The main reason you, me and almost every other student at the University of Colorado, Boulder chose to come to college is to gain the knowledge, skills and a degree that will lead us to viable employment. Ideally, this employment will be better than the job we would have had without attending college. Thankfully, this is usually the case. According to The Economist, college graduates make on average almost $20,000 more a year than people with only high school diplomas, and for many majors this number is significantly higher.
Another incredibly important aspect of getting a good job depends on; having real-job experience. Working in high school, college and after graduation is incredibly important for landing a successful career down the road as it provides you with skills and real-world experience, as well as shows future employers that you are hardworking and actively seeking employment. In my opinion, the best type of job experience to get before entering the “real world” of post-graduation life is an internship in the particular field you wish to work in. Internships are specifically designed to train young people to acquire the skills necessary to be successful in the line of work they wish to pursue.
Luckily, in a school the size of CU, in a town the size of Boulder, right outside of a city the size of Denver, there is no shortage of internship opportunities, especially in environmentally focused areas. I myself found an internship with Environment Colorado in Denver during the fall and summer semester of my sophomore year.. While I have worked many jobs in my life, I believe that my work with Environment Colorado, although unpaid, provided me with the most meaningful experience and training for the work I hope to someday translate into a career.
My main assignment when I began to work with Environment Colorado was to do public outreach gathering support for the Clean Power Plan. I contacted local business owners and to get their signatures of support for this initiative, as well as connect them with other people in our organization to help them further their pro-environmental work. I also helped plan and right press releases for upcoming events as well as publish letters to the editors and op-ed pieces regarding environmental work. The following summer, I was asked to stay on with Environment Colorado and work directly under their state director. In addition to the work I had been doing the previous semester, I took on more responsibility that summer and gathered support for the Regional Greenhouse Gas initiative and other environmental projects.
During my time at Environment Colorado, I learned valuable skills regarding how to work on environmental issues as well as important lessons on how to function in a modern office environment. These skills were gained from not only doing my work, but throughout the weekly training sessions Environment Colorado held for interns teaching skills such as working with the media, contacting potential partners and other helpful skills. While the work was hard and time consuming, the skills I gained and the positive impact it had on me was absolutely worth it.
While finding an internship as an undergraduate student can seem like a daunting task, there are many resources available to make it easier. On the CU Environmental Studies website there is an internship tab that provides information regarding environmentally focused internships and some good suggestions on where to start your hunt. You can also get involved with the CU’s Environmental Center and sign up for their newsletter, which will let you know about internship opportunities, as well as other events and opportunities related to sustainability and environmental protection. Whichever way you go about getting an internship and whatever internship it may be, I can confidently say that it will be a great experience and significantly improve your chances of succeeding in whatever career you choose.