Meghan Dougherty, BA ’16, wanted to get a head start finding a great job before she graduated from the University of Colorado Denver. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) alumna knew she needed an internship to get experience, and she wanted advice about how to launch her career. Now that Dougherty has started a job with Northrup Grumman, a major aerospace company, she is thankful experts at CU Denver helped her along the way.
Doughtery relied on CU Denver’s Experiential Learning Center (ELC) and Career Center to find an internship and develop her skills. She used the centers to identify her interests and strengths, look for opportunities, write a strong resume, and learn how to connect with potential employers during interviews.
Her success story shows how CU Denver staff and faculty go the extra mile for students by helping them find great opportunities and start careers.
“It really did make a difference. They impacted me in such a positive way,” Dougherty said.
Finding great internships
Dougherty enrolled in CU Denver after nine years in the United States Marine Corps. She majored in communication and graduated in December 2016. She knew that before she got her diploma, she would need experience in the civilian world in a traditional business setting.
Many CU Denver students understand the value of internships, said Tony Smith, PhD, the ELC’s director. The center helps them find internships and get the most out of the experience. The ELC offers resources including guides and individual counseling. Students can find opportunities using Handshake, an online database that has several hundred internships and news about upcoming events and workshops.
Finding internships for CU Denver students does not happen by accident. Smith said the university has deep connections in Denver’s business community that include relationships with major corporations, startups, small businesses and solo entrepreneurs.
Employers and organizations often approach CU Denver, said Storm Gloor, MBA, an assistant professor in the College of Arts & Media (CAM) and the faculty sponsor of many students interning in the entertainment industry.
“The most common way I find out about internships is by being out there in the community at events,” Gloor said.
Students also can find potential employers on their own, Smith said.
Creating educational experiences
Dougherty, a communication major, interned with the Denver District Attorney’s Office. She considered a career as a public information officer, and her interest in criminal justice and social issues made it a good fit. She worked with the communication director and got experience writing press releases and working with reporters.
The ELC works with employers to make sure interns will have meaningful educational experiences. It also helps set expectations, such as the type of work and schedule. Smith said they must be appropriate for someone taking college classes.
Gloor and other faculty sponsors stay connected with students, and they will hold the employer to high standards.
“The employer signs off on the duties for the intern, and it doesn’t include getting coffee. It includes achieving outcomes, and we hold the employer to that,” Gloor said. “Ninety-nine out of 100 times, employers get that.”
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Getting the job
Looking back, Dougherty views the internship as a great learning experience. She loved the people she worked with, and they became mentors and job references.
Once the internship ended, her next step was finding a job. She began searching months before graduation. Senior Director of Student Development Sarah Trzeciak, MS, said students who start working with the Career Center early have the most success. Trzeciak recommends students use the center as a “bookend” before and after working with the ELC, using the Career Center to find their interests before starting an internship, Trzeciak said.
Dougherty took advantage of every service she could. Along with looking at job listings, she took free tests that identified her strengths and attended workshops on subjects like using LinkedIn.
Dougherty said she benefitted most from advice about her resume and mock interviews.
“If you don’t know someone, your resume has to do your speaking for you, and you don’t have to do a job interview to get into the Marine Corps,” she said with a laugh.
The work paid off. Dougherty found an opening with Northrup Grumman’s human resources department. She will put her communications skills to work as a corporate recruiter on college campuses.
Her advice for CU Denver students?
“I really recommend you do everything you can, as soon as you can,” Dougherty said.