Paula Andrea Vargas (Viacom & The Beach Channel): Most people would tell you to keep an open mind. I completely agree, but if your gut is telling you to go in a specific direction, do it! The worst outcome is that you realize it is not for you. You leave with skills that can be applied elsewhere.
Rob Erskine (38 Studios): Just apply. If you interview and you don't get your first opportunity (like I did), don't give up. I was lucky that I had an adviser who was looking out for me, but I know that's not always the case. Do research on what you want to learn and what companies you really admire. Apply to them. If you don't get it, feel free to ask them why you didn't get it. Use it as an opportunity to improve your résumé or interview skills.
"Do research on what you want to learn and what companies you really admire."
Michael Weber (MGM Resorts International): My biggest tip for any application process is to be creative. Do whatever it takes to stand out. For the MGM internship, there were over 1,200 applicants for only 40 spots. I knew if I wanted to get noticed, I would have to put myself out there. My friend made a joke that I was “Mr. Hospitality,” so I ended up writing a rap called “Mr. Hospitality” to the tune of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song about how my life got “flipped, turned upside down” by the world of the hospitality industry. I ended up recording a video rapping the song with pictures and mentions of everything I had done that would make me the perfect candidate. I mailed the video in with a hard copy of my application and landed an interview!
Julie (Legends Hospitality-Yankee Stadium & AT&T Stadium): I would highly recommend two things. First, use your school’s services for practice interviews. It helped me tremendously practicing with different professors. Second, when students are applying to internships, they need to fully research the company before interviewing. When I found out I had an interview, I researched Legends for 48 hours before my interview. During the interview, she asked me specific questions that I would only know if I was diligent in my research. I will never forget her saying after the interview that I was the only one she interviewed that day who knew the different divisions of Legends.
Marquis Cooper (IRS): To be patient and open-minded. Many internships will not be as rigorous during the first few days or weeks, and in that time, you should try to take advantage of the learning opportunities before your workload grows and you are expected to perform more.
Julie (Legends Hospitality-Yankee Stadium & AT&T Stadium): Something I don’t think is said enough to students is your internship is for learning, and they don’t expect you to know everything. I also think students need to be told they can’t be scared to get their hands dirty. If your manager sees your taking initiative and not sitting back and watching, you will go far.
"The best advice I heard after I completed my internship was 'Make your boss fight for you.'"
Michael Weber (MGM Resorts International): The best advice I heard after I completed my internship was “Make your boss fight for you.” It was this idea that your boss should be fighting to keep you after your internship and that they would fight other companies to have you work for them. It’s that you should work so hard and make yourself so invaluable that they would pick you over anyone else. I still hear the quote in my head — “Would your boss fight for you?” — while at my current job, and it’s something that pushes me to work harder every day so that my bosses would fight to keep me.
Devin Rainone (Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., & Barnum Financial Group): I think timing is crucial. Obtaining an internship takes time and patience. The earlier you start applying, the better chances you’ll have at finding one. Also, the more experience you have, the more impressive you’ll look to potential employers when it's time to graduate.
Paula Andrea Vargas (The Beach Channel & Viacom): Ask questions — internships are learning experiences. If you are lucky enough, your managers/supervisors know that. From fear that maybe I didn't belong or I would annoy someone, I didn't ask as many questions. Like Why are we doing it this way? or How does this correlate to that? I just looked it up later or just went along with it. It is absolutely OK not to know everything. You still won't at the end of it, but you will know more than when you started. But most of all, and I use this mantra in everything: Have Fun!
Jennifer Lackey (Douglas County Sheriff’s Office & United States Postal Inspection Service): One of the biggest things I learned from my internships is how attitude affects your job. Some of the tasks the detectives and inspectors needed to do were not exciting or enjoyable, and sometimes they were completely disgusting. They would often joke around about not wanting to do it, but they always went into it with a positive outlook. It came down to why they were doing their job and who they were doing it for. You can be taught that in a classroom or read it in a book, but it’s something you only understand when you see it.
Devin Rainone (Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., & Barnum Financial Group): I learned the importance of not being scared or embarrassed to ask questions. The goal of participating in any internship is to soak up as much knowledge as you can in the short time you're there. You can’t obtain any knowledge unless you ask questions.
"I learned the importance of not being scared or embarrassed to ask questions."
Paula Andrea Vargas (Viacom & The Beach Channel): Work ethic. The term "work hard, play hard" never resonated more to me in anything I have worked on than this. But most of all, cheesy as it may sound, that this is exactly the industry I want to be in.
Rob Erskine (38 Studios): I learned how to work with other departments. I interfaced with so many different types of people that I don't think I would have gotten from any other experience. I hung out a lot with the analytics team; they gave me a newfound respect for data and measuring outcomes. I spent a lot of time with the customer service team and learned how the experiences we build impact real people. Being a professional means working with many different people who specialize in a multitude of fields.
Julie (Legends Hospitality-Yankee Stadium & AT&T Stadium): If I did not get the internship, I can say that I would not be where I am today and would not have had the amazing career in such a short period.
Rob Erskine (38 Studios): After 38 Studios folded, I was pretty much able to walk right into Hill Holliday (the same place that initially turned me down for an internship). I started as a midlevel creative technologist, developing websites, apps, and other digital experiences for brands like Dunkin' Donuts and Bank of America. The culture of a video game studio and an advertising agency are strangely similar. I was able to fit right in.
Marquis Cooper (IRS): The internship helped me identify some key concepts that have been tremendously helpful for me as an auditor, including preparing work papers and “Lead Sheets," bank reconciliations, and other analytical procedures. The internship also helped me develop communication skills for one-on-one settings, in that the way I interacted with some of the taxpayers I engaged with is the way I interact with clients now in my current role.
Michael Weber (MGM Resorts International): My internship with MGM Resorts International opened so many doors for my career. By having the word “internship” on my résumé and being from a company as respectable as MGM was a game changer when it came to talking with employers. I was taken seriously because it showed I had worked in the real world and for a reputable company. Because I had luxury hospitality experience, I was able to land a sales & marketing position at Terranea Resort |LA’s Oceanfront Resort| in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, prior to graduation. I know that my internship gave me the competitive edge I needed to obtain this job right out of college, and without it, I would not be working where I am today.
Headers courtesy of BuzzFeed.
Johnson & Wales University offers their students hands-on work experience at over 1,900 sites every year.
All interns interviewed were students of Johnson & Wales University