Career Advising Series: Marketing leadership experiences to employers


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By Maggie Smith, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Weinberg.

MaggieDo you ever find yourself wondering whether you should include your leadership experiences and campus involvement on your resume? Maybe you don’t think it is relevant to the internship or job that you’re seeking or maybe you worry that it isn’t “real-world” experience…

The answer is YES, you should include it!

What do employers tell us?

Employers across many industries tell us that campus leadership shows that an applicant takes an active role, is well-rounded, involved, dedicated, respected and trusted by their peers, and able to grow within an organization.

Leadership experiences can be some of the best skill-building opportunities, and they are not any less important than a job or internship. In fact, sometimes, you can learn more in a leadership position!

You might be wondering, what is leadership?

You don’t have to be the founder or president of an organization to be a leader. You might be an active member, and that can still be leadership. Do you feel that you’ve contributed to your organization or to the Northwestern community? If yes, then you’re a leader!

Leadership experiences might include being a member of an advisory board, Peer Adviser, Family Ambassador, Resident Assistant, fraternity or sorority member, treasurer for an organization, committee member, student-athlete, or volunteer.

How do you market your leadership experiences to a potential employer?

Focus on transferrable skills!

What is a transferrable skill?

A transferrable skill is a skill developed in one situation which can be transferred to another situation. You often develop these skills in a student organization or a leadership position, and they are easily transferred to a professional setting. Transferrable skills are common qualifications for any internship or job across many industries.

Common transferrable skills include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication (written and verbal)
  • Critical thinking
  • Initiative/self-starter
  • Leadership
  • Project management/organization
  • Technical and design
  • Research and development
  • Team or group work
  • Multicultural competence

Think about what the specific skill would mean to an employer: What does it mean to have strong communication skills or to be a strong team or group member?

Once you’ve defined the skill, begin connecting the skills to your leadership experiences. Think about situations where you may have demonstrated these skills: What situations did you encounter as a Peer Adviser that demonstrated your analytical skills? How did you contribute to a team or group as a member of your school’s advisory board? How did you demonstrate communication skills as a student-athlete? How did you develop organizational skills as a committee member for Dance Marathon?

Now that you have identified your transferrable skills, the final step is articulating them in a professional way. When describing your experiences on your resume, keep the formula ATR in mind for developing strong bullet points: Action, Task, Result.

  • Address the transferrable skill by selecting strong action verbs that convey the skill to the employer
  • Be specific
  • Focus on outcomes and results: What did you accomplish?
  • Focus on the purpose of your work: How did it contribute to the organization or Northwestern?

Let’s see the difference that a strong bullet point can make in marketing your leadership experiences to a potential employer:

Option A:

  • Worked on a team to plan events.

Option B:

  • Collaborated with a team of 6 people to coordinate quarterly campus-wide events that connect Northwestern alumni with undergraduate students.

Option B tells the employer that you know how to work on a team, you’re able to coordinate events, and your work has a positive impact on the Northwestern community.

Identifying what you’ve accomplished and what you have to offer is a critical element of networking and interviewing for internships and jobs. There is something to be gained from every experience. Be proud and confident about your leadership experiences and their relevance to your future!

How to go abroad for free: Securing and funding an unpaid internship abroad


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Written by Emery Weinstein, a WCAS senior studying health policy and sociology, and a 2015 Summer Internship Grant Program recipient, during her summer in Paris.

I am currently spending the summer in Paris, France working on a paper for the Health Division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Here, I can meet people from all over the world, learn a new language, and, most importantly, eat “fromage.” Snagging an experience like this is within reach; however, finding a summer internship in another country is difficult and travelling abroad for an unpaid internship is expensive. Here are some tips for securing that summer internship in the city of your dreams.

  1. Do proactive research

Figuring out your summer plans is difficult so it is important to do some research to figure out what you want to do.  Brainstorm your personal interests, professional goals, and workplaces of interest with everyone you know. Try to think of people you admire professionally and go to the office hours of the Northwestern University professors whose classes interest you. I think the best “networking events” come from meeting people organically through attending speaker events or club meetings related to an area of interest that you both share. This will automatically demonstrate a sincere interest in this field and will give you something to connect through. Do research on the internet to find out what kinds of jobs exist in an industry of your choice. Talk to your college advisor, your grandparents, past coworkers, with your professors in order to get more ideas about what others have done and do. Think about what your strengths are and your past experiences so that you can consider how this might lead to other opportunities. This will help give you confidence in figuring out your summer plans. From this research you can begin to think of the kinds of opportunities out there.

  1. Be bold and reach out to people

Connecting with people is a great way to learn about new opportunities. However, it is always important to do so with grace. Ask for an informational interview. An informational interview is held in order to find out more information about a company, industry or position. Reach out to people for informational interviews to learn more about what they do and their professional background. (Tip: Do this whenever you meet someone interesting. When you are looking for jobs in the future it will come in handy to have established a relationship with these people or at least to be able to refer to a past conversation you have had.) You can attach your resume to this e-mail request to provide some background information on yourself. Talk to people who are doing interesting things and prepare questions. If you have worked on a project recently in their field, bring it up during this conversation. If you read a paper that they wrote that interested you, also bring that up. You can tell people what you are interested in and ask them if they know anyone else who might be able to talk to you and give you another perspective.  Also, if they do interesting work, ask if you can help out somehow. You may be able to work for them either formally through the company or organization they work for or informally through the creation of an independent research project or shadowing. Do not be afraid to tell people if you have an idea that could use their help and the resources available, that I will discuss next, through your university to make it happen. Remember that you have plenty to offer and plenty to learn.

  1. Find partners

There are organizations out there who have similar goals to yours and who fulfill their own mission by helping you. Work with them to create a win-win situation! These organizations may help you find your summer plans and can help provide financial support for your travel budget. Some helpful resources for finding internships and fellowships abroad are the Office of Fellowships and Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA). NCA offers the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) which may support anything from a research project in Argentina, an internship in London, or your dream of filming a documentary in Turkey. Northwestern departments related to international topics are the International Program Development (IPD) and the Buffett Institute. Also, Undergraduate Research Grants are available through many departments. You can turn virtually any research question into an independent research project for the summer. I know of people who have used these to do anything from researching health care coverage in France to the impact of rap music. Talking to professors in any department in the field of your interest can help you narrow your focus. Talking to librarians at University Library can help you find background research for your grant proposal and research paper. Talking to research advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Research can help guide you and help perfect your grant proposal. These grants can help financially support your summer of research abroad. These organizations are available to help you find and fund your internship abroad.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

You are a student and people like to help students. Our university has many resources available. If you reach out to an organization and share with them your summer plans and your qualms, you may get the help you need. If something does not work out the first time: try and try again. If you come across a barrier think of the different departments that are staffed with professionals available to help you. An organization that helps connect students with international programs may not outright say on their website that they offer funding for internships abroad but you should reach out to them for this sort of support. In your request make sure to be a valuable asset to them in return.  You may offer to blog for them, take photos for their website, and promote the mission of their organization through your work in return for some financial support for your budget. Be creative, helpful, open and flexible in your request. There are many resources out there that are willing to help you have the best summer of your life.

SIGP Views from the Cube: The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art


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Linnea Hodge (WCAS ’17) is an Art History student pursuing a minor in Theatre. Thanks to a SIGP 2015 grant, she spent this summer interning at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. She hopes to work in arts administration, ideally in the museum field.  

Staffing the sign-in table for the Block Museum’s Community Organizations Open House

Linnea (WCAS ’17) staffs the sign-in table for the Block Museum’s Community Organizations Open House.

First off, I appreciated how short and sweet my internship search was! I had become familiar with and fond of the Block Museum after taking a class on museology from three of its directors, so I thought I would explore this avenue of gaining valuable museum experience. After a few meetings with the Engagement Manager at the Block Museum my summer plans were confirmed. So don’t discount opportunities on campus, ‘cats.

The Engagement Department (where I worked) is concerned with community outreach and programming geared to on- and off-campus audiences. For most of the summer the museum showed an exhibition called The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates. This exhibition was fascinating in terms of community engagement because the death penalty can be a polarizing issue. I got to see first-hand how the Block’s programming serves as a community forum for productive discussion of complex issues.

On a day-to-day level I managed the museum’s tour program, because the Engagement Coordinator had recently returned to graduate school. I acted fairly independently as liaison between docents and tour groups to schedule visits; I even had a chance to plan a lesson for high school aged students from Barcelona. I was happy to feel I was fulfilling a need in the organization as I covered various duties of the Engagement Coordinator.

I also had several long-term projects, including building an outreach list for the next exhibition and coordinating the production of promotional posters for the Block. However, my favorite project was planning a Wildcat Welcome event for new students. The Engagement staff was interested in my input as a student, so I proposed an idea for the event. They loved it, so from then on I was working independently to make it happen. I had worked at Block outreach events before, but planning one was still new to me and very exciting. I learned to develop a marketing scheme, articulate staffing needs, and organize all other aspects of this event. I also had a chance to select Warhol works from the museum’s collection for a small exhibition.

I’m looking forward to hearing about how the event goes, as I’ll be studying abroad when it happens. It’s an honor to be able to introduce new students to great visual art and campus resources simultaneously. Completing the project really fortified my belief that providing access to art is a public service. It felt great to be trusted with this kind of project, and this experience taught me that you should share with your coworkers if you have an idea you are excited about. Others might like it as well, but you’ll never know if you don’t speak up.

Career Advising Series: The art of the thank you note


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By Rachel Garson Taylor, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates.

RachelWhen was the last time you received a thank you note?  I am not surprised if you are struggling to remember!  This is quickly becoming a lost art.  Multiple resources have uncovered that approximately 20% of candidates follow-up with a thank you note, by email and/or handwritten.

Interestingly, according to Business News Daily, 75% of hiring managers report that receiving a thank you note affects their decision making. CareerBuilder has identified that 22% of hiring managers are less likely to hire a candidate that does not send a thank you note after an interview.

Statistically speaking, writing a thank you message enhances your consideration in the selection process! This is all good, but does the quality of the thank you note have impact?  Perhaps I am reading too closely into the Business News Daily statistic which does not specify if that “affect” on decision making is positive or negative.  I personally believe it could go in either direction depending on the quality of the thank you note.

In my opinion, there are two types of notes that you could potentially send: the “thank you note” vs the “thanks a lot” note.  The former has a meaningful message and the latter is that of obligation.  To further discriminate between the two, just say them aloud.  It is hard to make “thank you” sound anything but positive and genuine; whereas, “thanks a lot” can convey different things based on your intonation.

My thought is that anything worth doing is worth doing well – your thank you note is no exception.   Use the thank you note as an opportunity to strengthen your connection to the interviewer.  The best way to accomplish this is to start each note from scratch and write it for the individual.  Be specific, genuine, and professional in what you’re writing.  This will help to demonstrate that you value the interviewer, what he/she shared, and his/her consideration of your candidacy.

I know you are tired after engaging in the whole career planning and job search process, but don’t let all your efforts get lost by not following through on this final step.

Find examples of post-interview thank you notes on the NCA website.

Three days in NYC on the Media Career Trek


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EliEli Panken is a junior majoring in journalism and political science, and participated in the 2015 Media Career Trek in New York City. He is interested in reporting on news in the science, technology and health fields. Eli chose to join the Media Trek to learn more about the specialization of media, to better understand the role of a journalist in a big publication/corporation, and to hear some fun and interesting stories that Northwestern graduates have from their time in the field.

For the second consecutive year, Northwestern Career Advancement organized different career “treks” for students to take part in. These trips give students the chance to connect with Northwestern alumni and other professionals in some of the top employers of different industries. I had the pleasure of taking part in the Media Career Trek, which focused primarily on some of the top content creating and distributing companies in New York City. I, along with ten other students, was able to meet former Wildcats who now create and manage the content at big time media companies such as the Huffington Post, VICE, Google and the Wall Street Journal. This career trek, along with the six others that take place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., are fantastic opportunities for Northwestern students to get a better understanding of the job market and what employers are looking for.

Our trek consisted of eight different stops at media companies as well as an alumni networking reception in conjunction with the Marketing Career Trek. Our days consisted of lots of New York City travelling, as many of the companies are spread throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Nevertheless, we were all very excited for each new company and got to know each other very well throughout the days.

In NYC on a behind-the-scenes tour with an executive chef at Food Network.

In NYC on a behind-the-scenes tour with an executive chef at Food Network.

During our first day, we got the chance to visit Viacom Media Networks, the Huffington Post, and the Food Network. Throughout these meetings, it was clear that college-aged interns and employees are strongly coveted at these companies. At Viacom in particular, we got the chance to hear all about their internship opportunities after discussing content distribution management with vice president and Northwestern parent Denise Denson. At the Huffington Post, we met with four Wildcat alumni and discussed what works best in a resume. We were surprised to hear that listing social media ability under skills is, in this day and age, not something that will set you apart from the resume pile. However, links to personal social media are particularly helpful. Our final stop on our first day was the Food Network, where we were able to see where most of the content is created. We walked through a handful of sets and toured their backstage kitchens, where all of the network’s magazine recipes are formulated.

The marketing and media career treks combine to hear from five Northwestern alumni and one current student at Google.

The marketing and media career treks combine to hear from five Northwestern alumni and one current student at Google.

Our second day in New York was a very full one. We began our day at NBC Universal, hearing about their special internship opportunities throughout the company and learning about what goes into creating and covering news specials with Northwestern parent Mark Lukasiewicz. I was particularly fascinated by the amount of planning that goes into news specials, especially those that are breaking news, as well as the careful consideration that a network goes through before announcing certain information about a story. After our time at 30 Rock, we made our way to Brooklyn to visit VICE, a popular investigative journalism and “sociological examination” publication. VICE tends to create a great amount of video content, most of it to be watched online. We got the chance to speak to some editors, writers, and producers – very candidly, at that – about content production and the VICE workplace experience. Our final visit of the day was at Google. Here, our trek met up with the Marketing Trek to hear from NU alumni about the hierarchy of the company and some great skills and attributes that many companies, Google included, look for. After a quick tour of the company’s massive building, our two treks made our way back to 30 Rock for an alumni networking reception. This was a fantastic opportunity to get to know other NU alumni working in our fields of interest and have in depth conversations about career pursuits, interests, and best practices. I felt much better about reaching out to alumni in the future after I had been able to speak to a few during this reception.

Eli and other trek participants discuss sourcing, content creation, and thematic journalism at the Wall Street Journal with Northwestern alumni and industry professionals.

Eli and other trek participants discuss sourcing, content creation, and thematic journalism at the Wall Street Journal with Northwestern alumni and industry professionals.

Our final day in the Big Apple began at the Wall Street Journal. There, we met with Emily Glazer, a Northwestern alum and experienced reporter, who gave us countless advice on how to be the hardest working and passionate employee that we can be, no matter our profession. We also had a chance to sit in on a Journal morning news meeting where editors and reporters discussed what news would be placed or released during that day’s news cycle. I was enthralled by the amount of careful consideration the editors went through before choosing what to run in the daily paper as well as online. We finished off our trek at People Magazine. We met with four NU alumnae who discussed with us the magazine creation process and their pathways to People.

Overall, this trek was incredibly fun and informative and I would highly recommend it, as well as the other NCA treks, to anyone who feels uneasy about his or her future career. The trek gave me a better understanding of what companies are looking for in terms of interns and employees as well as a better grasp on what it takes to work in the media business. It was also very calming to hear from the many Wildcat alumni that are so willing to help and support us current students as we transition from college into the workforce.

Many of the companies featured on the Media Career Trek are coming to campus in the 2015-2016 academic year (including Time Inc, Huffington Post, and NBC Universal). If you’re interested in learning more about internship and post-graduate opportunities, check the ‘Events’ tab in CareerCat or reach out to Katie Farrington on the Employer Recruiting Team at NCA.

Views from the Cube: Broadway in Chicago


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Dan Leahy is a rising junior in the School of Communications.  He is pursuing a double major in Theatre and Economics, as well as certificates in Musical Theatre and Integrated Marketing Communications.  He is currently a marketing intern for Broadway In Chicago; his post-graduation plans are still undetermined, but he hopes either pursue a career in acting or in something business-related, perhaps in consulting or advertising.

Dan took a practicum through Broadway In Chicago during Winter Quarter of his sophomore year that helped him secure this internship.  He attended info sessions for various other internships in marketing and consulting, but ultimately decided that this internship was the best intersection of his interests.  From day to day, he does anything from preparing promotional materials for one of many of Broadway In Chicago’s local partners, to the updating of digital and physical marketing resources in BIC’s theatres.  Some of his larger responsibilities include working with an app developer to create a virtual tour of Historic Chicago Theatres in the Loop and creating personality quizzes on online sites to promote shows.  It’s especially rewarding for him to see one of Broadway In Chicago’s 100,000+ followers interacting with something of his creation on social media.

Outside of the office, one of the major perks is working at events for Broadway In Chicago.  One of his favorites was the world premiere of the Pre-Broadway musical ON YOUR FEET!, where he was able to interact with Emilio and Gloria Estefan in addition to other celebrities who attended the premiere.  He also worked at Broadway In Chicago’s summer concert, where he was given backstage access to Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park and met many of the stars of Broadway and National Touring productions.

His supervisor is Northwestern graduate Jennifer Schaefer (Medill ‘12).  He feels very grateful to have worked under a Northwestern graduate because it helped him see how the work we do within the Northwestern community applies in the real world.  Having worked to market multiple shows within Northwestern’s Student Theatre Coalition, Dan certainly has experience in thinking critically about how to make theatre accessible to a wider audience.  Jennifer has helped him understand how to apply these strategies on a macro level to the larger Chicago community.

His biggest takeaway from this internship is that all work can be rewarding if it’s for a greater purpose.  Although school and most jobs can be tedious or stressful at times, passion for the work being done can always make it a little easier.  His future career may not result in something as glorious as a Broadway show, but he is confident that having worked in this office will help him to see the bigger picture regardless.

SIGP Views from the Cube: Joel Hall Dancers & Center


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Jorie (’16) is a journalism major in the Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications. This summer she interned at Joel Hall Dancers & Center as part of the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP).

My internship search was a storied one that began back in February.  I knew from the get-go that I wanted to work in a journalism/marketing capacity with a dance company or organization but ran into several problems along the way. These obstacles included not getting out of school early enough to begin one internship and being over qualified for an internship for which I was asked to interview. In fact, it was out of sheer desperation that I first encountered Joel Hall Dancers & Center. I had begun emailing dance companies all over Chicago to see if any of them were looking for journalism and/or marketing interns. After communicating with and meeting the artistic, assistant artistic and executive directors of JHDC, I realized that their needs were right up my alley and so began this incredible summer journey.

Through this internship I have been able to learn more about how journalism, public relations and dance combine. I have compiled media lists, contacted reporters to ask for and schedule interviews, and even done some social media management and content creation of my own. Much of this was done in an effort to promote their summer performance “Anja: The Unexpected.”  I found irony in the fact that as a journalist I frequently have had to ask permission from people and organizations to write stories on and interview them and now as a publicist, I am asking news outlets to interview the artistic director of JHDC and write stories about him and his upcoming show. I was given the opportunity to sit in on numerous rehearsals to take pictures and videotape (See Jorie’s videos for JHDC here, here and here). In fact, two of my pictures made it into the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times!

In addition to gaining a lot of business, journalism and public relations knowledge, I have also become a better dancer as a result of my internship. One of the great perks of interning at JHDC was being able to take a class with Joel Hall and the rest of the incredible JHDC faculty. In just two months I can already feel myself growing and improving as a dancer and I have come to love the urban jazz style that was created by and is unique to Joel Hall and his organization. I have realized through this internship that I still have a deep love for dance movement and that I want to continue dancing and performing even as I graduate and move into my professional career. I now believe that I would want to still pursue journalism by writing for a magazine but also belong to a dance company like the Joel Hall Dancers in order to continue growing in this art form that has been a part of my life since the age of 5.

Working with this organization has been an excellent experience that I hope I can build upon in my future career endeavors, both journalistic and artistic. If this internship journey has taught me anything, from its rocky start to its triumphant (almost) end, it has taught me to be persistent, to ask questions and never pass up an opportunity to learn.  I appreciate the Summer Internship Grant Program for allowing me to have the opportunity to complete this internship and the Joel Hall Dancers & Center for welcoming me, teaching me and putting me to work.

SIGP Views from the Cube: GirlForward


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Hira (’18) is majoring in anthropology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. This summer she interned at GirlForward, a nonprofit organization in Chicago, as part of the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP).

GirlForward provides adolescent refugee girls the opportunity to gain education, mentorship, and leadership through the organization’s programs. I was an intern for Camp GirlForward, a summer education program with a social justice-based curriculum consisting of journal-writing, research projects, weekly field trips around Chicago, and much more.

I spent the past eight weeks with some of the most resilient girls I have ever met. I had the opportunity to work with nearly 30 adolescent refugee girls as they navigated a big city, a challenging language, an unfamiliar culture, and a new home. Many of the girls have been recently resettled in the United States—an average of two years ago—and have experienced varying levels of disrupted and/or limited education. Camp GirlForward helps make the transition to the U.S. a little bit easier for these girls—each with her unique story of love, loss, war, and abuse.

Why girls?

Because historically, girls in particular are expected to shoulder tremendous familial responsibility in addition to being subjected to social isolation and limited resources. As refugees, they’re expected to take on the roles of caregiver and translator for their families as they themselves struggle with being resettled in a new country, in a completely different school, where everyone speaks a different language than they do.

During Camp, I helped teach the girls to read, to write, to use computers and the Internet. But perhaps more importantly, I was able to teach them leadership and independence. The girls learned to be loud, strong, and confident; they learned about themselves, about body image, healthy versus abusive relationships, female health, and so much more. In the process, I also learned—about the resettlement process and what working at a nonprofit means—but also about their backgrounds, about their struggles and successes.

Working with these amazing girls has been such a humbling experience. Between helping with the logistics of developing an appropriate curriculum and administering literacy assessments, I’ve seen these girls grow by leaps and bounds, and found myself quickly falling in love with the refugee community of Chicago. I became a teacher, a mentor, and a friend to these girls, and I couldn’t imagine spending my summer any other way.

Career Advising Series: Maintaining knowledge of current events


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By Jose Santos, NCA associate director of student career advising, serving students in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Jose “So what do you think about that oil spill situation BP is having in Florida?”  (Person 1)

“I’m not even sure, I didn’t even know there was an oil spill.”  (Person 2)


Person 1 is a greeter.  Usually, companies will use a greeter to ease students as they go into their actual interviews.  Greeters are usually young alumni or professionals from the firm they represent.  Person 2 is a student looking to apply for a consulting position.

Like many students, Person 2 has prepared very well for the recruitment process.  They have taken the time to polish their resume, sharpen their professional pitches, and spent countless hours trying to get their strategy down for case interviewing.  The question of current events may stun the student because this was not discussed in any job search forums the student has encountered.

I think as students prepare for the recruitment process, aside from the traditional preparations, students should also take the time to be aware of what’s happening around the world and be able to talk about it.  More importantly, learn how to make meaningful conversations with people.  I blame technology! (kidding, sort of…)  Student these days have been accustomed to texts, chats, and emails.  The process of having a face-to-face conversation has become an art form.

Every year I meet with our employers to get a sense of who they are trying to hire.  Aside from the intelligence, leadership, and impact the potential hire has made; a series of anecdotes were brought up:

“Will I or the team be able to work with this student for 8 hours a day? What if we were working on a month long project, will I be able to stand this person?”  Or my personal favorite, “What if we had a flight delay and I am stuck in the airport with this person for the whole day? I do not want to talk about the analysis of a system we are working on. I’d rather talk about the Bears or my fantasy football team.”

Employers want to make sure that the people they hire can communicate effectively.  They want to know that you have other interests aside from what you are dealing with at work.

In coaching my students before they go through the interviewing process, I tell them to read a couple of resources:  The Economist, Local/National Newspapers, Forbes, National Geographic, and etc.  I then tell them to pick a topic and talk about that topic to a roommate, professor, coach, colleague, or supervisor.  I would tell them to choose a different topic every 2 days and choose a different person to talk to about it.  It’s good practice and as you go through more interactions/conversations, you will notice that you have mastered the art of having a meaningful conversation.

So, let’s talk…Will the Bears get to .500 this season?

Views from the Cube: Bluestem Brands Inc.


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ericEric (’17) is a double majoring in Mathematics and Theatre in the Music Theatre Certificate Program. This summer he was an Ecommerce Analytics Intern at Bluestem Brands Inc. in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Bluestem manages multiple major online retail brands.

Internships are meant to be learning experiences. I consider my internship experience very successful and I think part of that is because I was prepared to step out of my comfort zone to learn as much as I could.

Previously, I had not known myself to be the type of person who learns well by being “thrown into the deep end.” Armed with this knowledge, I was ready to ask a ton of questions to clarify what I was supposed to be doing and how to do it. When I arrived at my internship, however, I found that the program was set up to deliberately throw me into the deep end. My first week I was given access to all the software, databases, and other tools that I would be using over the course of the summer, and then I was told to just spend time playing around with all of the interfaces. I wasn’t given any projects, just time to get familiar with my tools. This method quickly got me up to speed with the programs my team was using and sparked interest in the projects other people were working on. By the end of the week I was relatively confident in my abilities and eager to start doing real work. This learning period eliminated the need for most of my questions, saving my manager a lot of time. Of course, I still had plenty of inquiries, but they were much more specific and well-formed. Being open to this new style of learning taught me a great deal, both about the technical skills needed for my internship and also about the ways in which I can learn effectively.

I was also “thrown into the deep end” by being implanted into a corporate setting – an environment that I had never experienced before. I arguably learned as much about corporate structure and the workplace as I did about data science and analytics, and that knowledge will be incredibly useful for when I inevitably enter into another office setting. Being immersed in the workplace every day taught me countless small lessons that I will carry with me and continue to build upon throughout my entire life. Just listening and observing my coworkers I learned things such as how companies are structured and how that can vary from company to company, how to effectively communicate in a structured setting, simple office etiquette, how to most effectively solve problems in a corporate environment, and the responsibilities that come with being a member of a team.

This last point was crucial to my positive internship experience. After I was brought up to speed on the company as a whole, how my team operated, and the tools necessary to complete my day to day tasks, I was given projects that had a real impact on the company. I never had menial, go-grab-the-coffee type tasks; I was doing work that other people needed in order to do their jobs effectively. This really made me feel at home at Bluestem, like I was a junior member of the team rather than an intern on the outside.

If I had to offer advice to those students seeking internships I would say this:

  1. Find a company with an environment that will suit you. If you want to feel like a peer, make sure you find a company that will make you feel this way. Atmosphere is important.
  2. Don’t be afraid to learn in new ways. By jumping right in and trying everything out I learned a vast amount in a short period of time.
  3. As an intern, the answer is always yes. If someone asks you to take on a new project or complete a task, always say yes. Even if you have too many projects already, say yes, and then qualify. If you don’t know how to do something that is asked of you…
  4. …Ask Questions. I’ve found that everyone is eager to help you out. Remember, internships are learning experiences, so asking questions will help you get the most out of your time.

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