Tips for the Second Part of Your Summer Internship

Most of you are probably well into your summer internship or research experiences. Hopefully you’ve settled in, established a good relationship with your peers and manager, and are continuing to learn new things every day. Following are a few items that you might consider for the second half of your internship to gain even more from your experience.

Network: There are almost certainly a core group of individuals with whom you work every day. Of course, it’s critically important to develop positive relationships with them. Many interns, however, find it beneficial to expand their networks by developing relationships with employees in other functional areas or departments that also interest them. If you would like to gain a broader understanding of your organization, try reaching out to others within it to see if they might have time for a cup of coffee or a lunch meeting so that you can learn more about their daily work. Even better, if you have a good relationship with your manager, perhaps ask him or her for an introduction to pave the way.

Volunteer for Additional Assignments of Interest: If you’ve already learned the core parts of your job, are performing well, and have some extra time, perhaps you might volunteer to help out with an additional assignment that could help you learn new skills and be beneficial to the work flow in your group. That said, if you are too busy with your current work or are struggling with it, it makes the most sense to focus on these core responsibilities instead of taking on new ones.

Request a Mid-Summer Review /Discussion: Some interns will have a formal, scheduled mid-summer review, although many organizations save formal feedback until the end of the summer or don’t provide it at all. If such a review is not already scheduled, it can be helpful to request one with your manager to solicit feedback that you can utilize for the remaining weeks of the internship. Ask what you are doing well and how you might improve. Try not to be defensive when you are given constructive criticism. While it might be difficult to hear, this feedback is ultimately to help you grow professionally and can be very valuable. The review does not have to be overly formal – it would be fine to simply ask your supervisor for a few minutes to discuss how the summer has been going in terms of your performance and how you might be even more productive during the remaining weeks.

Document your accomplishments and request a letter for reference. You are most likely super-aware of what you have been working on and your accomplishments this summer, but a year from now your memory might not be so sharp. Document your accomplishments (including outcomes and quantifications where you can) so that you will be able to include them on your resume and discuss them in an interview. If you feel comfortable, ask your manager for a letter of reference at the end of the summer. If he or she prefers not to write a formal letter, you could ask if they would be willing to serve as a positive reference for you in the future and if it would be ok for you to provide their contact information to prospective employers. Keep in mind that it is a good practice to notify a reference if you provide their contact information to someone in the future so that they will be prepared for a prospective employer to reach out to them.

Most of all, enjoy the rest of the summer! Internships provide an incredibly valuable chance to try out a career field and are not so easily attainable after graduation, so make the most of this great opportunity.

How Important Is GPA When Looking for a Job or Internship?

Let’s face it…. a strong GPA has never been detrimental when applying for jobs and internships. It can demonstrate that an applicant is intelligent, has a good work ethic, and takes his/her role as a student seriously. That said, I very often hear from students who think an extraordinarily high GPA is required to land an attractive job or internship. These comments don’t resonate with what I know to be true about Penn student outcomes… that most of them land great jobs with interesting employers, whether they have a 3.0 GPA or a 3.9 GPA. For that reason we recently embarked on a study to look more closely at the GPA ranges of Penn students entering various industries. We merged information from the Career Plans Survey for the Class of 2017 with GPA data at graduation. While we don’t have a 100% response rate to the survey, we did have information on a respectable 86% of the Penn undergraduate class, so know the results are grounded in solid data. What we found might surprise you.

The chart below shows the middle 50% of Penn GPAs for various industries. We have included below some of the more common industries that Penn students enter after graduation because we had enough data points to make the calculations meaningful. Penn students obviously enter many other industries, but we did not report on them because smaller numbers could skew the results more radically. (Note that MBB stands for the big 3 consulting firms – McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain; Bulge Bracket are the large investment banks, excluding boutique banks; and the Frightful Five Tech is Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet/Google.) The data clearly demonstrates that a 3.8 is indeed NOT required for any of these industries.

Middle 50% of GPAs for Penn Students Entering Various Career Fields

Employers consider a broad range of variables when deciding which students to interview. Yes, GPA is often one of those variables, but just as important are the skills students display on their resumes developed through coursework, internships, extracurricular activities, etc.

The non-tangibles are also essential. Has the student demonstrated an interest in the industry, job function and specific organization? Does the applicant demonstrate strong communication skills through the cover letter and on the resume? Has the applicant taken the time to network and get to know people at the organization? While it may not always seem fair, who you know (and more importantly – who knows you!) can make a big difference when employers decide which candidates they are going to call for an interview.

So, while an extremely high GPA is not a prerequisite for landing any of these jobs, a low GPA can present challenges when seeking jobs or internships. Here are a few things that Career Services advisors suggest to mitigate a lower GPA:

Consider why your GPA is lower. Some students may have a particular semester that is an anomaly because of an illness, difficult family situation, or simply being over-committed. Is there a way to explain this to a recruiter? For example, something like the following might work:

You may notice that I did not perform as well academically during the spring of my sophomore year. I wanted to let you know that I had mono that semester and was unfortunately not able to devote as much time to studying. I am happy to say that once I recuperated my grades rebounded, and for my most recent semester I achieved a 3.5 GPA which I consider to be more reflective of my abilities.

Did you do better in your major /concentration classes? Highlight that fact on your resume. Per Penn policies, be sure to include the number of courses included in the calculation. For example: Major GPA: 3.4 / 4.0 (7 courses).

Network, network, network. Once people get to know you (and your charming and engaging personality!), they are more likely to go out of their way to help you and more likely to overlook what might be considered a lower GPA. Make it a point to talk to people at the organizations of interest to you. Attend information sessions on campus, go to career fairs, or simply network by using the alumni tool on LinkedIn or the QuakerNet directory. While networking won’t guarantee you an interview, it can certainly go a long way towards making one happen.

Highlight Other Assets on Your Resume and Cover Letter: Every candidate should highlight their strengths on job applications. For some, that might be GPA. For others, it could be technical skills, great leadership abilities, or an amazing work ethic (demonstrated by working 20 hours a week and being highly involved in a campus club). Be aware of your personal strengths and highlight them on your resume.

Be prepared to talk about your GPA. While you don’t need to volunteer your GPA if not asked in an interview (and we recommend leaving it off your resume if it is below 3.0), you should be prepared to talk about it if asked. Take responsibility for it, don’t be overly defensive and don’t blame other people. Instead, think about aspects of your GPA that you might be able to talk about positively. For example:

When I came to college I did not have strong study skills and my grades suffered because of it. During sophomore year I discovered the college learning center and developed new ways to study more effectively. I’m happy to say that my GPA has risen every semester since.

Be flexible about the places you apply. Well known employers receive many thousands of applications from college graduates each year and can be very selective about who they interview and hire. (An article on CNBC.com reported that Goldman Sachs received over 250,000 applications from students in 2016.) There are thousands of other organizations out there that could be great places to work, but which are less well-known. Chances are that your resume will stand out more at a less well-known organization.

Talk with a Career Services Advisor. Career Services staff are here to help you with every aspect of your job or internship search and every situation is unique. If you have concerns about how your GPA may impact your job or internship search, please schedule an appointment to talk about your personal situation. You can schedule an appointment through Handshake (under the “Career Center” tab at the top) or by calling the Career Services office.

A Few Handshake Updates and Reminders

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been successfully using Handshake for almost six months. We’ve had over 10,000 students and alumni activate their accounts, approved over 7,600 employers to use the system, and had over 12,000 jobs and internships posted for Penn students and alumni. (In case you are curious, the top job functions have been education/teaching, finance, data & analytics, business development, and research – but there are lots of others!)

We hope the Handshake system has been working well for you! As a reminder, we wanted to post a few ways that you can optimize the system over the winter break to make it even more effective!

  • Complete your profile! If you haven’t already done so, take a few minutes to add details to your profile about your work experience, activities, educational background, and skills. You can even upload your resume so you don’t have to start from scratch. Once your profile looks great, you can make your profile public to employers so that they can find you for positions for which you might be a strong candidate. (If you have already finalized your plans and are not currently seeking, you can make your profile private so that you are not contacted.) As a new feature, you can also make your profile public to other Penn students and check out profiles from classmates who have opted to share theirs. Handshake can be a powerful networking tool.
  • Fill out the Career Interests section completely! The more Handshake knows about your career interests, the more effective it will be at populating your homepage with opportunities that are a good fit for you. Be sure to indicate what type of opportunities interest you (job, internship, networking, volunteering, etc.), the industries and job functions of interest to you, and where you want to live. Also, take a few minutes to indicate which CareerMail Communications you would like to receive. These are industry based e-newsletters sent out by the Career Services staff on a regular basis. It is one of the primary communication channels we are using this year, so don’t miss out on it.
  • Take a look at the Resources tab to find other career related resources available to you as a Penn student.
  • RSVP for events! (We will have lots more events listed in the spring once we get our room assignments from facilities!)
  • Schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor through the on-line scheduling system.
  • Download the mobile app, so you can do all of these things on the go! (Note that currently a mobile app is only available for the iPhone – an Android app is in the works- but even without the app Handshake’s website is mobile ready.)

Submit Now for Recruiter Add-On Interviews!

On-campus recruiting for full-time positions (which started on September 26th) is well underway and interviews for internship positions will start on Monday, October 23rd. The semester is flying by, so I thought now would be a good time to remind students about the Recruiter Add-On Interview process. If you were not able to get on an interview schedule (either because you did not apply through the original resume collection or you were not selected for an interview), the Add-On Interview can be a great second opportunity to speak with an organization of interest to you.

It is fairly common for employers to have open slots on their schedules when they arrive on campus because of candidates accepting other opportunities or because of unforeseen situations like students being ill. Many organizations opt to fill these open interview slots on the day of their on-campus interviews by accepting “Recruiter Add-On Interviews.” If you wish to be considered for an “Add-On” Interview, complete the “Recruiter Add-On Interview Request Form” for each position that interests you, attach the form to your resume, and deposit it in the “Recruiter Add-On Interview Request Box” outside of Career Services (Suite 20, McNeil Building). Collection hours are 9:15am-2:00pm one business day before the interview date. The OCR staff will notify students who are invited for an add-on interview as soon as an employer invites the student to interview. Note that there is no penalty for declining an Add-On invitation if the time doesn’t work for you. Use the “Weekly List of Employers Scheduled to Recruit On Campus” link to determine which employers to submit for each day. The spreadsheet will be updated weekly on the On Campus Interview website.

We see students every day who are invited to fill these last-minute open slots and often they go on to receive second round interviews and job offers because they took the time to submit requests for Add-On Interviews. We invite you to do the same!

Take Some Time This Summer for Self-Assessment Using SIGI3

Some students arrive at college already having a pretty clear idea of what career path they plan to pursue and the path winds up being fairly straight forward and linear. For the majority of students, however, that is not the case, and the path has many twists and turns. Students may take an amazing class and discover whole new career areas they had never even thought about. Others might land an internship thinking it would be a great fit, but discover that the day-to-day work just wasn’t quite as interesting as anticipated. Some students may simply find a particular path extremely hard to break into, so would like to widen the scope of careers they are considering to increase the number of possibilities available.

There are many reasons why people choose to assess their career options and the summer is an ideal time for self-assessment and exploring how your values, skills and interests relate to a variety of occupations. Luckily for Penn students, Career Services offers a great FREE tool to help you explore your options. SIGI3 (System of Integrated Guidance and Information) helps students create a career plan that’s right for them by integrating self-assessment with in-depth and updated career information that is easy to use and provides individuals with a realistic view of the best educational and career options for future success. SIGI3 helps each user examine key motivators and matches work-related values, interests, personality, and skills to educational and career pathways, and then helps individuals explore a range of options based on their personal choices.

Career Services has purchased a license for Penn students to use SIGI3 for free. Student can access it from the Digital Resources link on the Career Services home page. (Note you must use your PennKey to gain access.) Enjoy the exploration!