Employers Advise Students to get Real-World Experience Through Internships



By Stuart Esrock

The University of Louisville is placing a greater emphasis on internships and co-ops that require students to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom.  But beyond making connections between academic knowledge and the work-world, a group of Louisville businesspeople with ties to UofL believe internships and co-ops provide crucial hands-on experiences that are an important gateway to full-time employment.   

UofL graduate Megan Imel owns a State Farm Insurance agency.  She did several internships before she graduated and has now hired interns into her own business. Imel said, “Internships give you an opportunity to build your resume, but also learn what a certain industry or role is like before you commit full-time. Our internships are sales-based, so our students are earning extra money while getting real life sales experience that has proven to be valuable when they go through the interview process for their first ‘real’ job.”

Joey Wagner heads up the highly successful J. Wagner Group, a full-service marketing agency, as well as teaching a popular Communication class at UofL that focuses on development of special events. He, too, has hired multiple UofL students for internships. “Internships are important for you to grow, learn, and become successful. I am a big believer in doing as many internships you can to get real life experience and learn from experts in the field you want to go in.”

Travis Kerns quickly transitioned from his UofL undergraduate degree into a successful career as the Director of Foundation and Workforce Development for Trilogy Health Services. “During my next to last semester in college I interned with a company looking for the ability to apply my education professionally. Nine years later, I still work for this company, and I have been able to grow personally and professionally with them. I currently lead two teams, and each member of these teams started with my company as an intern.” 

So what do these professionals look for in a potential intern?  Imel said, “When someone expresses to me that they desire to try new things and take on as many tasks as they can, that is appealing. When someone comes to me stating that they are actually interested in the work, not just getting credit hours, that is also appealing.”  

Likewise, work ethic is also a key for both Wagner and Kerns.  Wagner said, “We want interns who are dependable, hard-working, and are willing to learn.” According to Kerns, “I look for desire and willingness. You may not know yet how to do everything that will be asked of you, but a willingness and desire to learn is important to success. I also look for people with strong interpersonal communication skills who are willing to be open with their thoughts and engage in problem-solving.”

Once a student obtains an internship, it’s really up to them to get the most out of the experience.  Imel advises students to treat their internship like a career move.  “Our most successful interns show up every day and give 100% and they view themselves as part of the team, not ‘just an intern.’ Ask for tasks, be proud of your work and treat it as though success there is an important part of making your way to your dream career.”

Wagner said, “Work as much as you can. Ask questions. Take great notes. Ask your supervisor if you can go to meetings with them. Meet as many people as you can while interning to grow your network.”

Kerns said treat your internship seriously and as an investment in yourself. “Learning how to operate at a high level in a professional environment is a learned skill. This includes how to best communicate with your peers and supervisors. Do not be afraid to share your interests and passions, as new opportunities can often be identified through a simple conversation. Seek out leaders in the organization and politely ask if they would be willing to share some of their experiences with you. Many will be excited to share advice.”

You can find out more about internships on the University Career Center's website.  If you are interested in obtaining academic credit for your internship or co-op, be sure to reach out to the coordinator/director in your UofL academic program.