Alumni: Your Internship Advantage

University Day, 1911

The value of networking in the search for an internship cannot be overestimated. Whether it’s finding out about an internship through an established professional relationship or creating an internship by connecting with a new professional contact, networking should be a component of a successful search process.

With homecoming upon us, let’s focus on a key networking resource: alumni. I’ve heard alumni called “warm contacts.” You already share something in common with alumni – your university, their alma mater. Whether you get it now or not, your alma mater often becomes a large part of your identity, and when you graduate, you maintain warm feelings for the institution where you completed your undergraduate work. As a result, alumni want to give back, and a great way of doing so is by helping out students who are studying where they did.

How do you access this excellent resource? Here are a few ways:

  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn has always been a great resource for connecting with alumni. While it might seem counterintuitive, join the group “Alumni of UWW.” You might not be an alum (yet), but you can start making connections with them now. LinkedIn’s power to connect you with alumni just got better with their launch of Classmates. This new tool allows you to make a professional connection with your fellow Warhawks.
  • Professional Associations – There are a lot of UW-Whitewater alumni working in Southeastern Wisconsin. By connecting with professional organizations (at the non-student level), you are bound to run into a few.
  • Campus Events – Even though they graduated, alumni often return to campus. Homecoming events will bring some back to UW-Whitewater. Alumni are invited into classes (like our Career Information classes) and the classroom environment can be prime for making a professional connection. These are just a couple of examples of where you might encounter alumni around campus.

Get in the sprit of homecoming and reach out to a UW-W alum or two. When it comes to internship aspirations, it’s a no-brainer.

Photo by Jeff Ozvold

Intern Spotlight: Michael Van Den Bosch ’08

A new feature on the UW-Whitewater Student Internships Blog is the Intern Spotlight. UW-W students are doing great things as interns and have important stories to share. The Intern Spotlight will provide insight into the internships UW-W students and alumni have completed. Featured individuals share their internship stories and provide advice to current and future interns.

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Our first featured intern is Michael Van Den Bosch ’08. Michael completed a Research & Program Managment Internship with the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) from April to December 2008. After his internship, he was hired on as the Director of Business Development for WCEDA.

Describe your internship experience.

I did a great deal of research, analysis and report writing for WCEDA. Some of the research that I did involved searching for new legislation coming out of Madison, WI and Washington, DC and determining the effects it would have on local businesses. I also did a considerable amount of research on grant and business incentive programs through federal and state departments.

Since the organization was only a few years old when I started my internship, I also found myself working on a marketing plan, reviewing and writing business plans for clients, forecasting future staffing and financial needs, and providing the technical expertise for the organization.

What was the greatest benefit of this internship?

The greatest benefit of this internship was the wide range of areas that the internship covered. Since I was able to dabble in management, marketing, operations, finance and IT, I was able to see what areas suit me best and plan my career around them.

What advice would you give to current or future interns on how to be successful in an internship?

Be willing to speak up. The company that I was interning with was fairly young, and they had no idea of the wide range of skills that I possessed as a student. Also, letting them know my limitations gave them a benchmark to measure my success when I exited the program. As students, you study the many different ways companies operate and that type of knowledge coupled with a fresh perspective is valuable to any employer.

Other thoughts or advice?

As an intern, try to learn as much about the company and how it operates as possible. Doing things that are outside your “Job Description” shows them that you are versatile and worth holding onto. Companies generally are not going to spend extra money training someone new to do the same things that you already know to do.

 

If you have an interesting internship story to tell and you would like to be considered for an Intern Spotlight feature, please email a brief synopsis of your experience to me at MorrowL@uww.edu.

 

Photo by cmcgphotography (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmcgphotography/ / CC BY 2.0)

Want to Get Lucky? Try Networking

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: networking is a top strategy in the search for an internship. When you consider that surveys have found that networking was the key to job search success for approximately half to three-fourths of employees, it’s probably a good idea to do it.

In college, you have an extensive array of potential networking contacts right in front of you: professors, staff, and other students. Think about all of the potential connections you could make with over 700 professors and other professional staff plus 10,700 students!

Even beyond who is right in front of you are all of the people who have been here before you – alumni. There are more than 70,000 UW-W alumni and many of them stay connected to UW-W through Facebook and LinkedIn.

I would do the math to summarize what this all means, but I’m terrible at math. Needless to say, if you are looking to start building your network in order to find an internship opportunity, college is the place to do it.

Get to know your professors – talk to them, build relationships with them. Many professors have connections with professionals in the field, and it’s those second-tier contacts (friends of friends) who could be the keys to opportunities.

What about university staff? I met with a student earlier this week to talk about opportunities in a specific field. I referred her to a potential contact and I also reached out to this person. Lo and behold, it just so happens that the contact’s office has hosted an intern, a student who will be finishing at the end of the semester. This opened the possiblity for another student to step into that internship role for the spring semester. Voila! Internship found.

Now, it’s not always this easy. There is a fair amount of luck involved in the process. However, you never know when the perfect opportunity might arise and who in your network knows about it.

Photo by intersectionconsulting

 

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