Is It Too Late To Find an Internship?

by Natty Leach, Associate Director

Just to preface this before we get started… now is a great time (arguably even the best time) to be looking for summer internships.

Almost every time I meet with a student throughout the year, they feel like they’re behind or late to the internship search process. It always feels like there’s a spike in that this time of year, though, so I wanted to take the time to discuss how right now is actually an excellent time to be looking for opportunities.

Play the tape:

People are always shocked when I show them our summer survey report of when students found their summer internship. The most common months to receive internship offers is actually March/April which comes in at 44%. And May/June is the second most common at 22%. These numbers are representative of the many companies that post opportunities in the month of February or even later. If you combine the entire semester, 79% of summer internships are received throughout the Spring.

Industry specific:

The timing for internships can be really industry specific. That being said, almost every industry outside of Finance, Consulting, and big Tech, interviews and hires their Summer interns in the Spring semester. Even for those three earlier-trending industries, there will be opportunities still posted at smaller companies, startups, or niche sub-groups (like non-profit consulting). Handshake has tons of opportunities being posted every day so continue to look there as well as industry-specific job boards found on our Resources by Career Field page. You can also sign up for our industry-specific newsletters in the Career Interests section of Handshake to get emails about upcoming jobs, internships, and events.

If you wanted an idea of more specific places Penn students have interned previously, take a look at our Summer Industries report.

Bottom line, there’s lots of stuff being posted right now. Feel free to be in touch with us at Career Services about ways to enhance your search, prepare your application materials, or interview over the coming months.

After the Exhale: Making the Most of Your Winter Break (Revisited)

by Sharon Fleshman

Once again, it is that time of year so I have updated my previous tips for career planning during winter break. Many of you are likely anticipating that last paper or exam and that sigh of relief.  Therefore, the following tips should be seen as less like a “checklist” to complete and more like a “menu” from which you can choose what is most useful for you to accomplish during your downtime.  

Reflect: 

Think about your experiences at Penn so far. What have been some of your most energizing projects? Such projects may have taken place in the context of an internship, field placement, clinical rotation, class project, or a student organization.  Write a quick summary of each project, what you accomplished, and what you enjoyed. Are there any common elements that you see from these projects that point to skills, values, and strengths?   These reflections are not only helpful for improving your resumes, cover letters and interviews, but will also allow you to identify careers that may suit you going forward. Career Services has self-assessment resources that can help facilitate this process.

Research:

Winter break is a great time to research careers, industries, employers and job/internship opportunities.  Make sure to peruse the Career Services website for online resources. For example, we have a variety of resources by career field available. Online versions of newspapers, trade publications and other periodicals are other good sources for industry research. Websites for professional associations and regional chambers of commerce can also provide helpful career, industry and employer information. Make sure that you update your Career Interests profile and look up relevant jobs and upcoming career fairs on Handshake.

Reach out:

Don’t forget that you already have quite a network which includes family, friends, alumni, current supervisors, and professors.  Don’t be hesitant about reaching out to your network for insight and consider how you can help others in your network as well.  Helpful resources for this include QuakerNet, LinkedIn, regional alumni clubs, and professional associations related to your field of interest.  Another recently added resource for this is CareerShift, and more information on this tool is offered in a previous blog post written by my colleague Natty Leach.

In addition to networking and information interviewing, you can make connections with others while getting direct exposure to a career.  For instance, volunteering is an excellent way to accomplish this with hands-on involvement. Perhaps you can assist someone in a field of interest in a short-term project. Another means of exposure is shadowing, which allows you to accompany someone in a career of interest during the course of a work day. 

Regroup:

As you assess your career goals and progress you’ve made so far, you may decide that you need to make some adjustments. To do this, consider an approach with “flexible focus” by determining what is most important concerning your career plans and where you can be more flexible. For instance, you may be committed to a particular industry but may decide to expand your geographical options. Invite others to strategize with you.  Once you have revisited your goals, it is time to document your plan of action with concrete, timely and measurable steps. Such a goal could sound something like, “I will conduct informational interviews with at least two people each month after break.”

Finally, the most important tip of all: RELAX!

Wrap Up Your Interview with Smart, Well-Prepared Questions

This entry was written by Blair Canner, a Graduate Assistant working in Career Services this year.

Picture this: you have just spent the last half an hour answering every question thrown at you. Walk me through your resume? What are your strengths? Tell me about a time you failed. Finally the interviewer looks at you and asks “Do you have any questions for me?”

While you may be inclined to shake your head and end the interview as soon as possible, having questions prepared will prove your interest not just in the role but in the opinions of the interviewer.

While any question is technically fair game, you should use this time as an opportunity to:

  • Reemphasize your fit in the job

Asking what qualities are most common in successful employees gives you one final opportunity to demonstrate that you possess those critical skills. Alternatively, ask what skills the team is seeking in a new hire. Specifically connecting your experiences and skills to their needs will reemphasize that you’re the right candidate for the job.

  • Understand the culture from a personal point of view

If an interviewer has been at the company for a while, ask them what they like the most about the organization. Find out why they joined the company and what has convinced them to stay. If you’re interviewing with a specific team, ask about the team’s culture and find out if they hold any team-building events. Culture can differ across teams – make sure your team’s culture suits your work style.

  • Identify professional development opportunities

If this is one of your first jobs out of school, demonstrate your commitment to continuous development by asking about available training & mentoring opportunities. Does the organization offer formal support networks and do those networks hold events? What about continuing education – if you want to learn a new skill, are you expected to learn it on the job or are there courses available?

The final part of the interview is just as evaluative as the first 25 minutes. But in this case, it’s also an opportunity for you to determine if this company is the right fit for you. Preparing 5-10 questions in advance will help you come across as genuinely curious and invested in the job at hand.

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.

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.)