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Why internships matter more than just a mark

By Meghan Fitzgeraldspecial to the Chronicle

Waking up at 2 a.m. to put on slacks and pack my lunch wasn’t exactly optimal. An hour later, I was in the green room of Fox News, printing out production notes and delivering rundowns, and by 7 a.m., I had already made three coffee runs. I would have an eight-hour day before lunchtime.

I was in New York City interning for Fox News Channel’s morning show, “Fox & Friends,” and I loved it. I worked with guests ranging from a 50-pound boa constrictor to Ann Romney, from two little girls who built their own mars rover to Mario Lopez. I was doing the job of three green room producers, and none of it had ever been taught to me in class.

You can have a dazzling GPA and a stellar cover letter, but no three-credit course can prepare you for a fast-paced work environment. Work is like a school project that never ends. Your performance isn’t reflected in a letter grade, but in your promotion from running coffee to running an entire project.

Before my internship, television production was never a consideration for me. I never wanted to write script or set up interviews unless it would get me – not someone else – in front of the camera. Learning outside of a classroom, however, has a funny way of breaking down your own misconceptions. The job you picture yourself having while you are daydreaming in class may not be the job you will love after you graduate.

An internship is not a daydream. It is a test run — a chance to be an older, more responsible, more successful version of yourself. You have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of a company, experience the lifestyle of a professional in your field of study and try positions you never would have even thought you wanted.

The relationships you cultivate while developing your professional self are often the connections that help you start your career. A 4.0 can prove that you are book smart, but the impression you leave on the last day of your internship proves your true value to a company. Good grades can land you your first internship, but good performance can land you your first job.

I admit, academic performance does generally reflect your ability to understand and apply concepts crucial to your field of study. College courses are an essential foundation, and some majors rely on them alone, not requiring the completion of an internship at all.

We will all interview for entry level jobs after college. The experience gained via an internship just might resonate with a future employer more than the A you received in a distribution class. A college course prepares you to write papers and meet deadlines, but it does not teach you to trust your skills, build professional relationships, and treat your future career as a lifestyle.

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