How to Land Your Dream Internship

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It's been a little over a month since I finished my internship with The Breakers, a luxury single entity resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Wow did I have a summer for the books. Not only did I work hard but I also had so much fun and learned more than I ever imagined. I knew going into the summer, I would want to put together a guide on how to confidently land your top internship during your college career (since that is exactly what I did! I decided to break this post into a couple of different sections. I have highlighted them with a short phrase/word so they are easy to read. Feel free to scroll to what pertains to you most, but I suggest reading them from start to finish. Grab some tea and avo toast...this will be quite a read!

My college career:

I am currently studying Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University. I hope to pursue my graduate degree in Marketing and Communications after I finish my undergrad. I chose my major for multiple different reasons: 1. it is very hands-on and 2. Purdue has a very well-known Hospitality program. My program focuses not only on hotel management but all aspects of hospitality; whether that be marketing for a brand, opening a bakery or going into wedding planning. I love how well-rounded my major is, and the possibilities are endless. Careers in Hospitality and Tourism Management can include: General Manager of a hotel, corporate careers in any related field/company, pursuing Sales & Marketing or going to Culinary school My career goal, as of now, is to either work in a corporate setting in their Communications department or in a similar company working for Sales & Marketing. I am required to complete 2 internships before graduation, but I always had the intention of gaining internship experience before I start my adult career.

How I figured out what company I wanted to intern with:

Before I decided to intern with a hotel, I worked as a sales associate with Nordstrom. Ever since I joined such an amazing company, I knew I would have to be in a similar environment wherever my future endeavors took me.  Before the night of the career fair, I researched the companies that I seemed interested in and what their reputation was. I have heard of The Breakers before, especially since Florida is like a second home to me. The Breakers was a place where my mom and I would go for brunch on Sundays or enjoy some tea with the family at the cafĂ©. Their reputation was high yet their acceptance rate for employment (especially the LEAD internship) was low, but I was determined to make the Breakers apart of my summer 2017. The Breakers was really one of the only companies I seriously considered. I looked at a couple different Hospitality management companies in Chicago but a luxury hotel in Palm Beach was hard not to fall in love with. I also thought that there LEAD internship program was enticing and could truly benefit my future career.  Please keep in mind that after I landed a spot to interview with the two recruiters at Purdue's career fair, I investigated the programs, location, and reputation in greater detail! You do not need to know everything that every single company is offering but it is smart to have a general idea.

Tips for interviewing & what questions to ask:

The morning following the career fair I had an 8 am interview with the two recruiters I spoke with (who I have created a friendship with after spending my summer with the company...heck yes to networking). The morning was rough and the nerves were high but I walked into the building with confidence. Before last year, I had never been interviewed out of a college career fair. I did not know what to expect and was sure I was going to mess-up. Although I am not going to tell you the exact details of what they asked me, I will give you some points and good resources I used.

The night before the interview, I googled some common interview questions. I went through them with my friends to not only practice my answers but to also think about my genuine answer. I also researched the company and jotted down some important points, like their CEO, their company growth and some common knowledge (like location and name-no joke)! I believe since I was somewhat prepared, I came into the interview with more confidence. Another tip I have is to invest in a professional portfolio. Not only will this show recruiters that you are put together but it's a good place to keep business cards, papers and a notepad you can write in.

Toward the end of the interview, the recruiter will ask if you have any questions for them. Remember that this is not just a process for you to score an internship (or job) but it is also a time to learn about the company and whether or not they are the right fit for you. Even if you truly don't have any questions, it's a good idea to come prepared with at least one. Not only does it look good but it tells the recruiters that you are interested in becoming apart of their brand and company. Two questions I commonly ask are (and this depends on the company if they have multiple locations, etc): "I truly love traveling. I notice that your company has multiple locations across the globe. If an employee wants the potential to travel, how is that done or how easily would one be able to travel through ______ company?" and "I am truly passionate about getting involved with the surrounding community. *I go into my experience and involvement with community service*. How does your company value community service or do you have any organized events to benefit a certain cause?". These are two questions that bring genuine interest to me. I am passionate about getting involved with the community and I do truly enjoy travel so I would want to know how I can use these things to my career advantage.

How to properly present yourself:

  • Sit up straight! Believe it or not, recruiters pay attention to things like this.

  • Try to avoid using words like "like" and "cool" and replace them with words like "for example" and "interesting". This may seem unnatural, but it will come with time and practice.

  • If you cannot think of a response to a question, it is OK to ask the recruiter "excuse me while I think of the proper response to this question". If they are a normal company (yes some are crazy) and understand that you are a human, they will understand. Recruiters actually prefer when you think about questions that you stumble on versus rushing through and making up an answer. Waiting around 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes is a good amount of time.

  • Make sure your phone is turned off! You do not want to be the applicant who awkwardly has to turn their phone off because their morning alarm was accidentally set to P.M.

How to dress for the fair and in-person/ skype interviews:

For Purdue's career fair, I decided to keep it very traditional and wore neutral/ dark colors. J.Crew is one of my favorite places for business formal apparel but places like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and Express are good options. Personally, a cigarette length and fit is most flattering on me. I think a baggy pant shows sloppiness and unprofessionalism (and trust me, around 80% of your fellow students will be wearing a misfitted suit). If you do decide to go with a skirt or dress, make sure it is of appropriate length. 3 inches above the knee is a good length. My exact outfit I wore: these pants, this top, this blazer, and these loafers. Loafers are a fresh alternative to heels or flats. The amount of standing that goes on during a career fair or an interview can be painful, stay trendy and comfy with a pair of loafers!

When I personally interviewed with The Breakers, I actually wore a navy blazer with a blue dress and pink flowers. It was a shift dress, so nothing form fitting. Don't be afraid to add some color to your formal business attire, it will help you stand out from everyone else. I knew that The Breakers was known for their Lily Pulitzer and easy-going Floridian look, this is why I did decide to go with a brighter print. Assess the situation and see how formal you would want to dress. If you are interviewing with a luxury brand like Four Seasons, stick with typical business wear. Since I was trying to show my interest in the brand and their culture, I decided to dress more Floridian. This dress, for example, is still formal but shows a little more creativity and style.

My final steps before excepting my offer:

After I interviewed with The Breakers, I was told I would be hearing from a recruiter in a couple of weeks informing me if I have moved through or have not been offered an intern position for the summer. I continued onto the final steps, interviewing with two other sets of people via Skype, and then was giving my internship offer. If a company wants your decision right way and you do not have a solid answer for them at that point, it is ok to ask for some time to consider the offer. I did that and they gave me around 2 weeks. It allowed me time to consider the pros and cons of this internship along with breaking down housing and travel expenses. I was lucky enough to have had a place to stay over the summer do my next steps were to bring my car down and start the next chapter!

After you accept your offer:

After you score your dream internship, it is important to stay in touch with your recruiters. Depending on the company you will be working with, they may have already set you up with your department head or manager you will be working underneath. Make sure to introduce yourself with a short email, giving them your contact information as well. They will more than likely be in contact with your over the next several months regarding housing, uniform, etc. I guarantee that you will think of questions as the weeks' pass; it is important to have your recruiters information to ask those questions! They will most likely be willing to answer them and be happy that you are taking your time to get to know the company a little bit more.

Important tips to consider before making the move:

  • Is this internship paid? Almost all internships nowadays will be paid but this is important to know before excepting the offer and making the move.

  • Is housing provided or will I have to find my own? Housing was not provided for my at The Breakers, and it is rare that it is. I was lucky to have stayed at my families condo 30 minutes north but it is vital to see if you will be able to afford to live in the area where the internship is.

  • Will the company pay for any travel expenses? The Breakers did not reimburse me for any expense I had while traveling down to Florida from the Midwest (aka hotels, gas, snacks). Some companies may give you a set amount of money (normally around $1,000 - $3,000) to help alleviate some of the financial burdens. If you are curious about this, just ask! The worse they can say is that they do not provide such a service. Personally, I haven't seen this done with too many companies for an internship at least.

  • What other opportunities will I have to shadow other departments within the company? One of the main reasons why I was so interested with The Breakers LEAD program was because of the multiple opportunities I would be receiving shadowing other departments in the hotel. Going into hospitality, I knew I wanted to work "behind the scenes" of operations. For that reason, I shadowed Sales & Marketing along with Retail. From those experiences I had in both departments, I was able to confirm the direct I wanted to move once I graduate from Purdue.

My advice:

  • My biggest piece of advice while looking for an internship or job is to be open and understanding. Although you may want to work with a certain company, they may not hire you because they do not see a good fit. Don't let those rejections get you down because you can always utilize them as a learning lesson.

  • Look at smaller companies that other students may not give as much attention to. Those companies could lead you to amazing places, and often times at a faster pace.

  • NETWORK. This is drilled into every college students head but I learned its' importance this past summer and this fall. Since I stayed in touch with the team at The Breakers, I was able to host them at Purdue's 2017 career fair that took place a couple of days ago. From that connection, I am not able to confidently look at The Breakers as a future place of employment.

  • Be confident and don't stress too much. Moving away from home for the summer may seem scary but you will make friends and the connections will be unmatched to any other experience. If moving away from home is not an option, try to find a place close to home (if available). Either way, it will be an experience of a lifetime!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via Instagram, email or comment!

XO. Natalie

Image courtesy of The Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach.