Are you starting your first or 6th internship this fall? Listen to a couple experts on how to leave an awesome impression!
Besides grades, what do you look for when hiring an intern? Do you really care about grades?
Courtney: I have hired interns at a law firm and a consulting firm. In these two settings, hiring managers use GPA’s to evaluate full-time employees candidates because they’re looking for intelligent and studious people. Of course we want someone that is well-rounded, but when I receive a resume from an intern candidate, I look for the GPA because many students have little to no job experience, so I use GPA to gauge focus, determination and to certain extent, creativity. I look at full transcripts to see what types of classes students are engaged in and where they’re challenging themselves. If you’re interning at a place where study/academic prep skills are needed, we’re definitely looking at your GPA.
Dennis: Grades can be an important factor in the hiring process, especially if the internship is academic based. I was a summer intern for a non-profit agency and one of the roles that I applied for was an Academic Intern, which meant I attended classes and helped the instructor by preparing the required materials for the day. They wanted someone that was academically successful and could role model positive behavior in the classroom. For this particular internship, which was a company that prepared principals to oversee struggling and underperforming schools, they wanted someone that was comfortable working with an older population; someone that was mature, responsible, hardworking, and could work in a diverse group.
When evaluating a group of interns, do you compare them to each other and rank?
Dennis: The comparison aspect is especially relevant when it comes to selecting the staff members to begin with. When picking the orientation leaders, we want them to represent and mirror our current student population as much as possible. We consider a number of different factors: race, class year, major(s), hometown, special academic classification: honors, business scholar, service scholar, etc. We want to ensure that we represent our diverse student population to the best of our ability and we want to make sure that the incoming freshmen students can identify with the leaders they are seeing. Picking the Summer RAs works in a similar manner. We want to make sure that we are picking staff that will benefit the most from the free housing over the summer, but we also want to make sure they have the skill sets that will make them successful over the summer. During the summer we have many different conferences that visit our campus and spend part of their summers here. We want to pick RAs that are especially mature and have excellent customer service skills.
Courtney: No, I try to refrain from comparing interns to each other in their class, and comparing intern classes to other intern classes. We have a formal intern evaluation process. At the end of the 6-week internship program, we have interns fill out a self-evaluation; and supervisors complete an evaluation for each intern.
Can an internship ever lead to a job?
Courtney: Yes! Some internships are designed to lead to a permanent job. Other internships are not, but employers will not hesitate to offer an extraordinary intern a position. Work hard on all projects you receive – no matter how boring or administrative the task is, complete it to the best of your ability.
Dennis: For my particular education internship employment opportunities were realized. One of my fellow interns applied with the company when she graduated college, and was hired. She’s currently still working with the same company. I think it’s important to ask your supervisor if potential employment is a real possibility, especially as someone that’s a junior or senior and will be looking to enter the workforce soon. Some companies are willing to hire interns, especially if you impress them, and go above and beyond on a consistent basis.
Is it ok to ask a lot of questions?
Courtney: Yes! There is no such thing as a dumb question. Your manager would much rather prefer you ask questions and get clarification instead of wasting hours doing a project incorrectly. At the same time, pay attention and take notes at meetings so you retain as much information as possible. If you’re on top of your projects and working with a sense of urgency, managers will note your maturity, confidence and diligence to do work.
Dennis: As an intern, it was made clear that I was expected to ask questions if I was unsure of something. My supervisors made it a comfortable working environment, and I always felt at ease asking them questions.
Whether this is your first internship or your 6th, ask a lot of questions and consume as much information as possible. Internships help college students gain job skills that are essential for their industry, but internships also teach you how to function in a professional setting. Ask your boss for more responsibility and demonstrate that you are ready for that transition. Make sure you dress appropriately. Check out @thecolormeb on Instagram and pinterest for tips on dressing professional and fly at the same time.
Dennis Velez holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science and Master’s Degree in Sociology with a Concentration in Diversity & Inequality. A Connecticut native, Dennis attended college and graduate school in New York City where he immersed himself in studying issues of diversity. Dennis is passionate about being an advocate, resource, mentor and ally to all students, but especially students of color and students that identify in the LGBTQ community. He serves on the Board of Advisors for CMB Professional Development Agency.
Courtney Ball holds an MA in Urban Studies from Fordham University and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Politics from the University of San Francisco. Courtney’s masters thesis research was named the 2011 Best Graduate Student Paper at the California American Studies Association Conference. She has been managing interns and working with college students for 10+ years, helping to cultivate a professional pipeline for people of color. She is the founder and executive director of CMB Professional Development Agency.