Standing Out in a Crowd
Internships make a difference
By Mike Lillich
Soon after Rawls Hall came online in 2003, a huge banner on the second floor declared: “Our coffee is strong. So is our work ethic.” No surprise there. Krannert graduates have earned a reputation among corporate recruiters as bringing to the job not just workplace skills but also an eagerness to do what’s necessary to get the job done.
This midwestern value comes partly from the kind of people who are attracted to Purdue and Krannert. But internships are equally embedded in the Krannert culture and contribute to graduates’ success as well as the school’s reputation.
Ryan Watson, BSIM ’06, recalls that as a freshman there was a lot of encouragement to attend the spring semester job fair and look for a summer internship. “The idea of internships was drilled into us early at Krannert, but that first year I went dressed business casual,” she says. “I didn’t have a resume. I looked around and saw all these other people who were so much more prepared. My sophomore year, I was ready.”
That summer, she was an intern for General Motors in Moraine, Ohio. After her junior year, she put her minor in industrial engineering to work as a supply-chain intern for Nabisco in Cincinnati. She reports that big company internships generally pay about $2,500 a month. Some come with inexpensive or free housing.
Alfredo Azpurua, BSM ’06, traveled a somewhat different path. When no paid internships appeared after his sophomore year, he found an unpaid internship in technology and entrepreneurial studies at the Americas Community Center in Miami, Florida. He completed paid internships in information technology and marketing for Caterpillar in Peoria, Illinois, in the summers following his junior and senior years.
“Internships are a difference maker,” Azpurua says. “If your classmates — here at Purdue and at other top schools like Michigan, MIT, and Harvard — have essentially the same course work, you have to differentiate yourself. Internships are one of the best ways to do that.”
Steve Richardson, BSM ’06, got his internship career started with the Chicago affiliate of INROADS, a minority student placement organization that provides workshops, classes, and counseling for high-potential students. Richardson did summer internships with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Northern Trust, both in Chicago. Then he traveled last summer to Shreveport, Louisiana, to intern with General Motors.
“I’m from the Chicago area, so I had to get used to laid-back Shreveport,” Richardson says. “It was a whole lot different than the fast pace at the Northern Trust. What I learned was that I had to adapt to get the job done.” He also learned something that he’s now passing on to the undergraduates as president of the Society of Minority Managers.
“I encourage younger students to go out and get internships,” Richardson says. “Anybody can say they’re a hard worker or a leader. Internships are the difference between showing and telling. The students I talk to are very aware of the value of an internship. They see that it helped me get the job I wanted with Procter & Gamble, so they know I’m not just talking.”
Richardson’s classmates are also walking the walk. Watson took a job with Target Distribution in Indianapolis, while Azpurua will work as a business analyst for the Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina. Watson puts it most succinctly: “Internships work.”
Working for students
The two main resources for Krannert students looking for internships are Krannert’s Undergraduate Career Services office and Purdue’s Center for Career Opportunities. Kay Henry, who was coordinator of the Krannert office for 10 years until her retirement in January, says internship indoctrination starts early.
“Internships aren’t required, but they are highly recommended,” she says. “We start talking to freshmen about them before they even get to school. But early on we change the terms, not talking about ‘internships’ because people tend to think interns are near graduation.
“Instead, we talk about ‘experience’ and ‘leadership.’ McDonald’s can be a great job if students look at it in the right way. If you’re the crew chief, you’re a manager. You have to make sure everyone’s there on time. You have to motivate. You have to lead. It’s the same thing with a camp counselor job.
“We get the students to look at those jobs differently in terms of attitude and learning things they can apply in the future. The bottom line is that it’s up to them make sure their work experience meaningful. We give the students some tools to accomplish that.”
Erik Props, who succeeded Henry in the Krannert career services office, brings the same broad view of internships to the table.
“Internships give our students the opportunity to bring the classroom into the workplace and the workplace into the classroom,” Props says. “It’s also a chance for students to find out what they like — and, just as important, what they don’t. Part of the sorting out process for students is finding their passion.”
When they’re juniors, the students take a one-hour class, Management 301, which uses guest lecturers who talk about corporate culture, etiquette, mentoring, matching management styles to personalities, and other issues. Props says that you could just as easily call the class, “How to Get an Internship or Job.”
Patricia Garrott, associate director of the Center for Career Opportunities, starts early, too. “The goal for freshmen is to develop transferable skills — and not necessarily technical skills,” Garrott says. “We talk to them about communication and organizational skills, about working in teams and solving problems.”
Many undergraduates find internships through career services' spring and fall job fairs. Hosted by the School of Management Employers Forum student committee, the three-day events also include company presentations, networking opportunities, and interviews.
Garrott and Props say that about 70 percent of Krannert undergrads graduate with at least one meaningful internship experience. Students also volunteer as ambassadors for the Krannert career services office and the Center for Career Opportunities and run seminars, workshops, and mock interviews for younger students. And they organize and help host career fairs in the fall and spring.
Fall fairs tend to focus more on full-time jobs, spring fairs on internships. There were more than 100 companies at last fall’s fair and more than 80 at the spring fair.Employers can post internship openings at both the Krannert career services office and at the Center for Career Opportunities. Next fall, the two listings will merge.
Mastering the business world
While internships get undergraduates into the game, they represent the major leagues for master’s students. At the graduate level, procuring an internship is “almost exactly like” getting a full-time job, says Sally Luzader, associate director, employment development, at Krannert Graduate Career Services (GCS).
More than 80 percent of Krannert MBA and MSHRM students complete internships, generally in the summer between their first and second years. Although internships with large, established companies average $4,500 to $5,000 per month, GCS advises students not to negotiate salaries.
“We also tell students not to rule internships in or out based on salary,” Luzader says. “The bottom line here is that it’s a good internship experience where the students have a chance to learn about themselves, an industry, and a company.”
Beyond those graduate business school generalities, there is a great deal of diversity based on the experience and career goals of internship seekers, economic conditions, and industry trends.
“For a master’s student right out of undergraduate school or with limited work experience, an internship is absolutely critical,” Luzader says, noting that employers want grads with studies enriched by workplace experience.
It’s a different ballgame for students who return to school with three to four years’ experience and the goal of changing fields or employers. A student who has worked for a large automobile manufacturer and wants to pursue an MBA with a concentration in finance, for example, needs to learn about the field — not only in the classroom, but also in a very different kind of workplace.
“For this student, the internship is very important for testing that work situation to find out if it is what he or she thinks it is,” Luzader says.
Then, there are students who want to work for small, entrepreneurial companies. Relevant internships for them generally won’t match Fortune 500 companies in terms of salary, but there may be other considerations. Sometimes companies provide housing, mileage, air travel relocation expenses, or even a lump-sum payment. “It all comes down to what the student and the company agree to,” Luzader says.
Since the economic slowdown after the dot.com bust, companies have become more careful in general, and that has extended to internships. “As the economy has picked up in the last two or three years, we’ve tended to have a larger number and broader range of companies hiring a smaller number of students,” Luzader says. “That’s not all bad, and we’ve gotten a more diversified group of companies contacting us.”
On the front lines
Jessica Dean, MSHRM ’05, did a summer internship in human relations with Emmis Communications in Indianapolis, working with a sophisticated benefit system that allowed employees to login and update their information online.
“It was a good situation,” says Dean, who now works at Dell in Round Rock, Texas. “I had the opportunity to be autonomous and create proposals that I submitted for review and presented first to my supervisor and then to the human resources vice president.”
When she returned to West Lafayette for her second year master’s degree studies, she worked in human resources at Arnett Clinic, a large, local health-care provider. She looks back on her experiences as a career boost. “By getting experience and learning as much as I could, I showed initiative and motivation,” she says. “I had the opportunity to apply my course knowledge, and that really sticks and helps it make more sense.”
Brian Hoover, MBA ’03, completed an internship in the Owens Corning Leadership Development Program in the summer 2002. “My project was to build a theoretical cost model for the composites division — to validate and rebuild a theoretical cost model for the lowest production cost of composite products,” he says.
Hoover didn’t come from an engineering-manufacturing background, so had to get up to speed quickly because he had to present his solution in less than three months.
“It was a good project-based internship that required I use both quantitative and
strategic approaches,” he says. “Then, I had to pitch my ideas as if I were a consultant.”
Because Owens Corning is a large company, Hoover says his internship was “multifunctional,” encompassing manufacturing, finance, and marketing intelligence. The experience also gave him direction. “It helped me decide that business-to-business marketing was the direction I wanted to go.”
Hoover, who currently works in strategic marketing for GE Commercial Finance in Chicago, now returns to Krannert as part of GE’s corporate recruiting team.
Opening the door
Graduate Career Service’s Luzader says she can’t stress enough how important it is that alumni speak up for Krannert and Purdue at their companies. “It often takes an intern or an employee to get the ball rolling at a company,” she says. “Our students and graduates are our best advertisements when they do well. They’re also our best foot in the door.”
Krannert alumni often return to campus in the fall to recruit for their employers at the master's job fair. First-year students use the event to pursue internship opportunities, while second-year students focus on fi nding full-time employment after graduation. (Purdue Digital Imaging photo by John Underwood)
Luzader says alumni are sometimes the only link to internships. “Many companies use an internal referral system in deciding where to recruit,” she says. “At Goldman Sachs, for example, referrals have to come through alumni.”
Staying involved is not only a good thing to do, it’s also a way for alumni to track where Krannert professors are heading in their research and teaching as well as what the next generation of graduates is thinking.
And in a place known for its strong coffee and work ethic, maintaining a close watch is key because changes can come from any direction.
For more information on internship opportunities with Krannert students:
|Career Services Center
Erik Props, Coordinator
Phone: (765) 494-1688
Fax: (765) 496-1479
|Graduate Career Services
Alan D. Ferrell, Director
Phone: (765) 494-4377
Fax: (765) 496-6385