Who should do an internship?
Should you do an internship? The answer to that is a simple “yes,” no
matter what your major. If you are a communication major at HPU,
an internship is a graduation requirement, usually fulfilled
by enrolling in COM 3950, Communication Practicum, which means
that the work experience is also for credit as part of an academic
curriculum. Some majors, nursing and business, also require internships.
If your major doesn’t require an internship, you may still
want to do one prior to graduating. Find out from your dean if
your major requires an internship and start planning for it early,
and if your major doesn’t require one, ask about doing
The internship experience
I majored in advertising at HPU, and in my earliest major classes
I began to hear about former students who had started their careers
with internships or used their internships to determine that
they wanted to do something else. I decided to look at an internship
early on, hoping that it would either lead to a job or count
towards experience in the field.
I started my internship in May 2003, a few weeks before the
official start date of that summer’s practicum class. After talking
to the dean and the instructor, I researched possible internships.
For COM majors, there are binders full of pre-selected internships
in the College of Communication office. I listed my top choices
and researched these companies to make sure that what they did
was in fact close to what I wanted to do after graduating. A
good source of supplementary information was the Pacific Business
News Book of Lists, which organizes the top companies in the
state, by field. Each of the companies that had an internship
available listed a contact person. I set up meetings with these
people and, with one of them, was able to work out an internship
schedule that met the dean’s and the course’s requirements.
The COM-3950 practicum class requires a minimum of 200 hours
on the job. Some students’ internship schedules are lighter
than others, some heavier. Mine was set by the needs of the company:
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That kind of
a schedule brought me in for three full work days, and not only
was I sure to be retaining what I learned, but the company could
rely on me being there often enough to take on projects that
required plenty of attention.
Being able to set a good schedule is important to the internship.
You don’t want to set one that’s so light that your
coworkers don’t feel they can include you in their projects,
and it shouldn’t be so heavy that it hurts your performance
in other courses. A certain amount of flexibility on both sides
can help the internship go well. You may need to shift some hours
due to other school projects or exams. Just be sure to inform
your supervisor early so that the company can plan on your being
in at a different time.
I did my internship at a top advertising agency here in Honolulu.
At the time, they weren’t listed as a possible internship
opportunity in the communication office’s binders, but
that wasn’t a deterrent to me. As long as the internship
I found met the course requirements, and I could show how the
duties involved would apply to my major, I could apply at any
company for the internship.
After getting all the approvals in order, and registering for
the course, which met once a week, I reported for my internship
and started my training. I was fortunate to have been able to
join one of the best ad agencies in Honolulu. They had a long
history of taking on interns and knew how to best extract a fair
amount of work from the intern and also impart the knowledge
that was given in trade for it. I trained under an experienced
person who eventually was able to have me take on some of his
The training gradually increased as I became more familiar
with the procedures and systems that helped the ad agency
I was logging my time daily, and bringing in my weekly timesheets
to our practicum class meetings. The timesheets had columns where
I listed the tasks I completed and hours worked.
The class meetings are important since they allow students
to share their internship experiences and this helps the
gauge the effectiveness of every internship and be sure that
interns aren’t stuck doing too many menial or unrelated
Some internships are better than others, and the less desirable,
or just plain objectionable ones, are those that use students
as “free labor.” These are offered by companies that
put you in charge of three machines: the fax machine, the copier,
and the coffee maker. If an internship has you next to any one
of those machines too often, that’s a sure sign that the
internship is not about training you, but about exploiting you.
Look for a better one before you invest too many hours of your
time. I was fortunate in that I was actually trained in the activities
I would eventually end up doing, and not just expected to file
and fax all day.