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Persistence + Networking = Internship

Myth: You can only land a summer internship if you interview through On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) or search on Handshake.

Fact: If you develop contacts early in your college career and use the right tools, you can get the job you want.

Meet Adriana Valdez, a sophomore and Latino Business Student Association (LBSA) officer, who plans to apply to Haas in the Fall and double major in Mass Communications. She has networked her way into a paid internship at Robinsons-May for this summer and set the stage for a possible internship next summer at Macy's.

Adriana's first job was in a retail store the summer before her senior year in high school. She thrived on the customer interaction and found the marketing aspect of the industry exciting. During her freshman year at Cal, she discovered that Robinsons-May recruited interns through INROADS, a nonprofit organization that places talented young people of color in business and industry. She applied and was offered an internship, but, due to logistical problems, was unable to travel to Southern California to participate.

However, knowing that she wanted to work in the retail industry, Adriana found a summer job at Nordstrom in the Bay Area. She also took the initiative and searched the web for internships and discovered that Macy's offered a summer program.


Career Center (CC): How did you apply for the Macy's summer internship?

Adriana Valdez (AV): I knew that Macy's would be represented at the Cal Diversity Fair because LBSA co-sponsors the event. I contacted a friend in LBSA who is a Cal Alum and works for Macy's, and she gave me the name of the recruiter who would be attending the fair. I wrote a special cover letter, updated my resume, and approached the recruiter as soon as the doors opened on the day of the fair. She told me to submit my resume through the on-campus recruiting system, but I couldn't because only juniors and seniors were eligible, so I contacted her directly and we set up an interview in the San Francisco office. I wrote a thank you letter and followed up with a phone call to inquire about my status. After about a month I got a response that the interviewer wanted to offer me the internship but that they only accept juniors and seniors. She wanted to maintain a relationship with me and encouraged me to re-apply next Spring when I'm a junior. Apparently, I was the only sophomore they considered for the program!


CC: How did you re-connect with Robinsons-May?

AV: I talked to a recruiter at the Diversity Fair, gave him my business card and resume, and explained that I had interviewed with the organization through INROADS when I was a freshman. A few weeks later Robinsons-May sponsored LBSA's pizza social. I networked with Cal alumni there and found out that they were conducting full-time interviews at the Career Center the following week. I went to the Career Center to speak with the recruiter and soon thereafter had scheduled an interview in Southern California during Spring Break. I followed-up with a thank you letter; within 2 weeks I received and accepted the job offer.


CC: Which Career Center services helped you in your job search?

AV: Career fairs are a great resource just to find out which types of employers are looking for interns and to have the opportunity to network with recruiters. You may come across a company that you thought you'd never want to work for and discover the company culture matches your values. The Job Search Guide helped me a lot with writing my resume and cover letter and provided useful information on how to interview as well as what to do after an interview. It's a great compilation of sample resumes/cover letters and recruiting tips.


CC: What advice do you have for freshmen and sophomores?

  • Get involved in student organizations. If you're interested in finance, join the finance club. If you're interested in working for nonprofits, join a nonprofit club. Being involved in a student organization is what distinguishes you from other students when you are looking for employment; it shows that you have initiative and that you are a leader. Other benefits include the opportunity to network with alumni and employers and to find out before most students about different career-related events like workshops and fairs.
  • The more experience you have on your resume or the longer you stay within a company helps you that much more when you are recruiting for full-time employment.
  • Finally, don't forget to take advantage of the Career Center!

CC: What are your short and long term career goals?

AV: I plan to use my contacts at Macy's to interview for their summer internship program next year when I'm a junior. After graduation, I want to start out as a buyer and eventually go into marketing and advertising. I may open my own boutique or small retail store.