CADMEF: How have your internship and job experiences prepared you for life after college?
SANDERS: One thing I’ve discovered during my work experience is that you are actually in more control of your work pace than you may think! I’ve always been a pretty diligent and fast worker, and in the beginning of my internships I’d get frustrated when the pace of my work varied greatly from day to day. Some days I’d have dozens of tasks on my plate and would be stressed working all day to complete them, whereas other days I would only have two or three tasks on my plate that I would have to drag on throughout the day in order to stay busy. As my internship went on, I realized that the volatility is simply the nature of business, especially within the marketing industry.
CADMEF: What was the most important thing you learned from your internships?
SANDERS: I’ve learned that people skills are the key to succeed in whatever career you pursue. Not only is it important to know how to work with people of many different personalities, but also it’s important to be conscious of how you come across to people with varying personalities. Developing a good reputation from day one is critical. It’s important to always be aware of how you conduct yourself, whether in front of your boss’s boss or the receptionist! That way, when you need help or input from your superiors, coworkers, or assistants, they will respect you and your time. Being cordial and friendly to everyone in the office will earn you a stellar reputation and greatly benefit you throughout your entire time span with that company.
CADMEF: What would you recommend to students looking for an internship experience that are not sure what they want to do?
SANDERS: First and foremost, don’t overthink it! You won’t ever truly know what you want to do until you try. I am always urging people to apply to as many different internships as they can. Even if you’re not sure that it’s your dream job, you should still apply! Experience is the best way to find out what you do and don’t like about a career.
I also believe in doing informational interviews and job shadows in a variety of fields. Try to do them with people from varying levels of their career in order to walk away with the most beneficial information to you.
Last, knowing how your personality will fit into a career can save you a lot of time in the long run. For example, I know I need interaction with a variety of people every day in order to be happy. I also know that I enjoy helping people with my work, that I am deadline driven and that I enjoy planning ahead. By knowing these key things, I can already narrow down job choices.
CADMEF: Do you have any job hunting tips for students?
SANDERS: Absolutely! I know that it’s difficult for a student without a big network of contacts to look for internships. I was pretty frustrated my sophomore year when applying. Regardless of how great my grades and leadership experiences were, I felt invisible to companies because I didn’t have previous internship experience! Finding that first internship is the hardest thing you’ll do, but once you have one, you’re set! Here are a few good tips for nailing that first internship:
- Always start with whom you know. Start with friends in your field and ask them about their previous internships and if they can refer you. I had almost given up on finding an internship for the summer of my sophomore year until I reconnected with an old high school friend who gave me the contact information of someone in the HR department where he interned the previous summer. I interviewed and received an offer within a couple weeks! Getting contact information of a hiring manager from HR is definitely the best thing you can do.
- Go to your school’s career site! I guarantee that you will receive more interviews by applying through your school’s website than you will by applying through other online sites. A lot of companies now have automated resume processes, and your application can be rejected without an HR person ever seeing it or looking at your cover letter! The companies listed through your school’s career website are actively interested in a graduate from your school, and they’re more likely to personally receive your applications and look through them simply because they were sent through your school.
- Don’t be afraid to start small! Smaller companies are often overlooked by students, but I think they’re often much easier to nail down. I got a lot more hands-on work experience and had much more responsibility at a small firm for my first internship than I would have working for a large company with 100 interns! Employers are always commenting on how impressive my work experience is because I was able to manage a lot more of my own projects at a smaller company.
CADMEF: How can someone stand apart from the crowd when job hunting?
SANDERS: I truly believe that confidence is the biggest thing that will help you stand apart. The best way to gain that confidence is with practice! Practice networking, go to as many interviews as you can, and put yourself in uncomfortable situations! Routinely doing all of these things will ensure that you become more comfortable with each new situation.
- Comments by Bridget Sanders. Bridget is a junior at Loyola University Chicago. She is a dean's list student and winner of CADMEF's Alan Drey Memorial Scholarship.