Details From The Field: An Interview with Amy Hendrickson
Summer’s two months away, and the clock starts counting down for us students to make plans for the time we have off of school. Some choose to vacation and travel the world, while there’s always another option we can take: summer internships. Prepare for resume revisions, countless cover letters, and hours of scrolling through Handshake or LinkedIn!
As a freshman, the whole process is overwhelming, to say the least. I’m sure many others have and are feeling this pressure to get an internship and to get it fast. However, don’t fret — Meet Amy Hendrickson, the Assistant Director of First-Year Programming in Career Services at CMC. Besides enjoying hanging out with her dog and traveling and visiting State and National Parks, Amy, on a weekly basis, has a goal of engaging and connecting students at CMC to Career Services resources. Having graduated from Claremont McKenna College herself, she understands and has gone through the process first hand, and has agreed to part with her wisdom on some tips and tricks of getting nailing an internship.
What is your opinion on students applying to internships for the summer instead of taking classes, or even just traveling abroad?
I think students, especially in their first year, have so many opportunities available to them and it’s important to remember that there’s not one single way to spend a summer. Internships, part-time jobs, taking classes, traveling, volunteering, spending time with family… These are all valuable ways to spend a summer, it’s all about what works best for you! I always say that it’s important to do something “productive” but what that productivity looks like might be totally different depending on who you’re talking to. Internships can be a great way to learn more about your professional interests and gain transferable skills that will help you be successful in future roles but they’re not the only way to learn about yourself and get experience. What’s most important about your summer is that you feel like you’re doing some good self-reflection that will help you come back to a new semester at school feeling refreshed and excited to keep learning – this can be done in both the classroom or outside of it!
How many internships do you recommend a student to apply to?
I don’t think there’s a magical number that I recommend. I think it’s more about quality than quantity. Make sure you’re not just blindly applying to 50 internships on Handshake by just uploading your resume. I recommend that you identify and research opportunities that you’re truly interested in and qualified for so you can tailor your materials specific to that opportunity. If you feel like you’ve applied to so many internships and not hearing back, this can be a good reason to come into Career Services and meet with one of the industry-focused Career Coaches. They might be able to give you a specific perspective on the industry that you’re hoping to get an internship in and what you could be doing differently.
How important are cover letters?
Cover letters are your opportunity to tell your story and talk about why you specifically would be a good fit for an internship. They can be your chance to talk about what your resume might not reflect so make sure you’re not just restating your resume in a different format. You should use the cover letter as a chance to draw attention to all the requirements of the job description that you meet. When you’re writing a cover letter, let the job description be your best friend! They’re telling you exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate, so make sure the experiences and skills that you’re talking about in your cover letter reflect what they’re looking for (Obviously, if you don’t have a particular skill or experience, don’t lie and say that you do!). It’s important that you take the time to do this and customize your cover letter for each job. Vague, generic cover letters that have been used for 10 other jobs will not help you stand out!
What are some quick tips to get your application to stand out?
I think my answer above sort of answered this question. Make sure you are doing specific research on the position and organization in which you’re applying. It’s really obvious to recruiters when someone is just submitting generic application materials so make sure to customize materials to each individual position!
Do you recommend students stay in one interest cluster while looking for internships to apply to?
I think this really depends on what stage of the career exploration process you’re in. If you’re still exploring and figuring out what interest clusters you’re interested in, I think it’s completely appropriate to look in a couple of different industries or interests. However, at some point in your college career, you’ll want to start narrowing your focus. Sometimes, students will approach their search more towards a functional area or job title, rather than industry. For example, if someone was interested in learning about marketing, they might look for marketing internships in Tech, Entertainment, Non-Profit or more! Try to think about what types of skills you want to gain or what you want to learn through your position and that might help you narrow down your search.
What’s the biggest mistake someone can make when applying for internships?
I don’t think there’s one single answer to this but I highly recommend that you proofread your materials. It’s so unfortunate when students rush to meet a deadline and they later notice that the company name was wrong in the cover letter or they spelled their name incorrectly on their resume (both things that have unfortunately happened before). While I know the process can be really exhausting, make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time before a deadline to complete your application. There’s no reason to wait until the very last minute to turn something in!
Any more tips you have, in general?
If you’re able to find a point of contact email for the internship or organization, it doesn’t hurt to send them an email letting them know that you applied for an opportunity and that you’re enthusiastic about the position. This can be a chance to help yourself stand out and thank them for the opportunity to apply. Sometimes it can be hard to find the point of contact when you apply online so don’t stress if you’re not able to do this. Additionally, doing some exploratory networking can help you learn more about potential industries and companies that you’re interested in. It’s important, however, that if you conduct an informational interview you understand that it is not a job interview or the time to ask for an internship. Your focus should be on getting advice and information. You should be trying to explore and learn, not put the person in the uncomfortable position of trying to recommend you for an opportunity. If you want to learn more about informational interviewing, I recommend you come in and talk to someone in our office so you ensure you’re conducting your outreach appropriately!
We’re here to help you! Lastly, I think it’s important to remember that what you do over the summer does not define who you are as a person. Internships are a great way to learn about yourself and gain experience but if you decide after a summer that you want to pivot to a different industry – that’s okay! Some of the best experiences are where you’re able to learn what you don’t want to do!
For CMC students, an important thing to remember throughout this process is that Career Services is always available to you! Drop by to improve your resume, help write your cover letters, and to look for the perfect internship for you. Appointments with Career Coaches can be made via Handshake, so sign up now, and good luck to you.
- Hnin Lei Lei Tun