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5 Reasons Why Internships Are as Important as Your Degree

5 Reasons Why Internships Are as Important as Your Degree

So many of us get caught up in the workload of actual classes during our college careers that we forget about internships until junior and senior year of college. The last two years are the most crucial and stressful. Add extracurriculars like sports or campus clubs and a job onto an already heavy load of classes, and if you’re anything like me, you’re barely getting 4 hours of sleep a night. Just when the finish line seems so close, you’re supposed to make time for an internship.

The fact that many universities don’t stress this until close to graduation is unfortunate, but the earlier you get on that train – the better. Granted, many of us change our majors a few times before really making a solid decision. Once that decision is made, it is time to start looking into internships. This might  mean cutting back hours at a job, cutting back on credits taken so you graduate a semester or two later, or dropping some extra curriculars. Internships (and the hands on experience you get and can put on a resume) are what companies are looking for.

Virtual internships

A study done by Interships.com showed that 66% of employers agreed that interview performance and relevant work experience were the most important hiring factors, not the 4.0 GPA that was so difficult to maintain, or on campus extra curriculars. In 2012, 54% of graduates were unemployed or underemployed. That being said, given internship experience, chances of being hired after college with a company that college graduates interned with go up to 70%. That’s a huge switch in probability (for the better) in the current tough economy.

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If you are desperate to graduate as scheduled and do not want to give up any extra curriculars, looking into virtual internships might work for you. These are not available everywhere. It will take some digging and maybe even some articulate reasoning to your department about why this is the kind of internship that you desire. If a virtual internship is not possible at your university then it is time to decide what is going to have to give. Here are the top 5 reasons why making the extra push to get one or more internships during college are very important.

1.Test Drive Career

There are internship possibilities for everything from counseling to zoo keeping. The trick is to take the time to find the right one for you so that you leave the internship with a better understanding of your desired career.

When I started college, I thought for sure I was going to go to law school. It wasn’t into my junior year until I realized my ideals no longer sat well with some of the things that I was learning, or with a lot of my peers. I took an internship with the local public defender’s office and it was exactly the evidence I needed to show me that law school was not the path for me. I was very fortunate to have discovered this before I spent many more years down a path that would have left me unhappy and in much more debt.

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2. Resume

Generally there are places on the campus that will help with putting a resume together. The truth though is that there is no one way to create a resume. Depending on your field of interest it may be a strict one page. Some are lenient and are okay with two pages. Some fields look for character, and others just want the facts. There is no way to really be sure unless you have spoken with those potential employers and find out exactly what it is they are looking for.

Also, and this is the most important, having some experience that pertains to the job being applied for after college (besides fast food or baby sitting– whatever college job you had)  is absolutely necessary. Your degree or degrees will stand out, but employers want to know that you have the real life skills to do the job well.

3. Networking

While interning you not only get to meet people at different levels of the company or government entity but you are able to connect with them as well. There is an opportunity to ask questions you probably wouldn’t have thought of otherwise as well as make an impression on the right people so that they remember you when hiring time comes.

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There is also the added factor of those same people contacting you if and when something new in another avenue that maybe you had not considered before becomes available. Those connections and the connections of those you have come to know will be key to finding jobs after college if a position at the internship does not work out.

4. Experience

This may be a bit redundant but it is THAT important. Through an internship, you gain a better understanding of your respective area of study and be able to make the connection between your current studies and how they will apply once you graduate.

If you have not ever worked in a professional atmosphere (and even if you have) sharpening those skills and interacting on a professional level creates the teamwork, communication, and leadership skills employers are looking for.

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5. Confidence

This is not something that comes easily to everyone. Even if you are a very confident individual it may come across as arrogance if you have no prior on-the-job experience.

Starting a career after college can be scary for anyone. Having made connections through an internship and having had the opportunity to make mistakes before graduation is such an advantage. It will also give you an idea of the pace of the position that you hope to acquire, making sure you are aware of the workload you are taking on and what is expected of you, so you can walk into that first interview standing tall and confident.

Remember grades are a wonderful representation of intellect, but they are not necessarily a representation of work ethic. Learning what is necessary while in college and then being able to apply that knowledge to the skills needed are what employers want to see.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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