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Gaining Career Focus and a Competitive Edge

Chastity Carter next to a police car.

Chastity Carter was always interested in law enforcement, and the experience she gained during her internship with the Howard County Police Department gave her certainty that it was the career she was meant to have – plus an edge over any future competition in that field.

“While a student’s college degree, grade point average, and coursework are important, they are not entirely sufficient with regard to what employers are seeking from recent college graduates,” said Dave Tirpak, associate director of career and employment counseling. “Employers are looking to find the right candidate out of a sea of people with similar credentials. Students need additional experiences, in their field of interest, to enhance their prospects for employment.”

The Job Outlook 2018 survey published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers highlighted the importance of internships. According to the survey, employers cited internship experience within the hiring organization as the top factor influencing their decision when choosing between two otherwise equally qualified candidates, followed closely by internship experience within the organization’s industry.

For Carter, each week with Howard County Police brought a new experience, and further confirmed that she was on the right career path. She helped staff the northern district intake office and went out with the southern district’s ride-along unit. She even got to shadow detectives with the criminal investigations unit, listening in as cases were discussed in detail.

“The police welcomed me right away as part of their community,” recalled Carter.

In addition to her 16 hours a week with the police, Carter earned academic credit through the college’s cooperative education program, which teaches professional development skills, provides a forum for discussing internships, and offers support as students navigate new experiences and challenges.

Carter worked closely with Professor Evelyn Del Rosario, a criminal justice department coordinator, throughout her internship experience. She encouraged Carter to reflect on how she could bring value to the employer, and vice versa.

Del Rosario sees her role as that of a mentor. “For many of our students, it’s their first professional job. The faculty role is to ask them, what can you do to actively participate in this internship?”

Carter plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity and forensics. She’s eager to explore job opportunities with the FBI or the Howard County Police.

When it comes to helping students secure internships, there are many steps and partners in the process. That includes outreach to employers, who are often eager to offer internships. Faculty members are another key collaborator in the internship process. HCC’s career center maintains an online job an internship database, where students, employers, and faculty can access the system to view employment and internship opportunities.

In the end, internships are one of the many ways HCC aims to help students find their own pathway to success..

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Topics: Career Focus
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