Students to Press on with Internships



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

Career development staffers have been suggesting that students should not use the excuse of the global pandemic to sit back and do nothing now to advance their professional interests. But it’s not just this group that is offering the advice to move forward. Here are several employers who all have extensive experience hiring interns from UofL in the past. All agree students can make significant advancements in their professional development now, despite coronavirus fears and the economic fallout. And one of the best ways to do that is through an internship.

Madison Hardy is a partner at the J Wagner Group, a full-service events and marketing agency here in Louisville. She says internships provide a great hands-on learning experience for students, while also providing an important benefit to their agency. “Interns are great assets in the creation process as technology and new ways of thinking from usually younger interns help us reach different levels of success.”

Aaron Rosenberg is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Oasis Solutions and a UofL Alum (Communication BA, 2005). He remembers his own internship experience as a UofL student and the pivotal role it played in his development. “It taught me so much more about the practical aspects of what I was learning and being taught. It allowed me to understand what I liked and what I didn’t like before getting too far down a career path that would be more difficult to alter. So I try to provide the same opportunity to the interns I work with. Providing them with more of a wide-ranging holistic experience.”

Sherry Stanley is the Executive Director of the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs, which provides services and support to staff at the track’s stables as well as their families. She points out that internships, in addition to professional development, provide an important cultural perspective. “From a societal standpoint, it is important for young people to gain exposure to people and situations that will help them have a broader view of the world and that will contribute to a more compassionate generation. I think all of us have had experiences when we were younger that were transformative and contributed in a small way to where we are today.”

Hardy said the best interns that J Wagner has hosted have jumped in with both feet and not been worried about how much time they have to work. “Our job is usually not 9 to 5 so having a good attitude and willingness to help is key. This is something we try to evaluate during our interview process as we believe you are only as strong as your team and that includes interns at JWG. We have weekly meetings with interns where we encourage questions, no matter how small or crazy, be asked. Good interns should never be scared to vocalize questions or concerns. Learning on your feet and retaining information is vital in a fast-paced event world.”

For Rosenberg, the key is for the intern to be eager. “The best interns are really just like the best employees. Humble and hungry! They aren’t too big to complete the small tasks nor are they too shy to tackle a large project or offer up a big idea. They want to learn and ask a lot of questions. Throw themselves into opportunities and try their best.”

Stanley looks for her interns to be jacks of all trades. “At least at our organization, it is important for students to be flexible, since at most smaller non-profits, everyone has to do a bit of everything, from IT support to direct services, teaching English, and taking out the trash!”

So what should students be doing now as we continue to inch forward out of pandemic lockdowns into an unknown and wildly fluctuating economy? Madison Hardy of the J Wagner Group said students should be calm and creative. “We, more than most, understand the impacts 2020 is having on the world and could only imagine the pressures of graduating during these times. We would recommend staying hopeful as the world, especially in events, will take time to work itself out. Don’t let your brain waste, continue reading and learning. We all have the responsibility to create a new world or way of doing things so let’s get out of the box and try new ideas, especially related to events and communication for ourselves and clients.”

Aaron Rosenberg from Oasis Solutions suggests students look particularly at remote opportunities. “My advice for students would be to target opportunities that had a well-defined work-from-anywhere-workforce and policies in place prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Somewhere that has been well-equipped to help interns get onboarded and be successful in a remote situation.”

And Sherry Stanley from the Backside Learning Center said students applying for internships should think about personalized contact with decision-makers. “Please reach out and don’t be afraid to be persistent. That is actually much appreciated since we are all juggling multiple responsibilities, and shows employers that you are really interested. If you don’t hear back from an email, pick up the phone! This is something that we feel almost shy about in these days of texts, emails, and social media but it is refreshing and a nice personal touch when you actually hear someone’s voice that cannot be communicated through a keyboard.”

You can find out more about internships on the UCC Internship website, plus review our recent virtual workshop Interning 101.  The University Career Center has posted a virtual session with a group of students talking about their internships and providing advice about how to make the most out of the experiences.  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.