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Much better Tips for a Successful Internship

Intern-MakeBadCoffee (1)

When it comes to acquiring hands-on work experience, learning about which professional environments suit you, and making industry contacts, there’s not much better than an internship.

Employers are keen on them as well – in fact, a recent survey of employers who hire recent college graduates conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace has found that:

  • An internship is the single most important credential for recent college graduates to have on their resume in their job search among all industry segments.
  • All industries and hiring levels place slightly more weight on student work or internship experiences than on academic credentials.
  • Employers place more weight on experience, particularly internships and employment during school vs. academic credential when evaluating a recent graduate for employment.
Chart from “The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions”, by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, December 2012

It can be daunting to begin an internship, especially if it’s your first one. Here are a few tips to make it the rewarding experience that it should be!

1. Develop a professional persona.  Create a professional image, dress appropriately, and avoid “office gossip”. Be respectful, genuine, helpful, and always show gratitude.  Respond to constructive feedback in a positive manner  by reflecting, learning and growing.

2. Set personal goals. Think about what it is you want to have on your resume or to be able to talk about in future interviews with employers. Discuss these goals with your site supervisor, mentor(s), and your faculty supervisor. The more your supervisors know about your goals, the more they will be able to support you in reaching them.

Think of your internship as a long interview.

3. Maintain open and continuous communication. Ask your supervisors how they prefer to maintain communication with you. Try to set regular meetings, and spend them discussing and reviewing your goals, strengths, and areas of opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Supervisors prefer that you ask rather than guess or assume. This willingness to learn typically leads to more hands-on experiences and projects, leading to even more tangible accomplishments. Show your curiosity!

4. Have a positive and flexible attitude. Employers appreciate an enthusiastic, can-do attitude because it really impacts the office moral and environment. Keep in mind that things don’t always go as planned. Every experience is a learning experience. See unexpected situations and new projects as an avenue for developing more of your skills and adding to your professional experience.

5. Take initiative. As a student, it is easy to think of yourself as “just the intern.” Yes, you are the intern, but that doesn’t mean you should sit back and wait for projects to be handed to you. Your internship is technically a long-term interview, and your supervisors and colleagues are paying close attention to see if you have what it takes to be hired on permanently after the internship. Ask to take on big projects, or come up with your own project! As a student, you can offer new innovative ideas that may greatly impact the organization. By taking this type of initiative, you will make yourself known and will be remembered.

Treat your internship as though this is your career and think of yourself as part of the team.

6. Network network network. Studies have found that 80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking. This internship is your opportunity to develop and strengthen lasting professional connections that will give you that “edge” to your future career. If you leave a lasting impression with your supervisors and colleagues, these professionals will be more than willing to speak on behalf of your strengths and competencies to others. Leave your colleagues on a humble, thankful note, and give them a genuine goodbye, keeping the relationship open for your network. Send them a thank you card in the mail, expressing your appreciation and your interest in keeping in touch. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and request to connect with your supervisors, colleagues, and anyone else you networked with during your internship. Most importantly, keep in touch, especially with those who will help you get to where you want to be!

 Crystal Vietmeier is Assistant Director of Career Development, Internships, and Experiential Learning at Chatham University, where internships are a vital (and required) part of a larger approach to professional preparation (learn more at This summer, Chatham students are interning at companies including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The League of Women Voters, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, UPMC, Forbes Regional Hospital, Pittsburgh Pirates, The Carnegie Museum of Art, Quantico Marine Corps Base, Ketchum Inc., The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, Table Magazine, GNC Inc, Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, Animal Rescue League and Wildlife Center, the Borough of Swissvale, the Musuneggi Financial Group, Drew Designs, Ltd, Mariani Landscape, and the University of Pittsburgh.


Student profile: Jenny Schollaert

Schollaert, Jenny
Jenny Schollaert, ’15 Speaks at 2015 Commencement

“It’s a shock of a community.”

That’s how Jenny Schollaert ’15, describes Chatham University, from which she is set to graduate in three days. “A good shock,” she quickly clarifies. “Because we’re so welcoming and everyone wants you to succeed. And I think it’s that shocking to some people, and they’re like are you really this excited about seeing me succeed? But yes, they are!”

It’s safe to say that in her four years as a double major in English and Women’s Studies, Schollaert did not disappoint. In 2015 alone, she won the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader Award, the Excellence in the Humanities Award, the Anne Harris Aronson Prize in English, and was a runner up for the Elva Bell McLin Sigma Tau Delta Senior Scholarship. An incomplete list of her other accomplishments at Chatham includes:

  • Presented original research or sat on academic panels at 10 conferences across the country
  • Published an article on the art of Kara Walker in New Errands: The Undergraduate Journal of American Studies
  • Studied abroad in Cambridge, England
  • Completed an internship consisting of working with high school girls at The Ellis School, generating and executing lesson plans concerning women’s activism, and a second internship with the League of Women Voters
  • Served on the University-wide steering committee for the creation of the Women’s Institute in response to the transition to coeducation (as Executive Vice President of Chatham Student Government, a role she held for two years)
  • Founded and served as President of the Beyond the Page Book Club
  • Served as Late Night and Traditions Coordinator for the Office of Student Affairs
  • Worked as a tutor for the PACE Center

“It’s been a great four years. I really sucked the marrow out of it. I got my money’s worth,” Schollaert laughs.

Schollaert—who is from the Pittsburgh area—knew about Chatham because her aunt had gone there “way back,” but it wasn’t until she visited campus that she knew it was for her. To be precise, it wasn’t until Dr. Bill Lenz, Pontius Professor of English, kicked her parents out of his office that she knew it was for her.

“I walked into his office with my parents,” Schollaert recalls. “We chatted for a bit, and then Dr. Lenz said to my parents: ‘You two, go out to the café and have a coffee, this is Jenny’s education; I’m going to talk with her now.’ They balked a bit, but they left, and I was immediately at ease, able to talk so freely with Dr. Lenz about all of these hopes that I had for what I want to accomplish at Chatham.

And the opportunities he presented, the leadership roles—he told me that I can do anything here, that there’s nothing too big. “

Dr. Lenz would prove to be a huge mentor for Schollaert. “I took his Mark Twain seminar during my first year here, and it was an absolute joy,” she says. “I had no idea that this was what English Literature students were capable of, all the things you could do with these words on the page. That seminar gave me the confidence and tools to get really serious about studying literature.” Dr. Lenz was her advisor for all four years, and also chaired her tutorial.

Schollaert names Dr. Lynne Bruckner, Professor of English and Coordinator of the Women’s Studies Department as another major influence during her time here. “She has been fantastic at providing opportunities like an internship at The Ellis School, and since I will have to teach in graduate school, she offered to do an independent study with me, where I learned pedagogical practices and actually took a stab at teaching a class. Does that opportunity even exist elsewhere? Words cannot express the help she’s given me throughout my four years here.”

“The English and Women’s Studies faculty have influenced my thinking in such a huge way,” Schollaert continues. ”I’ll be writing a paper and after each sentence thinking so what would Dr. Lenz , Dr. Bruckner or Dr Prajna (Parasher, Professor of Art, Film and Cultural Studies) think about this. That, I think, is the mark of a really great, really comprehensive education. Even though all these people are so influential, you’ll come up with something that’s completely you.”

“People look at Chatham as that former woman’s college, or Rachel Carson’s alma mater, but what they don’t realize is that we have this huge breadth of faculty and they’re so brilliant and so helpful and you can take a class that’s completely outside your comfort zone and then you you’ll just fall in love with the professor and what they have to offer and then they’ll just be part of your life forever.”

“There’s something magical about Chatham that you don’t see anything else,” says Schollaert. “When your friends come home and talk about their experiences, you think there’s something different about Chatham, something about the way we can get together inside the classroom or outside the classroom and have these conversations that people don’t have often elsewhere. I’m going to miss that. It’ll be interesting to see how the conversations move forward as the transition takes hold. I’m excited for the men to see what we do here.”

Schollaert’s research
Schollaert’s main academic interest is the author Willa Cather. She wrote her tutorial on two of Cather’s novels, O Pioneers! and a lesser known work called One of Ours, which was written in the 1920s and has a male protagonist. “For a woman writer to write a war novel with a male protagonist was just phenomenal. She was able to use him to critique the ideals of masculinity that men were forced to live up to, and by the end of the novel, she brings us back to women’s spaces and women’s voices to say that this ideal of masculinity is not serving us well if we don’t have a balance and spectrum of gender identity, instead of forcing male and female ideals into boxes. Throughout history the novel has been viewed just as a war novel, but it does so much more.” Schollaert considers Women’s Studies to be a great complement to the study of English Literature. “We can look at the text through that lens and see why these words were chosen and how they used the stories for a greater purpose.”