Erin Dempsey ’15, communication and international business double major

Ask a recent college graduate what gets attention when they hand over a resume, and you’ll get a one-word response: Internships.

Employment specialists concur, aside from a person’s major, internships are the most vital component on a résumé. Whether you’re applying for work within a government agency or cold-calling at a tech startup, demonstrating that you’ve had relevant in-the-field experience is an advantage that can’t be equaled.

Researchers at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) assert that nearly 50 percent of college students who participated in a paid internship with a for-profit company were offered full-time employment directly after the internship ended. (Based on NACE’s annual survey, 2014.)

EXPLORE: Find out more about internships at the College.

So, how do you get internships? Ask Erin Dempsey. She’s living proof that internships can be tremendously valuable – and not that difficult to come by.

Now a senior, Erin came to the College of Charleston from Scotch Plains, N.J., seeking a liberal arts and sciences institution because “I’m into so many different things, so I felt it would be a good fit.” She quickly gravitated to two majors, international business and communication, and added a minor in French.

EXPERIENCE: Looking for a college that values internships? Apply to the College of Charleston.

Quality and Quantity

“To date, I’ve had four internships,” says Erin, “all of them focused on communication. Right now I’m interning with the Department of Communication, working on alumni and development projects.” And last summer, she worked nearly full time as a social media and public relations account intern with Rawle Murdy, one of Charleston’s oldest and largest advertising and marketing firms.

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At Rawle Murdy, I worked with our clients directly, monitoring their social media accounts. It’s a very active internship with a fair bit of latitude. One of things that I did was a Photoshop project where I created a monopoly board for one of our real estate clients. I had no real experience using Photoshop, so they let me take the time to teach myself the basics. They’re really great about guiding you, but also giving you the space to develop on your own. The result is that I’ve been gaining skills. I update my LinkedIn profile almost daily because of that. It’s so valuable.”

WATCH: Internships in Action

During the fall semester of her sophomore year, Erin interned with a local fitness company. “I did all of their social media, which was interesting because the company had no presence on social media before that. I created content for Facebook and established their Twitter page. I also managed the metrics and kept records. Then, they asked me to do market research because they intended to open new studios. I had never done that before, but I investigated real estate options for them. It was a cool communication experience for me and taught me a lot about business communication.”

So, how did Erin make connections and get these internships? “I made it a point to use all of the resources in the department as much as possible, so I got to know the office staff and as many professors as I could. The communication department has ties with a lot of businesses, and sometimes it’s who you know and sometimes it’s where you are. I just tried to put myself out there, and I still do.”