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Micro-Internships Offer ‘One Other Avenue to Gain Experience’

Release Date: July 18, 2022

Regan Foster

Interim Public Information Officer

Marketing, Communications, Community Relations

(719) 549-2284

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It’s a conundrum Colorado State University Pueblo students may know well: How does one go about getting practical experience to build a resume when there’s no time or resources to take a — possibly unpaid — internship?

Allison “Allie” Hall-Vanhook had, as of July 15, more than 100 solid answers.

“If [students] have a little free time, they can apply for micro-internships,” she said. “It’s one other avenue to gain experience.”

Hall-Vanhook should know. As the university’s internship coordinator in the Career Center, she helps would-be employers connect with talented students who are ready to take that next, practical step in their career. She joined CSU Pueblo about two years ago — shortly before COVID-19 swept the globe and shut down the country.

Around that same time, a company called Parker Dewey came onto center staff members’ radars as a way to help students connect with paid, short-term projects known as micro-internships. The company, which is free to both the university and the students, serves as a mix of recruitment and human resources tools for would-be employers and an experience-building portal for students and includes a hint of speed dating for both parties.

“You can go in and go, ‘Would I like to work in higher ed. with this degree? No, that wasn’t really for me,’” Hall-Vanhook said. “You can try out these bite-sized employers and career fields … without saying ‘I committed to this 12-week or 16-week internship and it turns out I hate it.’”

Here’s how it works: Students wanting to get some paid work experience register for an account by answering some basic questions, such as their name, major, pursued degree (associate’s to Ph.D.), university, hometown and relevant affiliations like clubs or organizations. Once that is wrapped up, it’s on to scrolling the job board.

As of July 15, students could apply for more than 100 projects ranging from a gig illustrating a children’s book for a Las Vegas-based publisher, to a remote position researching engineering curriculum for the multinational aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman.

Once a student finds something that fits, all they have to do is answer a few short essay questions, hit submit and wait to find out if they earned an interview. A project can range from a few to 40 hours’ worth of work; each comes with a specified start date and timeline.

It’s not uncommon for students to get rejected for their first application or five, Hall-Vanhook said. So just like any job hunt, it’s important to not get discouraged.

To make an application really stand out in the crowd, Hall-Vanhook said, a candidate should give those essay questions — which can be as straightforward as “why should we hire you?” — some serious thought. She also had some tips for faculty and staff mentors who want to help their students shine.

“Help students to draft really thoughtful, short answers to the questions because that’s what they’re selected” from, she said. “And encourage students to continue to check back, continue to apply.”

With a “yes” can come a nice paycheck (the Northrup Grumman research position, for example, offers $585 for a 40-hour project) and an even nicer resume builder.

“The micro-internships really are to kind of help bolster skills that you may already have and give you more experience,” Hall-Vanhook said. “They’re great. If students don’t really know or have a specific area they want to go into … maybe you look at micro-internships and try those out to get a better feeling for what you might be interested in.” 

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