Students rely on internships for careers

Published: May 24, 2013

By Stephanie Soucheray-Grell — Correspondent

Source: Newsobserver

Interns will help keep corporate America running this summer.

And for some smaller employers and startups in this slow-mo economic recovery, those interns provide much needed muscle for little or no pay.

Some argue this creates a vicious cycle where job creation is stunted and wages are suppressed, but many students in the Triangle see the experience as a necessary step on the road to a career.

Gone are the days of returning home to wait tables or scoop ice cream in a beach town. By their senior years, many have numerous internships to their credit.

Take Maria Martinat. She graduated from N.C. State University in 2010 with a degree in communications.

“I didn’t even start thinking about internships until my junior year,” said Martinat, who’s from Rutherford College, a community in the foothills near Valdese. “Then I met a professor who told me internships are really important.”

In the course of one academic year, Martinat did three internships: at NBC 17, in former Gov. Bev Purdue’s communication office, and at Howard, Merrell & Partners, an advertising agency in Raleigh.

She describes those days as “very busy.”

Martinat worked at Howard, Merrell and at the governor’s office – both internships unpaid – at the same time. Three days at the ad agency, two days at the governor’s office. But even though she said the summer was financially challenging, her willingness to take on any task from monitoring news articles about clients to writing press releases and bios made Howard, Merrell remember Martinat when they were looking to hire in the spring of her senior year.

“It was two weeks before graduation, and my former mentor called me and offered the job,” Martinat said. “I was very lucky.”

Stephanie Styons, a senior vice president at Howard, Merrell, said Martinat’s story is how the internship-business relationship is supposed to work.

“It’s so logical to have strong internship programs here in the Triangle because of the universities,” Styons said. “And they’re young, so they belong to a different demographic, and have a different way of thinking. It offers such a different perspective.”

Styons said internships and externships – college courses designed to give students practical work experience – helped launch her own career.

She said she looks for interns who want to learn how an agency works.

“Every semester we take six or eight interns, and more in the summer,” Styons said. The application pool at Howard, Merrell can be deep, she said, and she expects undergraduates to bring a certain level of experience to the company.

“We don’t always want someone who’s really green,” Styons said. “Especially if they have to write copy. We want them to have done another internship.”


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