Thursday, January 27, 2011

Student Spotlight: Internships!

Hey guys! My name is Sarah Clark and I’m a junior at Penn majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Everyone knows one of the best things about Penn is the ease in getting involved in undergraduate research. I preach it in every tour that I give and the resources to get involved are everywhere you turn. I, however, quickly realized research is not for everyone, and especially not for me. What I am more interested in is working in industry and just as the best way to prepare for your PhD or a future in research is to do undergraduate research, the best way to boost your resume for a career in industry is summer internships. This blog post just has a couple of tips that I have about the whole process.

I was able to get an internship the summer after my sophomore year, which is sometimes more difficult because you’re not as experienced, so I recommend not being too picky. I was grateful to just have one and now I am lined up for a great one this summer I’m really excited about. First, what surprised me was how early I needed to get my applications, resumes, cover letters, and recommendations into these companies! Many large companies have structured programs for interns and the deadlines are early (typically January-March, but some as early as October). Almost 100% of applications for internships take place online, which doesn’t always work to your advantage as convenient as it is. Your info just goes into a huge database full of applicants and there’s no easy answer to how to get selected. This means that applying to just one company and crossing your fingers probably won’t work. You will actually not hear back from most that they even read your application. The trick: look EVERYWHERE. OCR (On Campus Recruiting) is nice because it is offered through Penn so you have a smaller applicant pool. I have applied to a few OCR positions, interviewed for two, and had an out of town interview and offer from one. I actually turned this offer down but going through the interview process was an excellent experience. It’s great to practice interviewing for positions that aren’t necessarily your dream job, because you’re more comfortable when your dream job actually comes along. Aside from OCR, it’s up to you to google names of companies you’re interested in, find their career websites, and check out their internships. Dig deep. For instance, I was interested in aerospace and it’s easy to think of the big names (Boeing, NASA, Lockheed Martin), but it helps to search for smaller companies in this industry as well. Their internships will have smaller applicant pools and you’ll probably even get a more intimate experience working there. I actually got both of my internships from applying online: the one for next summer being my dream internship at Boeing, whose phone interview I was able to ace thanks to the practice I had gotten from other interviews! So as far as summer internships go, don’t just count on applying to once place, it’s up to you to explore all your options, take the interview process as far as you can go if only for the practice, and start early!

For those readers that are Penn students, SWE is offering a speed mentoring event next month, so look out for notices on an event that’s sure to give more great tips! AWE is also planning an interview prep workshop and Career Services always has tons of info sessions and resume building workshops. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of all your resources and good luck!