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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

2015 July

TIP: Telling Your Story: Market Your Skills

Learn how to easily communicate your value to interviewers, using work, academic, and personal examples.

Watch the video to learn more about how to articulate your internship experience in an interview.

Stumped about how to communicate your potential value to an interviewer? A key to interviewing effectively is articulating how your skills relate to the specific job, and sharing stories of times you’ve demonstrated them. You see, to a potential employer, the best evidence of how you will perform on their job is how you’ve performed in the past. Providing specific examples will help them “see” you in their job and can sell them on hiring YOU. Start by reviewing the job/internship description, noting the skills and abilities required. Then, use the STAR formula for creating and telling your stories:

S or T : Situation or task you faced

A: Action(s) you took

R: Positive results of your actions (quantify when possible here)

Prepare for the interview by telling your stories to friends, OPCD counselors, and anyone else that will listen, until you feel comfortable sharing them in everyday conversation. Give enough detail so that your listeners fully comprehend the circumstances you were in, but limit your story to three minutes or less. Ask for feedback on your content and delivery, as well as the abilities evident in your story. I promise, you’ll be amazed at all the skills others see.

Make your preparation for future interviews easier, by beginning a STAR journal to record your experiences and important projects.

TIP: Completed the Internship! Now What?

Congratulations! You completed your summer internship working in an industry you selected as a potential career path. You now have experience in a field that you can speak about during interviews. Now what?

The experience you gained this summer is too important to dismiss. So, I don’t want you to simply check the internship box and move on…Too frequently, we rush to complete a task without giving it much thought. It is easy to return to school and forget about your internship experience. You will miss a vital step in the learning process of your experience – Reflection. What do I mean by reflection? Reflection is making time to ask questions about the experience and discovering how you will move forward as a result. I recommend you review your goals, scan your journal for projects and tasks completed, reflect on the people you met, and areas of strength and improvement. This review will help you develop yourself as well as capture stories you can use for future internship and job interviews.

Schedule time now before temptation surrounds you to put it off for another day. Reflection will not be a priority once you set foot on campus. To help guide the reflection process, use the following questions:

1) As a result of this internship, I learned the following about myself:

2) What is the most important thing I learned about myself?

3) What did I like and/or not like about the internship? Therefore, I’m going to…

4) What are 2-3 things I consider my strengths? How am I going to further develop my strengths?

5) What skills did I develop? How can I apply these skills to academic coursework, extracurricular activities, future internships and post-grad life?

6) What new skills, knowledge, and abilities did you learn? How can I apply these new skills, knowledge, and abilities to academic coursework, extracurricular activities, future internships and post-grad life?

7) What is an area of improvement? How do I plan to develop this area?

8) What are 2-3 things am I interested in learning more about in the industry? How am I going to seek this information?

Get started by printing or downloading the internship reflection worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your internship and job search and career goals based on the information gathered about yourself and the experience. For additional information on reflecting on your internship, visit the career development website. If you need help, schedule a meeting with a career counselor to discuss how to apply your new knowledge in your career search.

Visit the Professional Confessional next week for a video on how to develop and tell your story to market your skills in internship and job interviews.


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.

CSX logo

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.

Deloitte logo

Liz Hannah, Carolinas Campus Recruiter

Timely follow-up is crucial to your success as a professional and is an 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. 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.



Meghan Hayden, HR Functional Development Manager

A thank you note may be your last opportunity to make an impression, so don’t let it go to waste.

Use your note to personally thank someone for their time and efforts. State specifically some of the things you learned in the role, and how you might use those skills in the future. Ask for support from your manager for a full-time role, or thank them for already providing that support.  Close the message by opening the door for future contact. You can tell a manager that you will call them in a few weeks or months to find out how a project is progressing, or to catch up on the outcome of one of your classes. If you make a commitment, keep it.

(Don’t forget, in business correspondence a thank you should always be a typed letter or e-mail, not a hand-written card.)


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

TIP: Asking for a Recommendation – Part 2

OPCD Expert Contributor – Lauren Beam, Assistant Director of Alumni Personal and Professional Development

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.