How I got my internship
My data analysis internship this summer at Derco Aerospace in Milwaukee has been an amazing learning experience thus far. However, it wasn’t that amazing of an experience to get where I am now. As Tom Cicero from the UIC Engineering Career Center once told me, it was a part-time job to get the full-time job. I had to knock on many doors to find one that opened for me, so in short, these were the stages of my engineering internship hunt:
- Enroll in ENGR 100 and/or get motivated. If I didn’t enroll in Chris Kuypers’s ENGR 100 program, I wouldn’t have gone to UIC’s Engineering Career Fair. As a sophomore I thought I wouldn’t even be considered against upperclassmen for an internship and thought, “I still have time.” But in ENGR 100, it’s a requirement to at least attend the fair, so if I must attend, why not take it seriously? The sooner you start taking opportunities, the better it will be to find a job later because your skills set wil make you stand out.
- Visit a career center at UIC. If you’re an engineering major I highly recommend visiting Tom and Rose at the UIC Engineering Career Center because they were such a big help to me when I was preparing my résumé and gave good advice for I my interviews and negotiating pay.
- Go to the UIC Career Fair. Attend a career fair at UIC because employers come to UIC for a reason and oftentimes have recruited UIC students in the past. It’s a good idea to make a list of your top companies to visit because a career fair will be packed so you may not get a chance to talk to them all. That’s right, talk. If you just give them your résumé or put it in a pile, you can bet it’s going in the non-candidate pile. From the career fair, I got a few interviews so this proves opportunity is given to all regardless of year in school.
- Scour for online listings. This was the least fruitful for me, but it’s still not a bad idea to apply to online because if you have a really good résumé it might still get looked at. Many online application portals have weed-out programs that search for specific experience and skills, so having a simple résumé layout is good for these applications. Also, it’s good to apply online before going to a career fair so that you can say you’ve already applied online when you meet the employer.
- Make real-life connections. It’s important to make an in-person connection with an employer you are interested in. Sometimes networking or career workshops at school can help you meet people. If you haven’t done much networking before, try talking to your professors and career center staff. While at a career fair, the basics are to be the best version of yourself, have a firm handshake, smile and maintain good eye contact. Always get an employer’s business card because this will help when following up on an application.
- Apply for talent search programs. My gateway to ultimately getting my internship is being part of INROADS, which develops and places talented underserved youth in business and industry. Being in a program that targets specific groups of students narrows the pool of competition because many sponsors reserve spots only for INROADS or similar programs. I encourage anyone to check out INROADS and to explore similar options because it was through a talent search program that I applied for my current internship, received lots of support and have participated in sponsored leadership summits.
- Interview. Meeting with an employer is sometimes considered the first interview. If you seem like a good candidate based on résumé and first impression, you will get contacted for a phone interview to get a better feel for your personality and skills. For a few positions, this may be enough to decide if they want you or not but the next round will be an in-person interview, either one-on-one or with several people. One of my interviews was about two hours long because I talked to people at different levels, had a teleconference and had an on-the-spot programming challenge.
- Commit to an internship. If you have multiple offers, talk over the trade-offs with others to get a different perspective but ultimately it’s your choice. Even if it’s daunting at first, whatever choice you make you have to make it work! This may include working out intern housing, transportation and pay.
Paulina Rico-Juarez is a third-year computer science major, minoring in business administration. On campus, she is involved in the Honors College, Her Campus, LABS and SIG-Android. A Chicago native, Paulina is fluent in Spanish and Chinese and has assisted a bridal designer in Beijing. In her spare time, Paulina loves to Bollywood dance, run an online shop and write her personal blog.