Internships Provide the First Step
Toward Career Success
Through Internships, Companies Offer Chemistry and
Chemical Engineering Students Work Experience
That Can Lead to Postgraduation Jobs
BY SUSAN J. AINSWORTH
Excerpted from C&EN, May 11, 2015, Volume 93, Issue 19, pp. 41–43.
In today’s competitive employment market, savvy chemistry and chemical engineering students know that having indus- trial internship experience on their résumé is a real plus. Internships provide students with the opportunity to take the skills obtained through college coursework and apply them to
real-life work situations. Being able to demonstrate success in the
workplace will undoubtedly give them an edge over a sea of competitors when it comes time to seek a postgraduation job.
But in some cases, finding a coveted internship isn’t easy, notes
Jamie Stacey, vice president for science at Kelly Services, which
offers outsourcing, staffing, and workforce consulting services. In
the United States, many companies are cutting or holding steady
the number of students they hire. That’s because companies view
these programs as a pipeline into their entry-level jobs. And, in
today’s weak job market, some companies are favoring more experienced candidates as they selectively hire permanent staff to fill
those starting positions, Stacey says.
Nevertheless, some companies are still welcoming a healthy
number of chemistry and chemical engineering students into
their ranks. Students can move into either internship programs,
which typically offer summer-long work experience, or cooperative
(co-op) education programs, which usually involve two- to three-semester jobs that provide college credit.
Through these internship and co-op programs, companies
hope to find and begin to build relationships with the best STEM
(science, technology, engineering, and math) talent, Stacey says.
“Companies understand that employees who started out working
for them as interns have a longer tenure and demonstrate greater
loyalty in the future.”
Winning a chemistry-focused
internship: a student playbook
To help eager students gain an edge, C&EN contacted a sampling
of experts to gather tips and advice for snagging one of these precious, résumé-bolstering positions.
Know when to apply. For most internships, fall is the prime
recruiting season, according to Patricia Simpson, director of
academic advising and career counseling and placement at the
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Most big companies
visit campus in September and October to attend career fairs and
conduct interviews as they often need to hire large numbers of
interns, she says. Smaller companies also typically make campus
recruiting visits in the fall to secure the best candidates.
However, students who don’t land something in the fall should
not give up. BASF, for example, recruits summer interns in the late
winter and early spring, according to Lydia Everitt, manager of
university recruitment. And other companies will still be finishing
their summer intern selections in late spring, Simpson points out.
In addition, companies may develop hiring needs throughout
the year as a result of a lower-than-expected acceptance rate
from their first round of offers to prospective interns or because of
unanticipated new projects, Simpson adds.
Merck & Co. echoes this point. Although the company posts
most of its internships as early as the fall and typically makes its
selections by February, the window of opportunity doesn’t close at
that time, says Scott B. Hoyt, a principal scientist in the chemistry
group at Merck Research Laboratories (MRL), who manages MRL’s
chemistry intern program. “The large, dynamic environment of
Merck means that new postings can happen nearly any time.”
For co-op positions, which usually require a two- to three-
semester commitment and result in college credit, application
periods vary and are often dictated by the student’s college or uni-
versity, says Sylvia Court, graduate program manager for R&D at
GSK. Some schools’ co-op application window may be in the spring
for the following fall semester or in the fall for the following spring
semester, she notes.
Connect and reconnect. Simpson advises students to find
multiple ways to interface with potential employers. “Talk to
them at a career fair, luncheon, information session, or student-organization-sponsored event; apply online; and find and connect with alumni or other contacts who work for the organizations,” Simpson says. LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media
sites can provide useful avenues for making connections to
people students might not know or have no other way to meet
or contact, she adds.
In addition, students should start connecting with companies
as early as possible in their college career to demonstrate their
enthusiasm. “Some of the companies will send the same recruiters