While 2020 didn't go as expected and felt like there was little to no normality in our daily routines, we were all trying to find ways to have experiences from afar. Last year I had the opportunity to participate in the first-ever virtual Intern for a Day (IFAD) Lite program. Through the University of Maryland Career Center, I was partnered with an alumni working in the field that I am interested in exploring after college. I did not have much of an expectation going into the process because this had never been done before; however, I can confidently say that my experience was beneficial and engaging. I can also say that it was much more fun than any homework assignments I had this past semester.
One thing that made the process so enjoyable was its simplicity. I registered for IFAD Lite on the University Career Center's website and then was added to the event via my elms account. Although this wasn't a class, it was nice having it on elms because I could see everything that I had to do before my interview. After the University Career Center team placed me into the "class," I had to watch a few quick videos and take a couple of quizzes to make sure I understood the programs' process. But don't worry because the quizzes aren't graded.
In past years, the Intern for a Day program would allow you to visit your company of interest, where you would spend the day learning what a full internship would look like at that company. This obviously couldn't happen due to Covid-19, but the University Career Center was able to put together a great alternative, an informational interview. Each student was asked to create a list of preferable alumni to talk to from the selection of participating alumni, positions, and organizations. After we listed our top choices, we were matched with the individual we would be conducting the information interview with. I was lucky and received my number one pick, which was ViacomCBS!
Three Major Takeaways from Intern for a Day Lite:
It was worth it!
While there were a couple of "assignments" I had to do before my informational interview, my experience's positives greatly outweighed that initial time requirement. All the modules and "quizzes" took less than a total of 20 minutes. Just don't procrastinate on them; open up that computer and get it done ASAP! If you're worried about the time commitment because you have a lot of work, don't. The whole process took probably about an hour and a half, and I believe I walked away with extremely valuable information that I can take with me throughout my career. The most challenging part for a student is taking the first step to sign up for these activities. Honestly, once you're signed up, everything is pretty much done for you. I really can't stress enough how much I got out of it compared to how much initial work I had to put in.
I was lucky enough to secure an interview with the company I wanted, Viacom CBS, which specializes in the entertainment and media industry. While I did get to rank companies I wanted to talk to, I had no idea who I would be interviewing. At first, I was kind of nervous because zoom calls are always a little awkward, especially one-on-ones, but as soon as I started talking with my matched alumna, I was extremely comfortable. I can easily say it is much better than your in-class breakout rooms. The alumna was curious about my interests, my hobbies, and who I am as a person. We also had many things in common. Whether it was about the social life on campus or UMD sports, there was never a shortage of talking points. The best part about it was that it wasn't just a Q&A. The alumna was able to describe what she did for her company while taking an interest in what I enjoyed. It was clear to me that she was extremely passionate about what she does, and those passions made me more excited to learn about the industry. Throughout the interview, she gave me information about her company's opportunities, and afterward, we connected on LinkedIn. I'm going to keep that connection for the rest of my life, and I know I can reach out to her if I have any more questions. Go into the process with an open mind, and don't expect anything other than information. After that, the benefits will come.
Keep up with it
You don't need the University Career Center to conduct an informational interview. While the University Career Center did help streamline the process, you have the complete ability to plan an informational interview yourself. That was the purpose of the pre-interview assignments! If anything, companies will think highly of you if you have enough initiative to reach out and plan it yourself. As students, we have a lot on our plates, but an informational interview is a great way to make quick connections and learn about what life may be like after college. However, don't view it as a one-time thing; take it as a lesson and apply what you have learned to develop your own connections. The ability to communicate well is the most sought out skill that recruiters look for nowadays because so many people lack it. Communication is just like any other skill; the more you practice, the better you will become at it.By Ethan Redmond | UCC Marketing & Events Student Assistant