Internships: One Step Closer to a Dream Job

by Sharyn Kopf

With unemployment still hovering above nine percent as of August 2010, job hunters need all the help they can get in this tough market. Cedarville University’s Career Services understands this, which is why they emphasize how important it is for students to take steps to make their search easier. A key way to do that is to pursue an internship.

Just ask Becca. Realizing her future might depend on it, she grabbed her first internship during the summer after her freshman year. In fact, she didn’t just have one internship while a Cedarville student — she had four. Two were with Accenture, a global technical consulting and outsourcing firm, where she now works full time.

For Becca, it was the practical application of her education that truly prepared her for the work world. And it all started when she accepted a marketing and business development position with a real estate advertising company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the summer between her freshman and sophomore year. While interning there, she analyzed competitor ads from around the country and made recommendations to management regarding how they could be more competitive.

“It was a good entry into the business world,” Becca said, “and it gave me experience working with management. I gained important base skills that will help me succeed in future positions.”

When she returned to Cedarville that fall, the finance and accounting courses focused on developing her business abilities. She studied hard and got involved in organizations like Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). That year, a Cedarville grad working at Accenture reached out to career services at Cedarville to find interns, and Becca heard about it. After a rigorous interview process that included two phone interviews and an in-person conversation with four Accenture employees, she got the internship.

“I actually moved to D.C., rented an apartment, and lived there for the summer,” Becca commented. “I gained a lot of exposure to high-level leadership and saw how the company operated.”

In this instance, Becca’s work involved financial reporting and preparing for earning calls. She also developed key relationships, one of which led to a second internship with Accenture. In the summer after her junior year, she ended up in Chicago, working on their corporate transactions services team. During three weeks of training, Becca learned to create complex financial models for multi-million dollar consulting and outsourcing deals.

“I worked with high-level individuals from across the country,” she said. “After a successful summer, I was offered a full-time position with the same team at the Washington, D.C., office, to start right after graduation.”

After Becca’s junior year, she completed a study abroad/internship program with Reynolds and Reynolds, an automotive technology company based in Dayton, Ohio. Though the internship was in the United Kingdom, she also got to spend time in Switzerland, Italy, and France. This time, her job focused on the valuation of a small company Reynolds and Reynolds had recently acquired.

Becca learned about this opportunity from Dan Sterkenburg, associate professor of business at Cedarville. “He knew it would provide an opportunity to work in an international business setting,” she said. “It let me experience how businesses operated in other cultures, something I had always wanted to do.”

Once she returned to the United States, all Becca had to do was graduate from the University, pack up, and move to D.C., where she immediately started her job at Accenture. With two summers at the company behind her, she certainly did not feel like a new hire.

“I had an easy transition into the working world,” Becca said. “It felt comfortable, and my internship put me a step ahead of those who joined without that experience.”

For the first six months, she worked with pricing and costing federal, state, and local deals. Her next role involved creating financial models for commercial opportunities. This current position also includes traveling to several East Coast cities like New York and Philadelphia. Becca said she appreciates the chance to do something of value while contributing the skills she learned at Cedarville. Becca’s long-term goals include earning her M.B.A. and transitioning into a management role.

Ultimately, Becca believes one of the most important things she did at Cedarville to prepare herself for the work world was getting involved in extracurricular activities. From student leadership to SIFE to being on the Student Academic Advisory Board, she gained a broader understanding of how organizations work by taking advantage of these opportunities.

“I learned a lot in the classroom,” she said, “but the practical stuff — seeing how things played out outside of the classroom — enhanced my education and prepared me to succeed.”