BEYOND THE CLASSROOM: COES student learns value of asking questions

Aug 29, 2013 | Engineering and Science, General News

Louisiana Tech faculty members encourage students to seek and obtain internships in order to help them prepare for their career path after college. Many students take advantage of the various internship opportunities. This is the fourth part of a six-part series highlighting Louisiana Tech students and their internship experiences.
Louisiana Tech student Chelsey Martin knew majoring in chemical engineering was the right choice for her – she just wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
Martin, a senior from Logan, Ohio, decided then to take an internship with Ashland, Inc., at the Catlettsburg Refinery in Kentucky in hopes of answering this fateful decision. What she found on her first day, however, was that she had even more questions to ask.
“The first day of my internship was stressful,” Martin said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect nor was I sure of what I would be doing. When I arrived at the office on my first day of work, I was greeted by our tech service engineer. He showed me my office for the summer and asked if I had any questions. I just looked at him and said, ‘Oh, yes!’”
Martin asked about a typical day at Ashland, Inc., what tasks she would be responsible for, and other information she might need.
“By the end of Day 1, I felt a lot of closure and was ready to begin my internship,” she said.
Martin said she believes Tech students and faculty need to prepare as much as possible for their internships.
“I think that the faculty could help students prepare for internships by interviewing students who have had internships and using their experiences to help answer questions and prepare the other students,” she said. “I realize this would be a bit tedious since we have so many students at Tech, but if the documentation was just a form that a student filled out and then was filed by the name of the company or tasks performed, then it could be possible.”
Students, she said, should ask questions about their upcoming internships and use as many resources as available to them.
“Get ahead of the game and ask your recruiter for contact information for your location or for contact info on someone in the related field,” she said. “Ask them questions about what they recommend, what to expect, and so on. Also, branch out and try to contact other interns who will be at the same location. See if they may be returning from a previous internship and if they have any knowledge to share.”
Jennifer Flynn-McKevitt, coordinator of employer relations and recruitment services with Tech’s Career Center, said internships are valuable to employers and students.
“I would say that most students will be ready to pursue an internship during the summer between their sophomore and junior year,” Flynn-McKevitt said. “At this point in their academic career, a student has usually developed some clarity around their career trajectory and will have a better sense for what kind of internship experience they would be seeking.”
Flynn-McKevitt suggested students also attend Tech’s Career Days, seminars offered by the Career Center, and TechLink, which is an online job board that students can use to search for opportunities that fit their career goals.
“What I’ve noticed as I approve job postings in TechLink is that most of our employer partners are seeking students who are at least sophomores,” she said. “When working with nonprofit organizations or organizations that have looser skill requirements, I’ve noticed that this timeline is not as strict. Some organizations, for example, that are looking for interns to use their marketing or sales skills may not have restrictions on who they hire as interns. They may even take a freshman.”
Martin said she feels a lot more prepared for her post-graduation days thanks to the internship.
“I now have a great perspective about an oil refinery and a chemical company,” she said. “I learned a great deal on water technologies, which has also helped me find a comfort zone in my choice of career.”