OPPORTUNITIES -- AND CAREERS -- BEGIN AT THE CHAMBER
A SUNY Orange Graduate Connects with the College's Career and Internship Services Staff, Lands Internship at Orange County Chamber of Commerce, and Writes About the Benefits
This article was written for an upcoming issue of "BusinessWatch," the Orange County Chamber of Commerce newsletter
In a famous quote from Network, Howard Beale declares, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Three months after graduation, after having applied for positions, interviewed and sent out countless cover letters and résumés to no avail, I decided that, like Beale, I wasn’t “going to take this anymore.”
Rather than shouting it from a window as Beale suggested, I spoke with Donald Green, Assistant Director of Career and Internship Services at SUNY Orange, about finding an internship or volunteer position—anything to end the repetition of sitting at home sending emails. He picked up the phone and placed a call to the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, and an interview was scheduled.
A day after the interview I was volunteering at the Chamber’s annual Business EXPO and networking with a plethora of local businesspeople, and for the past four months, the Chamber has provided me with valuable work experience while allowing me to build my portfolio by writing articles such as this.
Once at the Chamber, I realized that I was one of a group of students and recent graduates benefiting from a Chamber internship. It turns out that for years, the Chamber has been working with SUNY Orange and Mount Saint Mary College to provide students and graduates with valuable experience and networking opportunities and continues to draw upon these schools as sources of diligent workers.
To date, the Chamber has made use of 10 interns/volunteers—two from Mount Saint Mary College and eight from SUNY Orange. These include current students and recent graduates, and their majors, which include Accounting, Business, Communications, Engineering, English, and IT, span academia. Since there is no limit on the length of the internships, some interns may stay for a semester while others may stay for more than a year.
“The official duration is a semester, but we keep them as long as they wish to stay, even after graduation,” said Carol Smith, Vice-President for Government at the Chamber (shown at left in photo below during a recent speed interviewing event at SUNY Orange's Newburgh campus.
As for how interns are compensated, this depends on the school. MSMC provides its students with both academic credit and a salary while SUNY Orange’s policy is best described by Green: “We’re in an ‘all of the above’ situation in our office: we provide opportunities for paid internships, for unpaid internships for college credit, and even for paid internships for college credit,” he said.
This arrangement is in keeping with the purpose of SUNY Orange’s Office of Career and Internship Services, which provides career advising/counseling, job market information, professional development and work readiness training, experiential education, and employment services to students, alumni, and community members.
While the Orange County Chamber offers no official internship, it does have a long history of collaborating with the two schools. MSMC sent its first intern to the Chamber in 2005. Smith is happy for the help that has been sent her way.
“We don’t have anything in writing but we have been working together for years,” she said.
“This is one of those collaborations that evolved and grew naturally, and it’s turned into a wonderful win/win,” said Green. “And it looks like not only will it become an official joint program, but it will expand significantly as well. Needless to say, this experiment has been a huge success, so what began with a single volunteer has now evolved to the point where we now have three or so volunteers over there all the time. As one volunteer gets hired and/or graduates and moves on, we then fill that slot with another.”
As can be seen on the front page of this publication, the Chamber’s mantra is “Buy Orange. Build Orange. Give Orange.” Obviously, “Educate Orange” falls right in line with these goals. Educating and employing locally benefits both students/graduates and the county.
Green explained, “One of the outcomes here is that you can end up with some really stellar job candidates, who otherwise would have ended up moving out of the area, finding employment with local businesses. And again, everybody wins.”
Everybody wins, but they win differently. Interns benefit from countless networking opportunities while employers can find new talent that has been proven in the workplace.
Kathleen O’Keefe, Associate Director of Mount Saint Mary College’s Career Center, described how she has seen students benefit from the Chamber’s Young Professionals group.
“The [Young Professionals] attended our annual employment fair last spring and spoke to students about the benefits of engaging with the local Chamber,” she explained. “They also came to campus in the fall and spoke of how networking helped them move along in their own careers. They demonstrated how to network effectively and offered great tips and advice.”
O’Keefe is also quick to point out the benefits Chamber internships have for employers. Again, networking is key. “Employers gain access to a pool of qualified, motivated employees; can observe potential long-term employees under actual working conditions; solve short-term employment needs; improve community relations and visibility; and lower recruitment and training costs,” she said.
Clearly, the Chamber, students, graduates, employers and schools all benefit from these internships. Said Green, “We see this as the first steps in significantly strengthening the connection between the employer community and our students, and between the classroom and the world of work.”
(Ethan Weber is a graduate of SUNY Orange and Bucknell University, with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. He is currently an intern at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce.)