It is no secret; the nation faces a staggering unemployment rate – 9.1 percent in general and 16.7 percent specifically for Blacks according to the Department of Labor. That is not good news for the job-seeking college graduate. But, while the job market is tough, there are plenty of opportunities for the well-prepared and educated who enter the market.

Whether a student decides to pursue a career or an advanced degree after undergraduate studies, she must understand that college is a twofold journey.  Those who simply get the education miss out on connections that move them from scholar to selected professional. For students who capitalize on internships, co-ops or speak a foreign language, the harvest is plentiful.

“I would encourage students to find meaningful internships during the school year and  the summer,” said J. Veronica Biggins, C’68, managing director of Diversified Search, one of the nation’s top 10 executive search firms.  “Internships expose people immediately to what you can do. If you do a great job as an intern, and do a lot more than is required of you as an intern, it will really set you a part.”

Setting yourself a part

Shevika Mitchell, C’2013, saw that Spelman College’s Office of Career Planning and Development sent out a lot of internships, but none of them seem to be for first-year students  and sophomores.  “I was enrolled in the FRESH program and when I told Ms. Toni Ireland there were not a lot of opportunities for freshmen, she advised me to attend one of their career fairs to make my face known,” said Mitchell, a psychology major who was born in Guyana and raised in the Virgin Islands.  “A few weeks after the career fair, I got an e-mail from the U.S. Department of Interior for their Career Discovery Internship Program.”

Mitchell spent her summer working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island in Virginia.  The internship included all expenses plus a salary.  Calling it her “most amazing summer ever,” Mitchell’s responsibilities involved public speaking about the environment and endangered species; and creating brochures and newsletters.

Touted as the best public speaker who ever interned at the department, Mitchell was hired after her internship to become a U.S. Department of Interior ambassador.  Her job is to inform her classmates and Atlanta University Center students in general about the opportunities the department has to offer to all majors.

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