly have a wealth of experience, experience very few others have. However, when it comes to competing for the next job and career, you need to make yourself as competitive as possible. Earning the right degree or credential is very important, so too is having the RIGHT experience. Participating in an internship through your college degree program is one way to get the right experience, and you are completing two things at once: earning your education and gaining relative work experience.
For more information on how Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education can help you pursue your career goals, contact us at 855-JWU-1881 or [email protected] You can also fill out the “Request Info” form on this page.