By Shannon Elward, Indiana Commission for Higher Education

Internships are an important opportunity to take advantage of during college. Not only will you apply the skills you’re learning in the classroom, you’ll also grow your network and improve your chances of landing a full-time job.

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We recently talked with Indiana University-Bloomington graduate and 21st Century Scholar alumna Dakota Suomela about how internships helped her navigate the world of work and gain experience. 

Hometown: Elkhart, Indiana

High School: Elkhart Memorial HS

College: Indiana University-Bloomington, Kelley School of Business

Degree: Bachelor of science in business with concentrations in management and marketing

Two Internship Experiences
Bb Summer Team Spring Fling 1
Bloomington Brands Summer Team

Dakota’s first college internship was the summer before her junior year with National Corporate Housing in Indianapolis. This internship focused on supporting property management and customer service, creating content for National’s social media and helping implement a new video creation platform. She did so well they invited her to continue her internship remotely the next semester. “Dakota has been the most productive summer staff member that National has employed during my 6-year tenure,” explained Rebecca Collins, General Manager for National. 

The following summer, Dakota found a new experience with the business school’s summer internship program. This program allows undergrads to work on projects that MBA students previously worked on. She was a marketing associate with Bloomington Brands LLC, where she worked on projects for Oscomote Plant Food. She grew several skills while she managed the brand’s YouTube channel, ran photo contests, managed social media, did web design work, and created digital ads.

Finding Opportunities

Dakota connected with these experiences in two ways. First, through her personal network. She said her mom helped her spread the word that she was looking for internships, which helped her secure her first internship. Second, through the career services office on campus. She met with career coaches, accessed job boards and uploaded her materials to a resume book. (A resume book allows employers to easily look through a catalog of students to fill positions).

Nch Team Outing
Team outing with National

From these experiences, Dakota reaped a lot of benefits. She mentioned it allowed her to figure out what work environments she prefers. “I really like the personal interaction that’s available in smaller teams and organizations,” she shared.

She also enjoyed using her skills from the classroom in the real world, and actually being paid for them. “It put my hands on more things and gave me more confidence,” she said. She mentioned that her professors even noticed that enhanced confidence after her internships.

And of course, they helped her realize the different kinds of employment opportunities that are available to someone with her experiences and degree. There were some additional perks as well like staff outings, visits to the company headquarters, and getting first-hand advice from professionals at different levels. 

Words of Advice

Dakota did leave some parting advice for other internship seekers. 

“The internships weren’t what I was expecting it to be, but it got me to the stepping stone that I needed.”

“Don’t discount opportunities. Use that experience to build skills.”

“Look out for unexpected opportunities, they’re not always going to be called an internship.”

“If you’re worried about leaving a part-time job for an internship, realize that employers are more understanding than you think, have the conversation.”

Interested in an internship?

Head to your career services office to meet with career coaches, build your resume and connect to opportunities. You can also visit to create a free account and browse opportunities.

If you’re in high school and looking for an internship, set up a meeting with your school counselor. He or she will probably know about opportunities in your community.

21st Century Scholars

If you’re a 21st Century Scholar who graduated from high school in 2019 or later, you must complete certain activities to renew your Scholarship. Participating in an internship will meet one of the Career Preparation requirements for the College Scholar Success Program.

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