Written by Perrine DeShield
Ask any college graduate or an associate with a new entry-level job how important experience is in landing their first big job. I’m confident that every single one will tell you that both experience and valuable connections are the most important things to have. When you’re new to an industry or embarking on the first stop along your career journey, the best way to know what you’re getting yourself into is by getting behind the driver’s seat and taking out that new potential role out for a test drive. What better test drive than an internship within the field you look to enter?
The first of its kind, GardHouse developed a new pipeline to employment for college students of color through internships with local minority-owned businesses. I’m so proud that my company, Belk, is also a sponsor of GardHouse and remains adamant about campus programming and connecting with students throughout their entire collegiate journeys.
As a former undergraduate student intern and graduate school student intern, I was privileged to know the importance and grave impact of a great internship early. Internships not only helped me cancel out careers I thought I wanted, but they gave me real-world experience working within the industries I could only dream of, which was priceless.
I was able to get the inside scoop from both Jonathan Gardner and Devon Henderson of GardHouse to share exactly why internship experience is so vital.
Jonathan and Devon mentioned that “student internships are essential for multiple reasons. First, students can use internships to further identify what employment place aligns with their core values and career aspirations. Second, they provide students with real-world experience to aid in professional development. Third, they are certainly weighed heavily when seeking post-graduate employment. Internships lay the foundation for the professionals that students hope to become by providing the essential skills employers seek.”
All students need a strong foundation as they venture into their careers. What’s amazing about GardHouse is that has built a bridge for workforce development within communities of color. Often, minority students do not receive the same job and learning opportunities that their white counterparts may have due to resources. The GardHouse team said that “many non-students of color begin developing their social capital at the point of infancy. This moves the starting line for many students of color who are embarking on a professional pursuit. By establishing social capital within communities of color through internships, GardHouse closes the divide many students face when building strong networks.”
Photography credit: Kappius Photography
During the global pandemic and social unrest, society saw a strong push for the support of minority-owned businesses. GardHouse is intentional with placing their students with minority-owned businesses to establish their social capital through internships. The team mentioned how important it is to see business leaders who look like them and the power of representation within their own backyards.
When asked, “what advice would you give to your former college self when it comes to gaining valuable job experience?” the GardHouse team said:
"Be open. Not all impactful opportunities presented will be packaged with a pretty bow. You have to be open to learning more about the industry and how your skillset can lend to it. Furthermore, being open will allow you to connect with individuals who can serve as gateways to other opportunities down the line."
I fully agree that those are powerful words to live by. We can all gain a little more by staying open and never stopping learning.
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