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Winning an uphill battle

December 2, 2015
Steffen Canino

Steffen Canino

As many millennial generation college students prepare to finish their fall 2015 semester, those who are graduating will soon begin another chapter in their lives.

Whether you’re wondering when you will receive a call back from the dream job you applied for in August, or if you’re one of those proactive go-getters arranging interviews for early December, what remains clear is the uphill battle to secure employment in today’s economy.

Why is it difficult to get a job straight out of college? Some experts sarcastically say that finding a job is a job in itself and that it’s all about who you know.

According to a May 2015 article in Newsweek, “the fact of the matter is millennial graduates struggle to enter the workplace, making up about 40 percent of the unemployed in the U.S., said Anthony Carnevale, a director and research professor for Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.”

“Carnevale’s center found that the employment rate for young graduates was the worst around the ages of 21 to 25, with the employment rate for that segment falling from 84 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2012,” the Newsweek article reported. “During this time, the gap in full-time employment for whites versus African-Americans also widened, from 6 percentage points in 2000 to 14 points in 2012, with African-Americans on average not making the median wage until age 33.

Traditionally, college graduates relied on their GPA and college courses to provide employers a framework of their career readiness. Employers now expect recent graduates to have internship experience.

Having done several internships myself, it is important that students find internship programs that provides authentic career development while they still learn technical skills employers seek – which is why I value my previous internship program with The Washington Center.

Daejzonna Muschamp

Daejzonna Muschamp

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars is an independent, nonprofit organization serving hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States and other countries by providing selected students challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C. for academic credit.

The largest program of its kind, The Washington Center has 70 full-time staff and more than 50,000 alumni, many of whom are in leadership positions in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Students in the program have meaningful work experiences that will enhance their resumes, expand their professional networks and help launch their careers. One of these is NIU senior political science major, Daejzonna Muschamp, who interned through TWC with MANA, A National Latina Organization.

When I asked her about her internship duties, she said, “My duties included attending hearings at ‘the Hill’ on issues relevant to Latinas and Hispanic women, researching and following current legislation in relation to the Hispanic community, and creating press releases on behalf of corporate Latina/Latino leaders and companies.

“Internships are very important because they allow students to gain real world experience as well as allow students to find out more about themselves and what their professional goals are,” she added. “I learned quite a bit about myself throughout the process of my internship.”

Muschamp is now a proud alumna of TWC who will graduate from NIU in May. She plans to further her TWC experience by involving herself with the Brady Campaign because she is so passionate about gun violence prevention.

As for me, TWC has been a tremendous cornerstone for my career readiness and network expansion.

Through TWC I interned for United Way Worldwide, the largest nonprofit in the world, where I worked with the Brand and Marketing team. Gaining technical software skills while learning and using the industry language, I am confident my experience will prove as a valuable investment.


Steffen Canino (center) and Kevin Nunley (left), vice president of Student Affairs at TWC, celebrate with United Way Worldwide’s Farzan Tebyanian.

At the end of my internship, I successfully nominated Farzan Tebyanian of United Way Worldwide for the Summer 2015 Most Outstanding Internship Supervisor Award.

He expressed his gratitude to be associated with the other 50 individuals nominated for the recognition by their interns: “It’s an honor not just to receive this award, but to work with such talented interns,” he said. “Interns really do run this city. It was not long ago that I myself was an intern, so I have a great appreciation for what they do.”

To this day I remain in contact with Farzan, members of UWW brand team and TWC representatives. My TWC experience has prepared me for my career decision to move to D.C. in 2016. With the network I have established, this fresh start is ever-so-promising – all because of an internship.

Currently, I am an alumni ambassador for TWC, recruiting fellow NIU students to pursue the program. The campus TWC liaison is April Clark, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.

If you have any further questions about TWC, please contact me at [email protected].

by Steffen Canino