It used to be that you could graduate with a decent GPA and walk right into the real world, welcomed with a plethora of job offers. Today, though, when employers are looking through hundreds or even thousands of resumes, a stellar GPA is certainly not all it takes for a name to jump off the page. With over 1.6 million students graduating in the class of 2014 in the United States and a seemingly endless shortage of jobs, it’s clear that one has to do more than study and volunteer around campus. So what’s the real key to landing a job, or even a spot in a top grad school? The answer can be found in a meaningful internship. While internships are talked about frequently, many students may feel overwhelmed by the word; they may feel they are lacking tools and are afraid to take the challenge head-on. Laura O’Neill, the academic internship program coordinator at Binghamton University’s Career Development Center (CDC), addressed some of our most frequently asked questions about this imperative key to success.

Release: How important is it for students to have internships while in college?

Laura O’Neill: Internships are a great way for a student to explore career options, gain professional skills and experience, network and get letters of references from their site supervisor. The number of employers hiring their interns for full-time positions grows every year.

R: When should a student create a resume, and how often should it be updated?

LO: A resume should be updated at the end of each semester: When a student participates in anything noteworthy on or off campus, it should be recorded as soon as possible. The Career Development Center offers resume help on a daily basis through CDC walk-in hours and also the quick reference guide available on the CDC website.

R: Can students from any major obtain a useful internship?

LO: Students from all majors should be getting experience, whether it’s lab, research, volunteer, internships or service learning. Internships are available for students locally, regionally, statewide and internationally. Students need to be proactive in their internship search. They need to identify their field of interest they would like to explore, their preferred location and then, research the field and companies they are interested in. LinkedIn, Internships-USA, Wetfeet Guides and GoinGlobal are some good places to start.

R: Is it difficult to find a paying or credit-earning internship?

LO: It is not difficult to find a credit-earning internship … as a matter of fact, many companies/organizations require students to receive academic credit for their internship. Internships that pay are available; students just need to be proactive and research the possibilities. Credit is always a good thing, but it’s about getting the experience that is important.

R: Can students find internships for any time of the year? Are some seasons easier than others?

LO: Internships are available any time of the year. They have options. CDCI is most popular during fall and spring semesters. This semester we have almost 400 students participating in on-campus, local and regional internships for credit. The number of students interning during summer and winter sessions for credit is also growing.

R: Any other tips or advice that you think is important to know?

LO: A student will be that much more marketable if they have some kind of experience (internships, research, volunteering, service learning) on their resume during their college years. The Career Development Center has plenty of resources and professional staff to provide answers to each student’s individual needs.

So whether it’s paid, unpaid, for credit or just on a volunteer basis, internships are just plain valuable. Not only are internships significant for future employment, but they will also help you, as a future employee, to hone your skills and find what you really love. For more information, go to the BU Career Development Center website or stop by during the CDC’s office hours.