Internship Insights from Two Peer Career Coaches.

I am a peer coach at the University of Arizona, curious about the impact of internships. In my last article, I was interested in what internship opportunities are available in Tucson and their impact, and interviewed Tami Sanchez who directs the internship and volunteer program for the Pima County Attorney’s Office’s Victim Service Program.

Now I want the student’s perspective! How have internships made an impact on student’s life and career aspirations? To gain insight, I interviewed two students about their internship experience. Sarah and Kendra are peer coaches at the University of Arizona’s Student Engagement and Career Department who answered questions about how they acquired their internships and how the experiences helped inform their academic and professional aspirations. 

What made you apply for the internship?

S: Support from Amanda Harrell, my boss at the career center. She directed me to the Summer Internship Stipend. I was eligible and at the time was a first generational student. I had just switched my major so it was a good opportunity to explore. 

K:  I knew that I wanted an internship of some kind during the summer before my Junior year, mainly because I had heard it would be good for my experience and my resume. I wanted hands-on experience with my career field before making any decisions about a permanent full-time position out of college. 

What was your internship application process like?

S:  I got an internship through the Summer Internship Stipend (SIS), which eligible students qualify for. There was a list of organizations that were hiring interns through the SIS and I picked out a couple that I was most interested in. I then tailored my resume and cover letter for each position and applied. I interviewed for a couple, but the marketing internship at SARSEF really stuck out to me because of their mission and small team orientation. SARSEF did ask for a writing sample because of the role, which would require writing such as blogs, etc. After that, I heard back from SARSEF and they let me know I got the position, so I decided to go with them.

K: My internship application process began around January of my sophomore year. I spent some time editing and perfecting my resume, and then I began my search. I created a spreadsheet for myself to keep up with all of the deadlines, and I submitted around 10 applications by the end of March. From there, I was reached out to by 4 companies for an interview!

What kind of tasks and responsibilities did you have as an intern?

S: My go-to supervisor, Yvonne, gave me a calendar of what programs to review for the week, and then I would create marketing material for each event/program. I did a lot of creating social media material for Instagram, blogs for the website, etc. Furthermore, because it was a summer opportunity, I got the opportunity to help with media coverage at one of their events called ACES camp, where girls were invited to explore careers and education in STEM.

K: I was a remote intern, and I did not have any of the stereotypical intern tasks, like getting coffee or making copies. I was working on real projects. One project was entering over 200 business cards into the office’s large district contact sheet. In another project, I compiled a list of various events around the district that the Congressman might want to attend. I was also responsible for doing outreach for the annual Congressional App Challenge, and speaking with various companies and organizations to encourage them to participate. 

What kind of skills did you hone or learn during your experience?

S: I really honed in on my communication skills, which I was able to expand on by working within an organization. I learned what it was like to communicate in a professional setting, not on campus which was such a different experience for me! I learned a lot about consumer-based behavior; how to tailor messages to certain groups: students, teachers, and people, and how to target specific groups in advertising.  You can’t use 1 photo to draw everyone in, it has to be tailored. The internship also involved honing statistical skills.

K: One skill that I really strengthened through this internship was my accountability. Because I was not in the office and did not have any in-person supervision, it was up to me to keep myself on track. I only had one check-in a week, so I learned how to hold myself accountable and meet deadlines without much outside pressure. This independence has really translated into other areas of my life, like in my other work, classes, and clubs.

How long were you an intern?

S: May thru July.

K: I was an intern for almost 3 months. I got the position in the middle of May and started at the end of the month, and then it wrapped up in mid-August!

Was the internship paid or credited?

S:  It was paid through the SIS stipend. A check through the bursar’s office for 3 payments during the summer.

K: The internship was paid! I received a monthly stipend.

What kind of benefits did you experience from taking advantage of this opportunity?

S: I found out that I like to support and help people, students specifically. So this internship allowed me to explore future career options and supported my decision to apply for Grad school. It also helped me determine that I’d like to be a counselor to help others find their career/study path.

K: There were so many benefits of this opportunity! I had always wondered what it would be like to work for an elected official. And though I had fun during my internship, I was able to determine that I would likely not like to do that type of work as my future career. I am so grateful that I was able to determine this fact now, before beginning my actual career!

Were you able to network with others during your internship?

S: I networked with the team and the CEO. I was nervous but was able to learn so much through them and about them. The CEO shared her personal career story to showcase that the degree can be what you want and doesn’t necessarily have to change to reflect what you want to do.

K: Yes, a little! It was slightly difficult due to the virtual nature of the internship, but I was still able to meet my coworkers on Zoom and over the phone. 

What was the work environment like?

S: Very team-oriented. There was independent work, but also tasks we did as a team.  I was worried about not being skilled enough because this was my first internship, but once I was comfortable I found it easy to ask questions and learn a lot. People were friendly and offered help.

K: Though I did not get to physically go into the office, the environment that I experienced was very organized, independent, and welcoming. My supervisor was very sweet and made sure to thank the interns constantly. She wasn’t too overbearing though, which gave me time to work on my own and feel like a real employee

Did your internship offer mentorship?

S: The advisor was similar to a mentorship. I had a lot of guidance from the advisor.

K: Not to my knowledge!

Would you recommend the internship to others?

S: Yes, the experience is a great fit for everyone, especially with students. It was a community-based internship with research and community outreach. It helps students determine that they have the opportunity to go to college and is rewarding.

K: Absolutely! Anyone can apply for a Congressional internship, and it’s really a great way to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes of your elected officials’ offices. It was an honor for me to serve my own district in this way, and the work was not too grueling! It was a great way for me to get my foot in the door of the political arena, and also to narrow down what type of political career I would like to have. 

What would you like to share with other students about your internship experience
that you think would be helpful to them?

S: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! People in your industry are understanding, have great responses, and are happy to help. Absorb the information that is given, there is a lot to learn! Don’t be afraid to ask other members of the team more questions or for help. It can make you more confident when you ask questions.

By Helene Brown
Helene Brown