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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

2013 July

Diary of an Intern: Rachel’s First Week

Rachel Lord

Russell Building

Russell Building

My summer internship experience began on Monday, July 15 in Senator Burr’s office. I work in the Russell building, which is a quick walk from Union Station and right near the Capitol. Union Station is hub for many DC tourists, shoppers, and commuting professionals. Whenever I look down over the food court, I see blobs of orange, green, and blue shirts signaling hoards of middle school students on tours. The metro is easy to navigate and many attractions on Capitol Hill are located in the area, such as the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the National Mall.

Union Station

Union Station

After work I have met with friends to walk around and see some of the most influential buildings in our nation.

Front Office

Front Office

When I arrived on the first day, my supervisor went over the procedures of the office and spent time getting to know all the new interns. After the introduction, I went to the ID office to receive my intern badge. Little did I realize that it was like receiving my license and therefore, freedom. The ID allows me to use the underground subway and tunnels that connect the Senate buildings and the Capitol Building, which are used by many Senators travelling back and forth from their offices to the Senate Gallery. Everyone is friendly, and I often see Senator McCain smiling when I walk by. I can also use corridors in the Capitol that only allow authorized access only, which is convenient when I want to explore some day during lunch!  

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

One of my main responsibilities is to give tours to constituents. When I arrived in the Capitol Building I could not believe the amount of information and history that resides in the building! One of my favorite parts of the Capitol is the Declaration of Independence, painted by John Trumbull. In the painting, Thomas Jefferson is taller and well-dressed compared to John Adams because he paid Trumbull to make him appear more prominent. Ironically, the two found friendship toward the end of their lives, but their rivalry was painted for posterity.

Capitol Building

Capitol Building

The rest of the week was as busy as my first day, as I began giving Capitol tours for constituents, running errands, and answering phones. I have enjoyed my first week in the office and am excited to continue my internship!

Until next time,

~Rachel Lord, ’13 – Politics and International Affairs Major and History and Entrepreneurship Minors

Intern at the office of Senator Richard Burr


TIP: Staying Connected: Follow-Up and the Importance of a Thank You

Set yourself apart from other interns by staying connected and following up with your supervisor and key contacts (your network).  It is important to continue to build your professional brand and reputation after your internship.  A great example is to send a handwritten thank you note expressing your appreciation for the experience, guidance, and growth.  You will make a great impression if you send a note to everyone who impacted your experience.  Also, if you find an interesting article related to their industry, share it with them.  It shows you have interest in news and trends related to their company and industry.  The more you give to them; the more they will be willing to give back to you.

Read further as our employers share their thoughts on the importance of staying connected, following up, and sending thank you notes at the conclusion of an internship.

Julie Armstrong, Talent Management

Follow-up is incredibly important for a few reasons…

First, it expresses your gratitude to the person or team that has given you a great opportunity to gain experience and grow professionally.

Second, you may be working alongside other interns – if they send thank you notes, you don’t want to be the intern who didn’t follow-up; if they don’t send notes, and you do, you’ll stand out!

Third, employers are often thinking about whether their interns would make good, prospective full-time hires…following up is a way of showing your interest in coming on-board after graduation.  Moreover, follow up is a way to maintain your network – you may need to call upon your manager for a reference or to make an introduction during your job search for a full-time role.  So, cultivate that relationship!!


Lauren Dealexandris, Director of Intermodal Finance

Follow up is important throughout your career for several reasons. The contacts you make during that important first career experience may become future references, networking connections, or a potential hiring manager. We seriously consider our interns for full time positions, so that impression counts. In addition, it is an unbelievably small world and you never know when paths will cross again, so it is wise to build instead of overlook or burn bridges. Finally, this type of correspondence shows professionalism and maturity; it is not something everyone does, and you may be surprised at the responsiveness from employers. This helps build your brand and reputation with employers.

Ashton Longest, Recruiter

Timely follow-up is a good show of faith. It’s a decidedly effective way to reiterate your interest in a firm. Thank you notes are always greatly appreciated, but unfortunately, they often have spelling or grammatical errors which can hinder a candidate in the process. So, I would suggest exhaustively proofreading any thank you notes or emails before they are sent. In regards to promptly addressing a full-time offer following an internship, we highly value a quick response.


TIP: Receiving Feedback on Your Performance

Before you leave your internship, you’ll want to gather feedback from your supervisor.  Seeking feedback helps you uncover your hidden strengths and weaknesses.  The feedback is based on your performance and skills demonstrated during the internship.  Unlike your academic coursework, you don’t receive a grade on every task you complete on the job.  Oftentimes, the only time you receive feedback on your work is during annual evaluation.  However, you may be fortunate to have frequent meetings with your supervisor to solicit feedback on your performance throughout the year.  The internship is a great place to practice receiving feedback in a professional manner.  It is best to have these conversations in person rather than by phone or email.  This can be accomplished by requesting a meeting with your supervisor.  Don’t wait until the last day of your internship or after you leave!  Schedule the meeting one to two weeks prior to your departure date.  Therefore, your job performance and contributions will be fresh on his/her mind.

Make it easy for your supervisor by providing him/her with a performance feedback evaluation form.  Prior to the meeting, use the form to reflect upon your experience and self-evaluate each competency area.  If you kept a journal of internship projects and experiences, use it as a reference to write down concrete examples of how you demonstrated specific skills.  The form will help guide the conversation with your supervisor.  “An oral review of the written evaluation can provide you with several benefits, including preparation for performance review sessions with future employers, meaningful self-reflection on the significance of the work-learning experience, and focused dialogue with a professional in the field about your readiness for a particular career path or position.  Most importantly, in-depth discussions centered upon established performance standards could enhance the likelihood that you would leave the internship with a more realistic understanding of your professional performance.”[1] This may be the only opportunity to receive specific feedback on your work as an intern.  Ask your supervisor to review the form, rate your performance, and provide examples of skills demonstrated during the internship.  These examples will help guide you in further developing your skills for life after college.

When you return to school, use the feedback evaluation form (from your reflection and the feedback received from your supervisor) to select areas for improvement, and seek opportunities to build those skills in the coming year.  The skill-building directory is a great resource for searching for opportunities on campus to develop and strengthen your skills.  I encourage you to continue building your professional skill set by using a variety of methods such as academic coursework, extra-curricular and co-curricular experiences, and educational workshops.

[1] http://www.naceweb.org/s06122013/intern-performance-review.aspx

Diary of an Intern: Introducing a New Student Contributor

I am excited to introduce a new Diary of an Intern student contributor joining us the latter half of the summer!  Follow her on her journey of discovering the world of work, skill development, and the lessons learned in the process.

Let’s discover who she is, where she will be interning, why, and what she hopes to gain from the experience.

RachelHello, my name is Rachel Lord and I am a rising senior at Wake Forest majoring in Politics and International Affairs with minors in History and Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise.

I am originally from Boston but have been given the exciting opportunity to spend my summer interning for Senator Richard Burr on Capitol Hill. I have heard numerous positive comments about his office and I cannot wait to start!

After spending a semester with the WAKE Washington Program this past spring, I realized how much I love living and working in D.C. I am excited to expand my knowledge of the public sector with this internship after spending my semester interning for The Abraham Group LLC, an international consulting firm focused on energy. I have seen how policy affects private business and I look forward to gaining a new perspective from policymakers. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my experiences and hope you enjoy the blog!

The opinions expressed by this blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions of Senator Richard Burr or any employee thereof. The office of Senator Burr is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information posted.

~Rachel Lord, ’13 – Politics and International Affairs Major and History and Entrepreneurship Minors

Intern at the office of Senator Richard Burr

Diary of an Intern: People-Projects-Skills

Our student interns are now over a month into their internships.  They are meeting people, working hard, and developing skills.

Let’s find out what they have been doing the last few weeks.

Zach GarbisoI am one of the editorial interns for Details magazine, so I work with the editorial department (comprised of senior editors, associate editors, etc.).  Throughout the day, I get assigned tasks from different editors, allowing me the opportunity to work with–and learn from many different people.  The projects vary greatly, but I’m mainly doing research and fact checking, completing clip files (articles or stories already published in past magazines or newspapers) and writing reports for editors.  Another one of the important responsibilities of an editorial intern includes transcribing interviews that the writers or editors have already conducted.

I’m honing a lot of different skills that I have developed during my time at Wake Forest. Through the extracurriculars that I’m involved with, I have developed organizational and time management skills.  I have had the opportunity to foster those already established skills while working with editors in a real-world setting.  When an editor asks to finish a project by the end of the day, I need to make sure that I complete the task by the deadline – no questions asked.  It’s a completely different environment than the one at college, where there is always another assignment that can hinder the time frame in which a task gets completed.

~ Zach Garbiso, ‘14 – Psychology major and English and Spanish minors

Editorial Intern at Details magazine in NYC


 LauraI am the intern for the Communications department, so I am working closely with the Manager of Advertising and Promotions and the Public Relations Specialist. I am also working with the web designer and freelance PR specialist. I have been doing a lot of the Digital Marketing Manager projects until the new one that we have hired starts on July 8th. I am also working with other departments through various projects that come up, as well as learning about each department through our Friday lunch and learn series.

I am developing a wide variety of skills, from public relations and advertising to managing the High’s Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts, as well as organizational skills through organizing the High’s presence at the recent Old Fourth Ward Park Arts Festival. I have also learned how to operate time lapse cameras, work with outside companies for social media content and integrating it into a larger social media calendar, and guerrilla marketing through hand-delivering fliers to different local businesses. I honestly never know what each day will bring, and due to this variety, I have been able to develop a wide range of skills and learn how to do each task as it comes up. I try to figure out how to complete different projects as they come up as I learn better by trying first and then asking for help if I cannot figure out what I need to do.

I have also honed my communications skills through what seems like millions of emails, as well as phone calls, conference calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. I have also worked on being proactive and trying to solve problems as they come up or any that I might anticipate. I also look for projects where I believe I can add value, such as the High’s Pinterest account. I noticed that not a lot had been done with it recently, so I asked my supervisor who was in charge of the account. She then gave me this responsibility, and it has become one of my favorite projects. I enjoy seeing what boards other museums have made, as well as seeing what pins get the most response from our followers. I have learned the value of seeking out projects that I find interesting from this experience.

~Laura Jurotich, ‘15 – History and Art History major

Marketing and Public Relations Intern at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta

TIP: Asking for a Recommendation-Part 2

OPCD Expert Contributor – Lauren Beam, Assistant Director of Programming & Outreach

A common question that I receive from students during internship search season in the Spring semester is “How do I go about asking my supervisor from my last summer’s internship for a letter of recommendation or to serve as a reference?” Obviously, many students forget this all-too-important task at the end of their internship and ultimately put it off until applications for the next summer’s internships begin.

There are several risks involved with waiting to ask for a recommendation or reference. First, your work abilities and strengths will no longer be fresh on your supervisor’s mind.  As a result, your supervisor may not be able to articulate the value that you could bring to a future employer once eight or more months have passed. Second, if you have not kept in touch with your supervisor, they may be unclear about your career path and where you are headed. This can be a difficult and awkward conversation to have via email or phone, which is why an in-person conversation during the summer is much more useful. You will want your supervisor to be clear about your career goals to best write you a letter that reflects your related skill set. Finally, you want to show respect for your internship supervisor’s time. By waiting until January or February when summer applications are due, your supervisor may not have enough turnaround time to write you a letter before deadlines hit. Asking for a letter of recommendation or reference towards the end of your summer internship experience is beneficial to both you and your supervisor.

Another common internship question often comes from rising seniors.  Many of these students are interested in full-time job opportunities with their internship employer for after graduation. Some companies (depending on the career industry) are known for making offers to some of their interns at the end of the summer, based on internship performance and the number of entry-level job openings available. If your internship site does not have a process for making end-of-summer job offers, you may also want to inquire about job opportunities in a meeting with your supervisor as the summer comes to a close. Be sure to emphasize your interest in the company, how much you learned through your summer experience, and your desire to contribute to their organization in the future. Then, proceed with a verbal inquiry about full-time positions and how you should proceed in the coming year. For some employers, they may be interested in hiring you, but will ask that you check back in with them via phone or email in late Fall or early Spring when they have more information about their hiring needs and open positions.

TIP: Asking for a Recommendation-Part 1

OPCD Expert Contributor – Lauren Beam, Assistant Director of Programming & Outreach

Securing a letter of recommendation, reference, or future job offer from your internship supervisor is best done in person and towards the end of your summer internship experience. Here are some tips and advice for how to do the “asking.”

Watch the video highlighting six steps to asking for a recommendation.

To learn more, read further for details on asking for a recommendation.

Why Ask for a Letter of Recommendation Now vs. Later?

1 – Your performance is fresh in your supervisor’s mind.

2 – You can have an in-person conversation about your future career goals.

3 – It’s not last minute (i.e. the following Spring semester when job and internship applications are due) and provides more time for the supervisor to write a letter for you.

Steps to Asking for a Letter of Recommendation:

1 – Set up a Meeting: Set up a meeting with your direct supervisor and/or other key colleagues that you have worked closely with over the summer. Schedule approximately 1-2 weeks before your internship ends.

2 – Get Feedback and Discuss Career Goals: Use the meeting(s) as an opportunity to get feedback on your performance throughout the summer – what you did well, areas for improvement. You may also use this time to share what you learned and the next steps in your career trajectory. If you are a rising senior, you may also express interest in full-time job opportunities, if available, within the organization.

3 – Ask for the Letter of Recommendation: As the meeting comes to a close, this would be an appropriate time to ask for the letter of recommendation and/or to list your supervisor as a reference on future applications. You might say “As my internship is coming to an end, do you feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for me to use for future applications and opportunities?”

4 – Provide Supporting Materials: Have a copy of your resume (updated with your summer internship experience) for your supervisor to refer to when writing your letter. You may also choose to provide examples of your work from the summer and any other supporting materials to help your supervisor best capture your skill set and value to a future employer.

5 – Say “Thank You”: A “thank you” note goes a long way. As your internship draws to a close, you should write a hand-written “thank you” note to your supervisor (for their support throughout the summer and for the letter of recommendation) and any other colleagues that have assisted you throughout your internship.

6 – Stay in Touch: Stay in touch with your supervisor and provide periodical updates throughout the year on your career progression. For example, you would want to give them a “heads up” when using their letter of recommendation or name/contact information as a reference on a job or internship application. Keeping your supervisor in the loop will enable them to speak highly of you when contacted by a potential new employer.