The second day of my internship with Illinois State University’s Media Relations was a big surprise. I came into the office and was there just long enough to turn on my computer and check my e-mail. Soon after, I was on my way to the College of Business where Media Relations was participating in a simulation crisis.The experience was surprising to me because I was still getting used to interning in general, let alone being thrown into a “mock” crisis. It was shocking, but also beneficial. I was able to see early on just how the University would handle a crisis, and crisis management is a big part of public relations. Crises will not come with notice or warning so the fact that it happened on my second day was even more realistic. Even though it was only one simulation, I already feel more prepared to handle a crisis of my own when I graduate and find a job. There is the possibility that the first day at my first job I will have to handle a crisis, but I will be ready, because my internship has given me the real-life experience I need to do so.The importance of internships is rapidly expanding for college graduates. It gives those students with field experience an advantage over those without. Tom Lamonica, coordinator of Field Experience in the School of Communication, said, “An internship is essential to future career opportunities. High-quality students are expected to have high-quality experiences to supplement their classroom work.”The importance of the internship is apparent in the number of students interning in the School of Communication. Over 50 percent of communication graduates in 2009 had at least one internship. Pamela Cooper, assistant director of Professional Practice, noted: “An internship provides a student with an opportunity to identify the professional details of their chosen field along with what it will take to be successful in the field.”Having an internship is important for many reasons. First of all, it can give students experience in what they will be accomplishing at their jobs in the real world. Second, it teaches students how to interact in the work place. Students learn how to communicate effectively with colleagues, supervisors and others. Also, students experience first-hand that business attire is far different than the sweatpants and t-shirts most college students wear to class every day. Third, internships give students a leg up on their classmates with the same degree and credential, making it possible to stand out from the crowd. Essentially, internships can bridge the gap between the classroom and the workforce and make the transition from college to the working world more seamless.Internships are not just important for the students. Internships can be very beneficial to the employer as well. Employers are able to teach someone the ins and outs of their profession while possibly lessening their workload as well. In this economy, many places are cutting back on full-time and part-time workers. Interns are often not paid, giving the employer a way to divide the tasks in the office without spending any more money. This may sound selfish, but it is not.As an intern, I would rather experience a lot having to do with my field and not be paid than shred and file papers all day and have a salary. So, when my advisor gives me a lot of work to do, I am happy to do it because I know the more new and different things I do, the more prepared I will be later. Really, the advisor-intern relationship is a team effort. The intern acquires hands-on experiences vital to obtaining a job in the work force, and the advisor is able to delegate tasks to make the office run more smoothly and efficiently. “The mentoring process can lead to lifelong professional relationships which benefit student and supervisor,” Lamonica said. “These relationships can help later on in life when employers are looking for experienced employees, or interns are looking for new jobs.”When a student interns with an alum, the relationship formed can be even more beneficial. The alum has already experienced many things that the student is going through and can provide personalized advice and guidance. The student and the alum already have a bond as attendees of the same school, and they can build on that bond in the workplace to make a unique and informative experience. According to Cooper, employers (especially alumni) can get their organization’s name out in the university setting and draw in more applicants for entry-level positions.This relationship is good for interns because employers are expecting a lot more from newly hired employees. When 20-30 years ago, they asked, “Do you have a college degree?” now they ask, “What is your degree, and what is the quality of your professional experience?” The importance of internships is growing, and both students and employers are catching on. In the School of Communication, 25 percent more students interned this year than last year. Out of those students, several were hired after the completion of their internship. The trend is similar in other areas of the University and, at this rate, students and employers will continue to learn and grow as they work with each other.Brandi Marriott, Public Relations majorAnticipated graduation in May 2010