It’s challenging for anyone to find a job nowadays, but when I think of those who are most challenged, I think of college students. I especially think of the ones who lack working experience and who have obtained their college degree. In speaking with college students, I hear how frustrated they are as they attempt to secure employment in these tough economic times. It’s not enough to simply say to them, “I understand” when what they desire is to secure employment, preferably in their field of study. The only thing left to do after listening and empathizing with them is to figure out what went wrong in an effort to prevent the same mistakes in the future.

The next logical step is to discuss solutions. For those college students who’ve graduated, finding a job has become a priority instead of landing their dream job. This means that employment may not be in your field of study, but you may need to look at jobs where you can enhance skills such as communication, relationship building, multi-tasking, etc. For college students who have yet to graduate, finding an internship will assist you now and post-graduation. Based on the conversations I’ve had with college students, now more than ever, interning has become urgent and here’s why:

– Internships provide training. Because of many years of work experience, I have been through a variety of training programs with several different companies. When college students take advantage of internships, they are provided with the opportunity to access knowledge and skills needed to perform in their role. I understand that some internships are without pay, so you get to decide whether or not it is in your best interest to gain experience presently or to secure a job with pay.

– Internships provide experience. In speaking with hopeful employment candidates, many of them have been rejected because they lack work experience. This is the main reason why interning has become urgent. When you finish college, you want to be able to apply for a role with education and experience. I’ve worked my way through school for many years, so I didn’t finish school in four years. I actually have the experience and decided later in life to complete the educational piece. Having experience in your field of study is the standard and an internship could be your first step.

– Internships help you determine whether or not you’re on the right path. Throughout your college career, it is wise to intern. If you’ve decided what your ultimate career goal is and have made steps toward achieving that goal, I applaud you. I was well over 30 years of age when I finally realized what I wanted to do professionally. As you gain experience in different roles with different organizations, you will not only be able to figure out what you like, you can also identify what you don’t like. Once the dislikes are eliminated, you can focus on your true desires and implement a strategy to achieve your ultimate career goal. For these reasons, if you have an opportunity to intern, please create a bit of urgency and take advantage of a wonderful learning opportunity.

Ericka Spradley is the President and Founder of My Next Level. She has many years of leadership experience and her understanding of the multi-faceted leadership realm has provided a level of expertise in human resource management and career growth. Among her significant accomplishments, Ericka has served as Vice President of Professional Development with The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Strayer University Chapter,  she was a columnist for Classroom to Cubicle, an online magazine for college students, and she is currently a Yahoo! Contributor columnist. In addition, her works have been found in Today’s Charlotte Woman and she has also been quoted by The Charlotte Observer.

Visit Ericka’s website, My Next Level, for more information and you can find additional articles she’s written at