Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer Internship Insights

This summer I held an internship at Allstate Insurance in the Integrated Marketing Communications department. Looking back on my experience at Allstate, I can hardly believe how much I learned, not only about marketing, but about professionalism and the business world in general. Here are a few tidbits I think may interest you:

See the Small Stuff

In a casual conversation with my manager, the subject of my interview for the internship came up. Within the discussion, I asked questions about interviews, what sets candidates apart, and even why I was selected. Her responses surprised me. According to my manager, although my resume, experience, and answers were good, the one thing that tipped the scale business card?

I had always taken having one for granted because Drake University requires their freshmen to get their own during their first semester. Apparently, it made quite an impact on my interviewers and most certainly helped me gain my summer internship position.

One item that seemed trivial to me - a business card - actually made the biggest difference.

Respect. Connect. Affect.

At the end of the internship program, the four Allstate IMC interns had the opportunity to eat breakfast and chat with Lisa Cochrane, the Vice President of Integrated Marketing Communications.

She shared with us what she believes to be the main difference between the departments that succeed and those that struggle not only in Allstate, but in any organization.

Her advice can be simplified down as such. When it comes to relationships in the workplace, you must follow these three words: Respect. Connect. Affect.

  1. Show your coworkers that you respect their values and ideas. Treating your coworkers as individuals, rather than as a unit, makes a huge difference in the work dynamic.

  2. Connect with your coworkers on a more personal level. Find something that you have in common such as running marathons or raising young kids can be a great starting point.

  3. Invest time and effort into your relationships at work. By doing so, you foster a sense of community and inclusiveness. When employees love not only what they do at work, but where and with whom they work, they are more likely to perform better and speak positively about the organization when they go home to their family and friends.

It's a Small World After All.

You have your family at home, your high school friends, your college buds, your coworkers, and so on and so forth. Do not for one second let yourself believe that these circles of people are not interconnected. All too often, people speak before taking into account the fact that their comments are not, by any means, confidential.

Do not burn bridges by speaking negatively of any coworker, past or present, because you never know where life will take you and where connections will pop up. In other words, follow the unforgettable words of Thumper: "If you can't say something nice...don't say nothing at all."

Saturday, March 28, 2009


"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Most Americans are familiar with the line from the Declaration of Independence, but how often do we take full advantage of those 'certain unalienable rights?' More specifically, the pursuit of Happiness.

You have the right to look for happiness. So...are you? Are you happy?

Author Willa Cather once wrote that "Happiness [is] to be dissolved into something completely great." I agree, and I urge you to find what makes you happy. What great thing - whether that be a place, a career, a hobby or an interest - makes you happy?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Promote Yourself

Yesterday, Drake University hosted a Spring Internship and Career Fair. Due to the hiring freezes, cutbacks and downsizing demanded by the economy, internships and jobs were scarce and fewer businesses attended the fair this year that in years past.

Clearly, the opportunities are significantly limited. So, what can students do to make the most of it? I know that stutters, blank stares, and “ums” a
re definitely out of the question when tryig to make a good first impression, but what if I want more than just a good first impression? What if I will not deem average as acceptable? What if I want to be remarkable?

There is no perfectly formulated solution for instant success just as there are no step-by-step instructions for life. In spite of this, I have acquired a few useful tools that I believe have given me a leg up in networking situations. The most prominent of which comes from Laura Allen, the cofounder of 15SecondPitch, a company that trains people how to sell themselves more effectively. Ms. Allen has undoubtedly found a way to make a remarkable first impression with a great personal pitch.


1. Who Are You?
Potential employers know nothing about you, yet. Here is your chance to tell them, clearly and briefly, exactly what you want them to know. Remember, it is the first thing they will hear about you and like it or not, first impressions stick.

2. What Can You Do?

What makes you better than the next candidate? This is your chance to 'wow' them and show off your accomplishments. Just make it brief and by all means, avoid sounding full of yourself. Confidence and cockiness elicit two very different responses.

3. Provide a Call to Action

This individual knows a little about who you are and w
hat you can do for their company, but the ball is still in your court. You must be clear about what you want from this interaction. Are you looking for an internship or a job interview or are you just looking to expand your network?

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Practice. Practice. Practice. you can practice for yoursel
f in a mirror, for a few good friends who will give you constructive critcism, or you can record your personal pitch and listen to how you really sound. It does not matter how you practice, as long as you take the time to actually do so.

Now that you have an effective personal pitch, wher
e should you use it?
  • When introducing yourself at career fairs
  • In response to "tell me about yourself" in your interviews
  • Networking events and when meeting with professionals