According to Debbie Behnfield, the recruitment coordinator at Mines’ Career Center, “When you graduate from Mines, 75% of… students who are getting their undergraduate degrees report that they have had technical experience in their major. That would include internships, co-ops, research, or other opportunities.” This trait benefits both graduates and their employers, as it provides students with experience beyond just classroom and theoretical knowledge about their chosen profession. There are many systems in place at Mines intended to help students find this highly sought-after technical experience. Behnfield explained that while talking to companies and representatives on one of the two Career Days during the controlled recruiting seasons on campus tends to be the most well-known method of seeking an internship, there are other ways students can find companies who will give them this sort of experience. Behnfield recommends Diggernet as the go-to page for internship, co-op, and on and off-campus job openings, as well as information about workshops and information sessions. Events (besides Career Day) such as company information sessions and on-campus interviews during the recruiting seasons are also good ways of getting in touch with companies who are looking for interns from Mines. The Career Center also has links to further opportunities and search engines designed to look for internships. Additionally, Behnfield pointed out that one always has the option of “pro-active” job searching, which includes going above and beyond the systems in place at Mines to seek a position. Behnfield also recommends undergraduate research as another method by which students can gain experience. While research positions are not usually advertised on Diggernet, students can go to the www.inside.mines.edu website and search “centers and institutes” to find links to all of the research institutes at Mines where students can apply for undergraduate research.
Behnfield then turned the floor over to the Career Center’s assistant director, Lin Sherman, to discuss co-op opportunities. Co-ops, which are similar to internships, but generally last longer, are, according to Sherman, “a chance to get greater responsibility and integrate more with the company,” as well as earn a fairly competitive wage. Co-ops differ from internships in that they are required to be equivalent to at least six months of full-time work, so they usually take place over at least one semester of a school year. Students who participate in a co-op can earn three hours of academic credit through both their performance and a technical paper on their experience. Students can continue to take academic courses during their co-op experience, though it is highly recommended that students take a reduced class load, as their employers will expect them to spend a lot of time on the job. Requirements for a co-op include at least three completed semesters at Mines for most students and two semesters for transfer students, a minimum 2.0 GPA and good academic and disciplinary standing. Students who are interested in taking this route are cautioned to plan their remaining semesters after the co-op, as the experience is likely to delay students in terms of graduating on time.
Sherman then let several Mines students who have gotten internship and co-ops share their experiences. Many of them cited the importance of “being yourself” both when talking to and interviewing with companies and when working for them, though as senior Andrea Switzer pointed out, it is a good idea to be prepared with prior knowledge about the company before going to talk to its representatives. Additionally, as both Switzer and freshman Dilan Orrino proved, it is entirely possible to get an internship as a freshman when, as Switzer points out, students do not yet have the “detrimental Mines GPA.” Several of the students recommend making oneself stand out by following up with companies and sending them some sort of “thank you” after interviews and discussions. Junior Madeline Tarasar advised students to “get to know people [at the job] on a more personal level than just a ‘working relationship,'” a sentiment backed up by Switzer, who said that someone who spends part of the work day talking to their co-workers stands a much better chance of being remembered and offered a job than someone who stays hidden away and works all day. Junior Ryan Peck added that it was important that one “work hard, ask questions and [not] be afraid to take responsibility.” All of the students who shared their stories about internships and co-ops agreed that their time with the companies had provided them with valuable experience, a new set of knowledge, and were worth the effort.