Making the Most of Your Internship

By Barbara Hewitt

Penn students will soon be leaving campus for internships all around the world. Some of you will work with large employers in very established internship programs, while others might be the first intern in a new start-up. Penn students work in for-profit, nonprofit and public sector jobs in all sorts of functional areas. While internships are a great way to explore a career of interest and gain valuable skills, the quality of internships can vary dramatically. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that the experience is as positive as possible.

Ideally, think hard about what you want to accomplish during an internship before you accept one. You may want to develop new skills, learn about a new industry, or perhaps make money to pay your fall tuition. (In fact, all three of these goals might be important to many of you!) Think about how many hours you can devote to the internship each week and how many weeks you would like to work. The more clear you are on these parameters the easier it will be to focus your search and prioritize your goals to find an internship that is a good fit. You should definitely have a discussion with your supervisor to clarify expectations regarding the types of assignments you will handle, your work schedule, and how you will be trained. Discussing these issues BEFORE you commit to the internship can help stave of problems and disappointments down the road.

When you actually report to work, realize that as an intern you are a representative of the organization. It is important that you make a good impression at all times by being professional and diligent, reporting to work on time, and following the office dress code. You should also be observant of the “unspoken rules” at work, as they are frequently more important to fitting in than the more formal written rules. For example, is it customary for people to take rigid lunch breaks at noon or is a more flexible break schedule acceptable? Do people refer to each other by their first names or are higher-ups addressed more formally? Are you able to check social media tools like Facebook when at work or is that frowned upon (or outright forbidden)?

Be sure that you know when assignments and projects are due and meet all deadlines, even if it means staying late. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it will increase your knowledge of the organization and demonstrate your interest in learning as much as possible. You may want to check with your supervisor early in your internship to discuss his or her preferred method of communication. Some supervisors have an open door policy and encourage interns to stop by when they have questions. Other might prefer a more formal weekly meeting or request that you send an email when something comes up.

The attitude that you display as an intern is critical. Work hard to demonstrate a positive demeanor at work, as no one likes to work with a complaining, unhappy coworker…especially an intern who will only be in the office for a few months. Make the most of menial tasks by doing them well and without complaining. Virtually all internships (and jobs, for that matter) have some mundane components. If you are unhappy with most of your assignments, take the initiative and ask your supervisor about taking on different or additional responsibilities which interest you more. Generally, supervisors will be impressed with your initiative and drive. However, be sure not to do this too early in the internship. It is important to develop relationships with your supervisor and colleagues and gain an understanding of the organization before assuming that you will be entrusted with higher level assignments.

An internship provides a great opportunity to take advantage of being on the “inside” of an organization by talking to other employees and making contacts. You may want to arrange informational interviews to learn more about other departments in the organization. Collect business cards as they often come in handy when networking for a full-time job down the road.

Hopefully the internship will be a stepping stone to additional professional opportunities. Save copies of things you create for future reference (web pages, flyers, press releases, articles, etc.). Learn as much as you can from your experience by seeking and accepting feedback about your performance, including constructive criticism. Try not to be defensive when a supervisor suggests ways to improve your performance. Request an exit interview to discuss the internship as a whole. Before leaving, ask for a letter of recommendation. Open a credentials file with Interfolio to house the letter if you haven’t already done so.

At the end of the summer, write a thank you note to your supervisor for his or her guidance. Hopefully your experience was a good one, and you have developed a relationship that will continue into the future. Keep in touch with your co-workers and supervisor after leaving the site, as they can often be very helpful as you begin a full-time job search.

Most of all ENJOY your experience. Internships provide a unique opportunity to experience a new work environment and career – take full advantage, as summers during college are limited commodity!
(Blog entry based on Career Services “Tips on Making the Most of Your Internship” website.)

Beyond the black hole of the “submit” button

By: Kelly Cleary

With graduation less than two months away, now is high time for submitting job applications— which often means hitting that submit button again and again and again without any certainty of where your resume is headed, or who, if anyone, will read it. The job search can grate on one’s self-confidence and really leave you feeling like you have little control over your future, but there are ways to target your search so your resume is more likely to be on the short list and land you an interview.

As I see it, there are two main ways that people find job openings. They look at job boards, usually online, or they regularly scour the human resources/careers website of organizations where they think they’d like to work. While Monster and CareerBuilder do list thousands of jobs, the mass market nature of those sites often means your resume is floating in a sea of hundreds of other applications from people who also quickly and easily hit “submit”. Here are a few tips to help you make your way out of the job application black hole.

The Search – Job Boards & Researching Prospective Employers

  • Target your search. Instead of focusing on general job boards, visit industry and region specific sites, or other websites that have a more targeted audience in mind. For example, the jobs in PennLink have been posted by employers who have expressed a specific interest in hiring Penn students and alumni. If you are looking for a marketing job, go to the American Marketing Association’s jobs board. Better yet, if you’re interested in PR/Communications job in the Washington DC metro area, go to the Public Relation Society of America National Capital Chapter’s jobs site. You can find more information about industry specific sites on the Career Services website for each Penn School. Here is a link to the College page. You’ll find even more on our Online Subscriptions page.
  • Talking with people who work in the field you are interested in is a great way to discover which professional groups you should familiarize yourself with and sites you should bookmark and check regularly. Yes, I’m talking about Networking and Penn Alumni are some of the best people with whom to network.  And of course, the Career Services’ email distribution lists are also a great way to hear about job openings. Check with a career counselor for your school for more information.
  • Actively join and use your networks. Join and participate in professional groups in the “real” and virtual worlds. In addition to the professional groups such as the ones mentioned above, LinkedIn has become an incredibly powerful job search tool. In addition to being a place where you can look up people’s profiles and find networking contacts, you can join Groups related to nearly every industry and many specific regions, as well as alumni groups. In the form of digests, people regularly send job postings, resources and tips for finding jobs in a particularly field to other group members. This site provides an overview of LinkedIn.
  • Be proactive and creative in the way you research employers. Read the newspaper and trade journals to learn about organizations and industries that are expanding. If you hear about a job fair that happened last month, find the list of employers who attended since it’s likely that they may still have openings. And network, network, network! If the idea of networking stresses you out, start by doing a few informational interviews. In PACNet you’ll find supportive Penn alumni who have volunteered offer career advice to students and other alumni.

The Application & Follow Up

  • When you apply to a position, submit a flawless resume and cover letter (always send a cover letter) that is targeted to the specific position and company. This makes a big difference to the hiring manager. Applications that are not targeted to a specific position usually go straight to the “No” pile.
  • Targeting the resume and cover letter includes using keywords from the job description and the organization’s “culture” since the primary goal of those documents is to demonstrate to the recruiter or hiring manager that YOU are a perfect fit for the job description that they are seeking to fill.
  • And speaking of the hiring manager, he or she is your intended audience. Whenever possible, even if it takes a little homework, try to send your application directly to the hiring manager. As long as the job posting doesn’t say, “No phone calls,” sometimes you can find the name of the hiring manager simply by calling the organization and asking. Your network is also one of the best ways to find this information.
  • Follow-up. If you haven’t received any response regarding your application two weeks or so after you apply, (unless they say no phone calls) follow up with the organization by politely saying you are writing to confirm that they received your application and wanted to reiterate your interest in the position. You might also ask if the position is still open and inquire about their timeline.
  • The black hole. Alas, sometimes despite your best efforts it’s not possible to find the name of the hiring manager or to get through to the Wizard of HR behind the submit button. When that happens continue capitalize on what you can control like continuing to build your network, keeping an open mind about and attentive ear to prospective opportunities, and seek advice from career counselors and experienced professionals.

For more job search tips, check the Full-Time Jobs page of the Career Services page for College students and alumni or check the specific Career Services websites for your school or academic program.

Good luck with your search!

Make sure Facebook is your Friend, not your Enemy

by Lin Yuan

My name is Lin Yuan and I’m a workstudy for the Career Services office. I do a lot of Facebook and Twitter posts for the office. It’s a pretty sweet job because how many people can say they get paid to be on Facebook and Twitter all day? It’s definitely a fun job, but also pretty informative and I’ve already learned so much from work that I want to share with you all.

I come across a lot of articles at work about social media making or breaking a job offer. Employers these days definitely search  job applicants on Facebook and other sites to see if they can dig up any dirt or just get to know you better. Even if you’re not applying for a job or internship now, make sure your Facebook profile always puts your best face forward:

1)      Untag unattractive or incriminating photos of yourself. Better yet, ask your friends to delete them.

2)      Use Facebook’s friend lists functions.  Friend lists are great to classify your hundreds of friends into manageable groups. I made a friend list for acquaintances and family friends called PG, with limited access to my profile. Closer friends go into a PG-13 list. And remember, if it’s R, it probably shouldn’t be on Facebook!

3)      Put some thought into your About Me section. Employers might have something in common with you that could give you more to talk about in an interview. Use your About Me section to make your profile more personalized and show off what an interesting person you are! (Check out this student branding success story).

4)      Exercise general caution on Facebook. Facebook creates a huge, complicated web of contacts, so even if you do use privacy settings, make sure you don’t put anything on your profile that you wouldn’t want everyone to see. For example, a popular privacy setting is only letting Friends of Friends see your Facebook photos. It sounds pretty reasonable, but when you have 500 friends and each of them have 500 friends, that’s suddenly a lot of people with access to your pictures from last night’s party.

More resources and tips about Facebook can be found on Career Services’ Social Media page.

And if you aren’t already, become a fan of University of Pennsylvania Career Services on Facebook!

We’ll keep you updated on our events & workshops and post information that can help you with your career search. (I promise to keep the corny puns to a minimum!)