Pointing students toward workable internships
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
It used to be that most college students figured out what they wanted to do with their life, declared a major and, if they were smart, worked internships and part-time jobs in their chosen field to gain experience before heading out into the working world.
The last part still applies today, but those opportunities don’t necessarily have to be in their chosen field — because, for the vast majority of students, declaring a major and sticking with it has become yesterday’s news. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80 percent of college students change their major after enrolling, and they switch it an average of three times.
But at Grand Canyon University, students have a great option no matter whether they’re certain about their career path or still checking the “Undecided” box: They can talk to the guy in the bow tie.
He’s Marquis Scott, director of internships for the Colangelo College of Business. Scott already has placed 160 students in off-campus jobs this school year, and his message to those still considering it is they don’t need to know for sure whether those opportunities will lead to a career in their current major.
During a recent panel discussion featuring five CCOB students who have done internships, a member of the audience talked about a bad experience with an internship. Scott’s response: “That was a good internship. Now you know what you’re not going to do.”
Later, he said, “You could almost hear a sigh of relief go across the room because, ‘Oh, it’s OK to fail.’ You don’t want to start a career path that 20 years down the road you don’t want to stay on, but you have to because you have bills.”
Scott said one student was in his office for almost an hour trying to sort out options.
“Sometimes it’s just listening, giving them an opportunity to express what they don’t know — because they don’t know what they don’t know,” Scott said. “They come in and they expect me to say, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ And I tell them, ‘Well, talk to me. God gave me big ears for a reason. Let me hear what you want to do and let me make some suggestions.’
“We’re going to give you all the resources you need to make the best choice. And if the choice you make is a little salty, the good thing about it is that you’ve still got time.”
More students are taking advantage of that extra time, according to Scott, by applying for internships as freshmen and sophomores rather than waiting until their final two college years. They even can do internships after they graduate. “We’re still here for you because you’re a Lope for life,” he said.
Scott’s efforts, which included a recent evening session for master’s cohorts, are coordinated with the staff in Career Services, which has an online internship board called Job Quest where students can search for jobs. Career Services also can help them decide on a major (something they must do when they enroll) by having them use Career Compass, which includes five assessments that give them a better idea what their gifts and strengths are, and/or meet with an adviser.
Career Services also organizes Career Week, which this year is scheduled for March 2-6 on campus. Students will be able to meet with more than 100 prospective employers at a job fair Thursday, March 5.
“It doesn’t have to be soon-to-be grads,” said Jacqueline Smith, director of Career Services. “Anybody can come out.”
Scott and Smith said it is not unusual for employers to specifically ask for GCU students when they’re hiring.
“We get that all the time,” Smith said. “We do a survey after the job fair, and they say by far our students are the most prepared, professional and engaging. They come prepared, and they’re dressed professionally.”
Students saw five examples of that on the CCOB internship panel, which featured senior Austin Walker (sports management major who’s interning with the Arizona Diamondbacks), juniors Kendall Argust (accounting, interning at Pivotal Tax Solutions) and Cassandra Cothron (communications, interning at the Arizona Department of Education) and April 2014 graduates Brent Emch (working for Northwestern Mutual after interning there) and Reid Simpson (did seven internships while at GCU and now works for a financial-management company).
“It is an opportunity to build your network,” said panel moderator Tim Kelley, GCU’s director of entrepreneurship. “It’s the relationships you create that will guide your career.”
Students can start the process by seeking out Scott, who makes himself stand out for a logical reason.
“Students are recognizing me on campus. They’re saying the guy in the bow tie is the one you want to talk to. They don’t even know my name,” he said.
When Scott came to GCU in 2013, he decided to make his bow ties a trademark look because “I wanted to have a staple that allowed the students to see that a difference can be a positive. I can be me and fit in. That’s what I’m having conversations about with them — I want to know who your ‘me’ is.”
It might take a couple of internships to figure that out. That’s today’s news.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.