Written by Lauren Freedman Whittlesey, SCA '10 alum, Alternative Spring Break in the Grand Canyon. Lauren turned her internship into a green job with SCA working in various capacities for the Marketing and Advancement teams. She is now the Corporate Events Coordinator.
As most young job-seekers have learned, simply having an education is not enough to get a job, let alone a great, green job these days. Whether you’re looking for a job with a corporation, a non-profit, or the government, chances are you’ll need to get some real world experience as an intern before you can land your dream job.
Interns not only learn how their academic curriculum can be applied in a modern workplace, but they also gain the critical workplace skills that employers are looking for. These include working as part of a team, meeting deadlines, managing multiple projects, creative thinking, and problem solving. Internships also help students learn about job opportunities available to recent graduates and provide real workplace references.
Lauren Freedman Whittlesey during her SCA Alternative Spring Break program.
Student Conservation Association alum Todd Nelson is now the Volunteer Resource Program Coordinator at Grand Canyon National Park. After his three-month SCA internship at Saguaro National Park, Todd knew that he had found his career path. “My SCA internship got me into the Park Service. Once I had my foot in the door, I was able to find my niche there,” Todd says.
Todd advises interns to diversify their experience to make themselves more marketable. “While you’re an intern, make sure you take any training that is offered. Even if it’s outside of the field you are working in, you can get a bigger picture of your agency and learn from new opportunities. Learning new skills can open the door for jobs you didn’t even know existed.”
Paul Loesch was one of the first 10 interns to take part in the SCA and ARAMARK Environmental Sustainability Internship program. Working with ARAMARK at Baylor University in Texas, Paul organized Baylor’s Energy Awareness Month, which included an energy conservation competition. He also developed energy awareness materials that addressed energy efficiency standards and procedures. Paul, an SCA alumnus, is a LEED accredited professional and also worked on certifying high performance green buildings on campus. “This internship taught me a huge amount about the practical application of sustainability initiatives in facilities management. I had a chance to learn a lot about automation systems, commercial HVAC, and general facilities management processes,” Paul says.
Paul Loesch monitors energy consumption at Balyor University as an SCA-Aramark environmental sustainability intern.
Paul points out that he had an opportunity to affect change in a big way, while also gaining skills that he was able to leverage into a full-time job in environmental compliance with ARAMARK. “Many graduates have a strong desire to be involved in something meaningful and get good experience, and the internship program does a fine job of providing these opportunities. The interns get quality training, and ARAMARK and its clients get a fresh set of eyes, hungry for environmentally positive results. I had superb support from ARAMARK’s corporate sustainability folks, and Baylor’s forward thinking approach created an environment where I really felt like my work was inspiring positive change.”
An internship can provide you with a foot in the door and the experience you need to start your career in conservation. It’ll prove to your potential employer that you are truly dedicated to the field. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you leverage your internship into a great job:
- Be open to considering internships outside of your field of study. Students often find exciting new career paths by exploring new opportunities.
- Use your network! Keep in touch with your internship supervisor and other professional contacts you make while interning, as well as while you’re in school. Tell them about your successes and let them know when you are looking for a job.
- When applying for jobs, be open-minded. Marketable skills can be gained in any position, and those skills are what will set you apart from other applicants as you move through your career.
- Smaller parks and corporations can be great places to gain exposure to a variety of job responsibilities and try on many “hats”. If you are willing to help out in areas outside your position, you can learn valuable skills and add critical experience to your resume.
- Once you’ve landed a job at the company you really want to work for, go the extra mile to prove your skills while keeping your eyes open for other opportunities that will advance your career.
Are you ready to find the right internship to launch your career in conservation? SCA is posting new internships daily at http://www.thesca.org/serve/internships .