“We’re the best-kept secret on that campus,” said Elder Scott Alexander. Elder Alexander serves as an internship service missionary for BYU-Idaho alongside his wife, Rhonda, in Los Angeles.
Missionaries, like the Alexanders, can help students find internships in major cities. Each of these cities has a couple assigned where they live, including Los Angeles, Salt Lake, Phoenix, Denver and Seattle. A complete list of internship missionaries can be found on the Career Center website.
“Those are markets that are doing well, that are growing, that have a lot of opportunities for students,” said Elder Royal Kennard, who serves as the internship coordinator on campus.
The internship missionaries, many of who are retired couples, help students qualify for internships by preparing students for interviews, building their knowledge and confidence and connecting them with key contacts.
Students can contact these missionaries through the Career Preparation Center. The BYU-I website lists the contact information for each of them, their location and encourages students to reach out to them. For the missionaries living in different states, they communicate with students through email, phone or video conference.
Students should prepare for an internship by meeting with the missionaries early.
“You really need to start preparing as a freshman,” Elder Kennard said. “Start getting your resume ready. Start learning what it’s going to take.”
They also encourage students to keep coming back to find out what they can do better, follow up after an interview or to ask questions.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles started the program over 10 years ago when he served as BYU-I’s president during the transition from Ricks College to Brigham Young University-Idaho.
The missionaries believe an internship, which is a requirement for many majors, can have several positive effects, such as helping individual students decide whether a career in a specific area would be right for them.
“That student will know what they want in a job, and because they’ve done these internships, they will now know what they don’t want,” Elder Alexander said.
Having an internship can also prepare students for the workplace.
“They (can) have a better understanding of what the world outside is like,” Elder Kennard said.
An internship can also provide the experience necessary for a strong resume.
“An education is only part of the picture,” Elder Kennard said. “The other half is experience. So giving students an opportunity to get that experience is huge. It’s very valuable.”
Elder Alexander believes that an internship can help students set themselves apart, and internship missionaries can help them achieve this.
“Maybe they don’t have family who’s gone to college,” said Elder Alexander. “They may be the first to graduate, so we can really help them become successful.”
Missionaries provide different services, but all of them focus on helping students find internships. They can also offer specific information about a company the student wants to intern at and teach the student how to find it.
For example, Sister Joyce Curry often works with a company that only accepts one format of resume. If the format isn’t followed, the resume won’t be accepted.
Along with perfecting resumes, working with an internship missionary aims to build confidence.
“We will help them to feel very comfortable when they go in (for an interview) … The company ends up hiring them because they have that strong confidence and motivation,” said Elder Alexander.
Since the missionaries represent many states, they can help students explore opportunities in areas outside of Rexburg.
“It really will change their life if they can learn to overcome the fear of leaving,” said Elder Alexander.
Many of the missionaries have experience in the business sector, which gives them the ability to better help students.
“We are the poster children of what President Eyring wants (the students) to do,” said Elder Alexander. “We went out into the work world, we achieved our goals and we now want to pass that to every student we come in contact with, to motivate them and to have them have the confidence that they can be successful and will be successful as they set those goals.”
Much of the process is also helping students to be accountable to themselves and not give up.
“There have been many cases where I’ve met with students and haven’t known what to say or how to help them,” said Elder Kennard. “Within a short period of time, something will come to my mind. An answer will show up.”