Internship prep program positions students for success


Liam McFadden | Staff Illustrator

One of the great stressors for college students is the pressure to secure an internship — and with good reason. A survey done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2012 found 60 percent of respondents in paid internships received to at least one job offer, making internships a vital part of the post-grad job search.

At Pitt, the Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance offers an Internship Prep Program for students feeling that pressure to get an internship. The program includes an “internship guarantee” for students who complete the program.

Alyson Kavalukas, an internship coordinator with the Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance, said she understands just how important it is for students to take in the real world with outside experiences from internships.

“Learning by doing gives students a chance to hone their strengths and refine areas of improvement, explore their true passions and choose the right career path so they can hit the ground running after graduation,” Kavalukas said.

Pitt began its guaranteed internship program in 2013, at which time University officials said it  was the first of its kind. Since then, the IPP’s popularity has skyrocketed, increasing enrollment five-fold from 400 students to an estimated 2,000 this year, according to University officials. Over the past two years, Pitt graduates reporting that they completed experiential learning while at Pitt jumped from 74 to 83 percent according to Pitt officials.

The IPP also hosts a variety of student workshops including resumé reviews, mock interviews and cover letter editing services. Additionally, the Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance provides students with one-on-one internship counseling. Once students complete all of the requirements for the IPP, they are guaranteed placement in at least one internship during their undergraduate career.

Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said it is rare for students to complete the entire IPP before finding an internship.

“Most students are able to understand their strengths and develop a strategy of next steps that leads to getting an offer before ever completing the full program,” Zwick said.

Zwick said that the Career Development Office isn’t designed to simply hand students internships, but rather to help them learn through each phase of the internship- or job-finding process.

“We are here to coach students as much as needed through each phase of the process, while they also learn the necessary components for being competitive in the job market and develop the necessary tools for building on their career in future job searches,” Zwick said. “Many students believe that the internship guarantee means that if they come to [our] office we will give them an internship. This would not be helpful in training our students how to navigate future internship and career searches.”

These numbers, and the increase in overall students within the program, has earned national recognition. Pitt’s IPP program has been praised in national academic circles, and the coordinators were selected to present at the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Students that have been through the program also have praise for it. Yelena Wermers, a senior marketing and supply chain management major, said she highly recommends going to the events the IPP has to offer.

“Unlike when you go to career fairs and you’re just one of over 100 students that talk to a recruiter, at IPP events you are part of a much smaller crowd and are able to be more personal with recruiters,” Wermers said. “From these smaller events, I was able to learn more about companies that I never would’ve looked into otherwise.”

Liam Brown, a senior marketing and supply chain management major, said he was at first skeptical of the program’s value — but that later changed.

“The IPP program won’t place an internship in your lap, but it will guide you toward the right people and events to allow you to grow and genuinely earn one for yourself,” Brown said. “It didn’t seem like it was anything of importance or help while participating within it, but deciding to use the resources provided by the IPP program was one of the most defining moments of my college and professional career.”