Tailoring experience, critical thinking among keys to landing an internship

Students look on during a presentation by Hillary Sunderland, an associate in Cigna’s marketing leadership development program, in Laurel Hall on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

Landing an internship is all about tailoring your experience to match a company’s needs said Hillary Sunderland, an associate in Cigna’s marketing leadership development program and recent University of Connecticut alumnae.

Sunderland, who spoke to students Monday evening in Laurel Hall, said the three traits companies value most highly when evaluating internship candidates are critical thinking, teamwork and work ethic.

“It’s very important when you’re applying to jobs to highlight these skills,” Sunderland said.

It’s also important to alter your resume so it aligns with the specific qualifications of the position you’re applying for, she said. Just because you don’t have previous internship experience, though, doesn’t mean you’re out of the running.

“It’s all about transferable skills,” said Tina Harney, a graduate assistant for the Center for Career Development.

The three traits companies value most highly when evaluating internship candidates are critical thinking, teamwork and work ethic.

Harney, for example, worked part-time as a cashier at a pharmacy in high school. While it may not have been directly related to her degree in accounting, Harney said she was still able to leverage her experience with customer service, communication and patient confidentiality when applying to positions as an undergraduate.

Sunderland and Harney also highlighted numerous resources available through the Center for Career Development for students. HuskyCareerLink is a great website for students to go job hunting and to post resumes for employers seeking qualified candidates, while HuskyCareerPrep has dozens and dozens of quizzes and assessments for undergraduates looking to pinpoint their career interests before the 2016 Internship/Co-op Fair from 12 to 3 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom Feb. 3.

“You never know exactly what might change within an organization or even you personally so it’s important to think about your values, skills and interests,” Harney, who left a position in accounting to become a career counselor, said. “Had I taken this short five minute assessment in my undergrad career, would my path have been the same? I don’t know.”

An internship doesn’t have to be your dream job, or even related to your major. While interning is an opportunity to put knowledge into practice outside of the classroom, it’s also a chance to discover what you don’t want in a job, Sunderland added.

“It can definitely rule out a field for you, I’ve had several internships where I was like, ‘yeah, that’s definitely not for me,’” Sunderland said.

No matter what your goals are, Harney said it’s important for students to consult with the Center for Career Development before starting an internship if they want to receive academic credit. While paid internships are out there, students managing financial restraints should be prepared to discuss their options with potential employers.

“That’s when you have to be firm in saying ‘okay, I can only do 20 hours a week so I can have another job,’” she said.

Connecting with recruiters Wednesday afternoon at the 2016 Internship/Co-op Fair could be the first step toward a career post-graduation. Sunderland recommended students dress professionally - that means break out your ties and suit jackets to go beyond ‘business casual’ - and bring multiple copies of their resume to leave a lasting impression with employers.


Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.