The Good Intern
New Year, New Goals
The First Day
Posted by Michelle Pence - - 3 comments
I seem to be cursed...

...but this curse is actually a good thing.

In two of the internships I've done I've unexpectedly been promoted to from intern to a higher position because of some unforeseen circumstance.

Not long ago my boss called me during the workday and informed me that because a staff member had quit he was promoting me from intern to full-time legal assistant starting immediately.

Armed with a significant promotion and a learn as I go attitude I moved my things to my new desk and although I was excited for the new opportunity I couldn't help but think, "Here we go again."

The first time I found myself in a similar situation was when I was interning for a State Senator the school year before and filled in as legislative assistant while the regular employee was out sick for over a month.  Even though I wasn't completely trained for the position I learned quickly and arranged hearings of the Senator's committee, submitted committee reports, and prepared bills to be turned into the Senate floor.  It was stressful, but a great experience.

The major difference from when I was interning for the Senator to my current situation was that before I was only in the higher position for a month while now it was indefinitely.  

I'm lucky because there's nothing I love more than a good challenge and having to teach myself new things and to really have to use my brain to succeed.  The stress of these kind of situations makes everyday exciting and new.  While the fear of failure is present in my mind the feeling of accomplishment after being successful in a new position and exceeding people's expectations is always worth it.

My suggestion for someone in the same position is to grasp the opportunity and get to work.  Situations like these look amazing on a resume because they show you are capable of adapting to situations and make great stories for essays or personal statements.  Accepting the challenge will help you grow in ways you can't even imagine.

Be realistic
I'm only taking a few classes since it's my last semester of college so while working 40+ hours per week is still stressful, it's doable for me right now.  If this opportunity would have come up the semester before while I was focusing on studying for the LSAT and applying for law schools I would have had to explain to my boss that while I was honored that he thought of me for the position I couldn't handle working full-time and was happy in my current position.

Expect more
When I filled in as the legislative assistant I didn't get any type of raise or extra compensation because the switch was temporary and I was doing a program through my school which I was completely fine with.  I was just happy to be getting the extra experience.

In my current situation I had sought out the internship on my own was a paid intern working along with going to school.  When the promotion came along I had the expectation that by switching to working full-time I would be treated like all of the other full-time employees.  Luckily, my employer was great about working with me on a new schedule and making sure I was compensated well and on the same level as all of the other employees.

Ask for help
It's important to be able to figure some things that you are unsure of about the new position on your own, but you also need to find a good support system that you can rely on to answer questions or reassure you that you're on the right track, whether it be a supervisor or a co-worker.  Having confidence is a major part of succeeding in a new position and having this support system really helps with that.
[ Read More ]

Posted by Michelle Pence - - 6 comments

Not that long ago something happened at my internship that shook my faith in interning which as you can imagine is very hard to do.  In all of the internships I have done I have been faced with a range of obstacles from being given tasks I didn't think I could handle to even just restlessness, but one thing I hadn't come across yet (to my knowledge) was being literally hated by someone in the office.

I came into this internship excited and anxious to work, but never thought that this enthusiasm would rub someone the complete wrong way.  While I was bouncing around doing what I was told to do, little did I know that inside of one of my coworkers was a little ball of negativity towards me that was growing bigger and bigger each day.

My boss, who also happened to be my mentor and a former teacher with an extremely busy schedule, would occasionally have me meet for lunch to discuss new assignments and answer my questions.  What I didn't know at the time was back at the office my lunch meetings weren't sitting well with my coworker who had a jealous eye.  Since this was a learn-as-you-go type of internship I did my best to be self-sufficient and figure things out for myself, but inevitably questions came up.  When I did ask a question I was met with an unhelpful brick wall from the coworker who had somewhat of an obligation to help train me.  The worst was when my boss gave me a task that specifically required me to talk to her because it was impossible to get any help or direction.

I have pretty thick skin, but when my boss told me that my coworker was telling him that I wasn't doing my job or didn't deserve a holiday bonus I was flustered and realized my professional reputation was at stake.

After I found out about that I started avoiding contact at all cost.  I even started walking around the office in a way that let me avoid her desk.  There were a few very friendly people in the office who would be happy to try to help me so I started going to them for help and guidance.  I was lucky that the situation eventually worked itself out on its own with a change of staff, but I will never forget being "the hated intern".

Getting it through that tough situation taught me a few things about dealing with tension with coworkers.

  • If a situation with a coworker is hindering your ability to do your job go to your supervisor sooner rather than later.  It shouldn't be a fight just to fulfill your basic responsibilities.
  • The less drama the better.  An emotional blow-out is the last thing you want which is why you have to carefully decide whether or not a confrontation is the right choice.
  • Don't gossip about it.  Talking about the issue with other coworkers is only going to make the situation worse and will just drag it on and make it harder to ignore.
  • Find people you can rely on.  Chances are there are other people in the office that would be happy to help you with what you need.  Make an effort to find these people and utilize them instead of dwelling on your unhelpful coworker.
Have you ever been in a tough situation with a coworker.  If so, how did you handle the problem?

[ Read More ]

Posted by Michelle Pence - - 2 comments

One of the main criticisms that I hear from students about my blog and internships in general is the issue of some internships being unpaid or not paid very well.  While most people agree that internships are a great way to move forward professionally, the issue of pay seems like a dark cloud looming overhead.  People tell me, "An internship would be cool, but I really need to make some money so I'm just going to work instead."

My question to those people is why not do both?  Although balancing an internship and a part-time job requires excellent time management skills it is completely doable, especially during the summer.  With the mindset that you will be bringing in income while at the same time gaining valuable experience that will help your career, working your schedule to include both an internship and a part-time job should be no problem.

Be the master of your own schedule
Sit down with your schedule in front of you and block out all of your existing time commitments to figure out when you can realistically fit in an internship and time to work.  Since many internships will take place during the morning or afternoon look for a job that allows you to work evenings or weekends.  The important thing is to know how much time you can commit before you start applying so you don't end up stretching yourself too thin on time.

Make a budget
Force yourself to do a little math and determine exactly how much income you need to make in order to support yourself, including rent, groceries, spending, etc. Fit into your schedule enough work hours to make the amount of income you determine you need and then schedule time for an internship around that.  Another option for making a little extra income to support yourself is by asking your parents or other family members for a some monetary support.  If you explain that you really want to focus on an internship that will help you professionally they might be happy to temporarily help you out.

Be upfront
Many internships are more flexible with scheduling than you might think, especially unpaid opportunities that realize you need to support yourself as well.  Make a point to explain your situation to your supervisor and work out a schedule that works for both of you.  Being honest with your supervisor will also keep you out of tight spots like asking you to come in on days when you have other obligations.

Find some time for yourself
Never forget to pencil in some time for yourself in your busy schedule.  Even if time management isn't a problem for you, it can be easy to get so consumed by other things that you forget that you're young and should be having fun.  Finding a little time to unwind will help you keep your sanity and make it easier to enjoy work and your internship.

Think of it as a challenge
One of the best feelings for me is when I get through an especially hectic day and think back on everything that I managed to accomplish.  No matter how exhausted I am, the feeling of productivity seems to make it all worth it.  Challenge yourself by pushing to be productive even when you might feel like crashing because successfully balancing everything is a great skill and one you should be proud of.


If you have balanced a job and an internship how have you managed  to do it?  What are some other tips for managing both at the same time?

[ Read More ]

Posted by Michelle Pence - - 5 comments
It's getting tantalizingly close to the most wonderful time of the year... internship season!

The best piece of advice I can give you about the hunt for the perfect summer internship is to start thinking about the process as early as possible.

Many competitive internships at large or well-known companies will have early application deadlines.  For example if interning at the White House is what you have in mind, your application is due January 23 (yikes!).  Luckily, the deadline can usually be found on company websites so you'll have plenty of time to prepare.

Other smaller companies may be more laid back in their due dates, but you'll want to make sure you get your materials in promptly for a competitive edge.

The best part of my internship timeline is that it involves doing much of the work ahead of time.  This way you save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety later on in the semester, when you are deeper into classes and homework while trying to manage the search for an internship at the same time.

Summer Internship Timeline


  • Visit your school's Career Center and start scouring the many websites that feature internship listings like YouTern or for internships that interest you.  
  • Don't forget that one of the best ways to find an internship is by utilizing your existing contacts, so talk to your professors or people you have worked with in the past to find out about new opportunities.
  • If you have your eye on a particular internship or are aiming to land a dream gig, make sure you do some research and mark down the application deadline now so you don't forget.  Also, start looking into what exactly the company requires in order to apply well in advance.
  • If you have some spare time, run by the Career Center at your school and sign up for a mock interview session.  Getting some practice time in now will help you feel confident enough to face any question you encounter in an interview later on.
Early-Mid February  

  • You will want to have several generic cover letters written targeted at each industry that you plan on applying for an internship in.  For example, if you plan on applying at a magazine, but are also going to shoot for a broadcasting internship, you will want to differentiate between your cover letters.  You will be able to personalize the letters more when you make your final selection of where to apply, but this gives you a head start.
  • By now your resume should be looking sharp with updated information on any recent internships or work you have done.  Run it by someone at your school's Career Center to make sure your resume is in top-notch shape and ready to go.
  • If you don't already have several letters of recommendations on hand, start the process of acquiring them and set a deadline of the end of the month to have them by.  A good strategy is to have at least three letters of recommendation from different sources: one academic, one professional, and one of your choice.
  • Make sure that you have all written materials both in digital form and on nice quality paper with plenty of copies in case you are asked to submit material in the mail.
Late February

  • Finalize the list of internships you will apply for.
  • Aim to apply to a range of different companies.  You will probably want to apply for at least five internships, however if you are looking at more competitive opportunities applying for more is usually better to be on the safe side.
  • Start digging around for contact information.  The main goal is to send your materials to an actual person, not a generic company email, so if their website doesn't list specifics call and ask.
Early March

  • Submit your materials to your final list of companies.
  • Track all of the companies that you actually apply to, since keeping good records will help keep you on top of things.  Jot down information such as the contact information you sent your info to, when you sent it, and when you plan to follow up.
Late March

  • If you haven't heard from a company that you sent information to, now's the time to call and politely ask if they received your material.

  • If you haven't had any luck with landing an internship just yet, keep your eye out for other opportunities.  Many smaller local companies can offer great experience and sometimes don't hire their interns until closer to summer.

The trick is simply to start early and to dedicate yourself to the search.  Show the companies you want to intern for that you are driven and prepared by following these steps, and you will be well on your way to internship success.

Here are some other useful articles:

[ Read More ]

Posted by Michelle Pence - - 28 comments

One of the first steps in applying for an internship is composing a captivating cover letter to send to the company that will make the reader stand up from their seat and declare that they simply MUST have you as an intern. 

No pressure, right?

While the scenario above has a pretty optimistic reaction, the point is that your cover letter will be one of the first things potential employers see that tells them why they should even consider you for an internship.

Here are some tips for writing a top-notch cover letter.

"To whom it may concern" is not a person

Avoid sending a letter to "Whom it may concern" at all costs.  Your goal is to find out who the right person is to send your cover letter to and their correct mailing information.  If the company's website does not list a specific contact, search the web first and if you can't find anything that way, give the company a call and simply ask for more details.  To avoid any simple but deadly mistakes, make sure to jot down the spelling of the person's name correctly, as well as the mailing address.  

Put in the work and you shall be rewarded

It is absolutely crucial to write a different cover letter for every internship you apply for. No if's, and's, or but's about it. It is glaringly obvious when cover letters are written for a generic purpose, as opposed to when they are tailored to fit the specific company. The letters you write can follow the same basic structure, but the content needs to be unique for each.

Be clear and upfront

You don't want to leave any doubt in the recipient's mind why you're writing the company a letter... for all they know you're trying to sell them something, which is definitely NOT what you want them to think. One of your very first lines should consist of explaining what position you are asking the company to consider you for and for what time period, along with a brief introduction of yourself (name, year in school, etc.).  One of the biggest mistakes you can make here is not being specific enough.  If you have a particular department or position in mind, make sure your letter says it loud and clear.

Show what you know

Through your cover letter you want to convey the idea that you are very familiar with the company, which you should be if you're applying for an internship with them.  You can usually get all of the information that you need from browsing the company's website.  Towards the beginning of the letter you want to take time to explain why you're applying for an internship at this particular company.  Did you randomly pick them out of the phone book?  Are they the best in their field?  In this section of your letter, you can mention recent awards the company has won, their outstanding reputation, etc.

What skills do you bring to the table?

Your cover letter should effectively spell out why the company should hire you as an intern. Although your enclosed resume will contain specific details on your experience, your cover letter lets you spin that information the way you want in order to paint a picture of someone that will make a great intern and be a really good fit for the company.  If you have past experience, talk about what skills or accomplishments you have that makes you qualified for the position. If the internship will be your first professional experience, talk about what you've learned in school or any extracurricular involvement you have that makes you qualified.  If the company puts out  information on the internship such as an overview or description of duties, make sure you incorporate how you will excel at those responsibilities.

Make it physical

To me, nothing says "professional" like a well-crafted packet of information on yourself sent to a company, but it all depends on the situation.  The look of a cover letter and resume printed on high-quality paper, enclosed with a writing sample and letters of recommendations, put together neatly and sent in the mail shows that you went above and beyond simply attaching a Word document to an email.  

Many companies will explicitly state how they want to receive your materials, while others will be more vague.  Always follow the directions that are given to you, however if you have a choice, take the route that shows the most effort.  I like to do a combination of hard copy and digital.  In the past, I have sent a mini cover letter through email, indicating that I had sent additional material in the mail.

Although your cover letter is definitely an important part of applying for an internship, don't let the pressure get to you.  The letter itself should only be a few paragraphs long at best, and you're writing about yourself.  No one knows you better than you do, so just write what you truly think.

Here are some great resources for cover letter writing:

[ Read More ]

Posted by Michelle Pence - - 2 comments

If you're anything like me, right about now your mind is swirling with ideas for how to improve yourself and your life in the upcoming new year.  After New Years my to-do list is always brimming with resolutions- some of which are new and some that never seem to get done (about that diet...), but there's just something about a whole new year filled with endless possibilities that makes me especially excited and optimistic.

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I've found that the most effective strategy for coming up with great goals is to be specific, so what could be better than dedicating a few of your New Years resolutions to making yourself a better intern?

Start by having a brainstorming session and write down everything that comes to mind when you think about yourself as an intern and what you'd like to change or do better... you can pick and choose the best ideas later.  Once you have several things written down, select a few things that seem the most important.  It's imperative that once you set your sights on something specific you want to accomplish, that you also come up with several steps for working towards the goal.

Here are some sample internship goals to get your wheels turning:

  • Maintain a persistent positive attitude
    • If you've been doing an internship for a while, it's easy to get dragged into the monotony of some tasks which might make you appear agitated and unhappy.  Even if you think that you can't stand to file papers for another minute, slap a smile on your face and let people see that you're grateful to be there.
  • Polish your resume
    • If your resume is one of those things that you have been meaning to update and perfect, then jump on it this year.  The trek to your campus career center usually isn't as far as it seems, so make an appointment.  You'll be glad you did once you have a professional resume that you can be proud of.
  • Take extra opportunities
    • Ever turned down an opportunity to network with coworkers outside of the office because you were tired or had something else going on?  One extra dinner with your boss and coworkers could mean the different between looking like you're just going through the motions 9am-5pm, and showing that you're really passionate about your internship.
  • Network like a pro
    • Finally get those business cards you've been meaning to have printed made and start working on the art of making small talk.  For some people networking is an acquired skill, and the new year is the perfect opportunity to start practicing every chance you get.
  • Take initiative
    • Want to work on something bigger?  Ask for it!  While you can't neglect your everyday duties, it never hurts to ask for more.  Show your boss that you want to get as much possible out of your internship and let him/her know you're up for the challenge.
  • Connect with a mentor
    • My mentor has proven to be one of the biggest assets in helping me professionally.  If there is someone who you know and admire and that could help you with your career, reach out to them and ask if you can pick their brain.  It may flatter them that you look up to them, and could turn into a positive and valuable relationship.
My advice?  Take advantage of 2011 being a blank slate and actually work towards your resolutions this year!  This year could be your best year yet, but it's all up to you.

[ Read More ]

Posted by Michelle Pence - - 3 comments

Whether small or grandiose, the office holiday party is something the intern should never miss out on, and not for the reasons you might expect.

Even if you are an intern that just finished a semester internship with a company, the holiday party is something you should definitely still attend, as long as you were invited of course (crashers are never cool).

Word on the street may be that the office holiday party is a blast, but resist the temptation to throw on your reindeer antlers and light-up Christmas sweater and take some of my advice.  You can find tons of office party horror stories all over the web about Bob from accounting who had a few too many and ending up passing out on the buffet table, just like you can find countless tips about how you should avoid greasy foods and not drink alcohol, but honestly... the secret to making the most of the office holiday party is to just BE YOURSELF AND HAVE FUN.

Office parties are excellent opportunities for interns to socialize with people from work outside of the office setting and to display a whole new set of skills... social skills!  Although the party is still technically a professional event, you have the freedom to let the conversations flow to topics that interest you and to get to know co-workers on a more personal basis.  An excellent trait to possess is being comfortable in social situations and appearing confident and personable, so use the holiday party as an excuse to show off your ability to socialize professionally.  The end goal of socializing at the party should be to leave with stronger relationships with co-workers than when you arrived, but make sure you're still having fun and enjoying yourself in the process.  Once you're at the party, approach someone you have always wanted to get to know a little bit better and strike up a conversation.  Later on, do the same thing with someone you maybe haven't quite hit it off with yet in the office, but want to try to form a relationship with.

Here are some tips for office party schmoozing:

  • Avoid trying too hard to make a good impression on people... especially your boss.  Let the casual setting mellow you out and encourage you to act naturally, but professionally.
  • Don't monopolize one person's time and exit conversations on a high note.  Letting a conversation awkwardly fizzle out might totally reverse the social progress you made with someone, so after a few minutes of chatting excuse yourself politely and move on.
  • Stay away from any topics that have the potential to offend someone or lead to a heavy conversation, such as politics, religion, or dirty jokes.  People want to celebrate with positive people, not Debbie Downers or argumentative types. 
  • Definitely approach your boss, even though you may feel a bit hesitant.  This is the main person you want to show your confidence and charisma to, but keep this conversation the shortest unless your boss gives you cues to continue.  The head honcho is usually a hot commodity at the party and doesn't have a lot of time to spend with just one person.
  • If you don't know someone, introduce yourself!  Now is your chance to get your name out there and get to know people you never had the chance to meet before.  Network like there's no tomorrow!
  • Remember your good intern etiquette and thank the host, or whoever planned the party, for inviting you and for doing such a great job organizing the event.  A nice thank you note afterwards never hurts either.
  • Never complain about the company or gossip, even if the person you're talking to is going on and on about something negative.  I usually just nod my head and smile until the person gets the point that I'm not going to say anything back and changes the topic.
  • Be yourself!  Don't stress out trying to make yourself look great while you're mingling with people.  Although you might be able to sneak in some personal accomplishments or goals here or there, let them come to the surface on their own and just focus on having a good conversation.  

Dress Shirt & A Killer Suit
I have full faith that any aspiring good intern will know the basics of professional behavior that is still expected at the office holiday party. 

It's my policy that if you are over 21 and other people are drinking alcohol at the party it's completely acceptable to have a cocktail, just drink in moderation and know your limits.  Even if everyone else starts to get a little out of control, hold back and keep in mind that you want to protect your reputation... and your job as an intern.  You don't need alcohol to have fun, right?  

Forever21 Polished Cocktail Dress 
Also, don't forget to keep the party attire professional, even though the dress code may be more festive and casual than the average work day.  Although the men's outfit pictured to the left is outrageously expensive for an intern, you get the idea, plus the caption on the website explained it perfectly by saying, "Always dress like the man in charge- especially when you're not".  Ladies need to really make sure that their ensembles are not too revealing (you don't want that kind of attention), but it's completely okay to play around with bright colors and different jewelry.

The best advice I can give you is to be yourself, have fun, and leave the reindeer antlers at home!


[ Read More ]

Category List

application (1) apps (1) ashli pollard (1) ask the good intern (1) back to school (2) boredom (1) boss (1) budget (1) business attire (1) business casual (1) CAMPUSPEAK (1) career (3) career advice (1) career center (3) classes (1) college (6) college grads (1) conflict (1) cover letter (3) coworkers (2) do's and don'ts (1) down time (1) dream internship (4) election (1) employer (1) end of internship (1) entrepreneur (1) etiquette (2) evaluation (1) extra opportunities (1) facebook (2) fall (1) fall fashion (1) fall internship (4) fall internships (1) fashion (1) fashion internship (1) finance (1) first day of internship (4) first impression (2) foursquare (1) fraternity (1) full-time job (1) goals (1) google (1) gossip (1) graduation (1) her campus (2) hobbies (1) holiday party (1) holidays (1) hot jobs (1) humanitarian internship (1) independence (1) initiative (1) intern style (1) intern supervisor (1) internship interview (2) internship wrap-up (1) interview (2) job (1) job interview (2) job search (1) law school (1) leadership (1) legislative internship (1) letter of recommendation (5) linkedin (3) links (5) majors (1) mental health (1) mentor (1) missouri state university (1) money (1) multi-task (1) networking (9) new internship (1) new year (1) non-profit (1) non-verbal communication (2) office fashion (1) office party (1) organization (1) organizational products (2) oversees internship (1) paid internships (1) passion (1) pete mockaitis (1) phone (1) phone etiquette (1) political internship (1) portfolio (1) positive attitude (1) post-grad internships (1) privacy (1) productivity (1) professional attire (1) promotion (1) recent grad (1) research (1) resume (7) salary (1) schedule (4) scholarships (1) social media (2) social networking (3) social skills (1) sorority (1) speaker (1) start-up (1) stress (3) study tips (1) summer internship (5) thank you note (2) thank you notes (2) time management (3) timeline (1) to-do list (2) to-do lists (1) twitter (1) undecided major (1) unpaid internships (1) upperclassmen (1) Washington D.C. (2) websites (1) work-life balance (1) wrapping up an internship (1) wrapping up internship (1) writing sample (1)