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Working Wisdom: The Internship Dilemma

It is that time of year again. With second semester well underway, the Career Center is shooting off emails like machine gun fire reminding us to continue searching for that perfect summer internship. As if we could forget. Though some may doubt the wisdom of making us plan so far ahead, the dreaded internship search is apparently crucial for deciding our senior year, our post-graduate situation, and our careers, and basically the rest of our lives. This is not simply a summer job. Our futures hang in the balance.

Depending on your major, the busy season for your job search may be over. If you’re in Mendoza, you may even have started feeling the panic in mid-September, especially if you’re going for a position in finance. Some others may have had pressure from their parents to get not just any internship, but a paid internship. With all these voices of advice, what are the real keys to success?

Through all the stress, be sure to keep these words of wisdom in your interview arsenal:

1. Have back-up plans

Remember when you were applying for colleges, and there was that one overachiever in your high school that applied to 25 different universities, and then there was that other kid who only applied to one? In this situation, even if you were the lucky student with the single-application success story, err on the side of the overachiever. You may have that dream internship at ESPN or on Wall Street that you’re dying for, but never bank on the big ones. Make sure you have backups for your backups. You may never need them, but sometimes you will.

Also, don’t be afraid to apply out of your comfort zone. If you’re set on going into a particular industry, don’t hesitate to apply for jobs that may not seem like the ultimate dream. Believe it or not, these internships don’t cement you into any particular career trajectory. No matter which internships you have, they’ll give you valuable skills that you can carry over into any job that you have.

2. Don’t be afraid to reach out (over and over and over again)

Human Resource departments get an overload of applications during the internship busy season. You may be the most qualified candidate on the market, but your cover letter at first glance is going to look just like that of any other applicant’s. On the other hand, unless you’re Elle Woods, thinking way outside the box may border on the unprofessional.

So, how are you supposed to make sure that your name doesn’t float under the radar? First, it may be incredibly helpful if you already have a man on the inside to pass along your resume to higher-ups. If you have such a connection do not be afraid to use it. Sometimes the mere mention of your name from a fellow employee will be enough to make your application resurface from the pile. For those who don’t have this connection, don’t be afraid to email, call, or contact employers multiple times, as long as you’re expressing appropriate and relevant interest and information. Unlike in the dating world, persistence isn’t creepy. It might just get you hired.

3. Talk to alums and the Career Center

The Notre Dame community has one of the best alumni networks of any undergraduate institution in the country. Our student body has representatives in almost every major industry, and majority of major companies, nationwide. These alums remember fondly their time in Zahm or McGlinn, and will see you as a younger sibling they never wanted. These people, our fellow Domers, want to see you succeed. Don’t be afraid to email a stranger or connect with them on LinkedIn. Ask if they wouldn’t mind a phone call so you can ask a couple of questions about how they got to where they are. These people are not stupid. If there is an internship available, or any way that they can help, they will.

Next, the Career Center, though located way out in the industrial sector of campus (Flanner), is one of the most helpful resources on this campus. The advisors in the Center will walk you through finding internship opportunities, contacting alumni, reviewing your resumes, and helping you become to most worthy candidate you can be. They’re simply a phone call away.

To make an appointment with a career counselor: (574) 631-5200

4. If you don’t succeed, relax.

Sometimes there are speed bumps on the road of life, other times there are multiple-car pile-ups involving firework trucks and explosives. Regardless of which occur in your search, relax, because it’s not real, and it’s not the end of the world. We are a privileged student body, and many opportunities are afforded to us that will help if jobs are not forthcoming. So don’t be discouraged if it’s mid-April and you’ve got nothing to show for your work. Sometimes, (oftentimes), internships come at the 11th hour, when you least expect them.

Don’t worry, Irish! You’re all going to do amazing things. Good luck!


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Kelsey Collett is a junior at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Marketing and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Aside from being a writer for HCND, she is a distance runner, an avid reader and a caffeine addict. Her strengths are writing about books, pulling all-nighters, and sarcastic comments. If you like what you read, feel free to follow her on twitter at @kelsey_collett!
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