Spring Break in Cancun vs. Interviewing for your Summer Internship

A no-brainer you say? Well let’s see college students. Maybe you can do both. It takes quite a bit of planning, but here’s how our current students are making it happen. We started taking calls and emails beginning in November, getting to know all of you from Emory, Vanderbilt, Boston University and even Seoul, South Korea.

You sent us your resumes- some great, some not so great. We started from scratch for some of you and polished them up for others. Next we sent them out to our contacts for summer internships in Boston, New York City, Austin and set up interviews for you in March. It’s amazing to me the far flung places you go for Spring break, but at least for those of you who were nice enough to squeeze in a few days to come back home to visit your parents (or high school buddies), you’ll know that you’ve got a jump start on your internship search.

Don’t forget to pack that suntan lotion!

5 Simple Steps To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation

Perhaps you’ve completed a summer internship and are easing back into the school year. You’re suddenly struck with the realization that you haven’t yet asked for a letter of recommendation from the organization you interned with.  A letter is key—you’ll need it for college or job applications. It’s crucial “proof” of your experience reinforcing your resume.

It’s not too late to solicit that letter of recommendation. Follow these five easy steps to gracefully and effectively land a well-crafted one.

How to Get a Letter of Recommendation:

(1) Acknowledge how busy your supervisor is. The last image you want to project is one of self-absorbed entitlement; this person is taking time out of his or her busy day to do you an important favor, so acknowledge that generosity. At the same time, somebody taking on interns is obligated to provide letters of recommendation, so don’t be bashful about your request.

In short, be assertive—but not presumptuous.

(2) Offer options. Make it easy for the person to get the letter into your hands. If you’re still interning, ask for it well in advance so you can carry it home on your last day—about as easy for all involved as can be. Include your mailing address in your request no matter what to be safe.

(3) Ensure the letter of recommendation looks legitimate: Request that your supervisor print it on company letterhead. Also, ask that the letter be addressed “To Whom It May Concern:” so that it’s applicable in whatever situation you need it—applying for schools, jobs, or internships.

(4) Make sure academic interests are emphasized. You don’t want to suggest you were simply running around making copies as an intern, but instead forging practical workplace and problem-solving skills. Ask your supervisor to highlight the relevance of your internship duties to academic interests.

(5) Ask for a story. Encourage your supervisor to incorporate anecdotes that demonstrate your personality and abilities. This is partly to make the letter enjoyable to read; it’s also about humanizing yourself. Your letter should demonstrate you’re a real person with unique attributes—someone really worth hiring or accepting into a program.

Follow these straightforward tips, and you can feel more confident that a genuine, encouraging letter of recommendation is in the hands of people you’re trying to impress.

Photo credit: losmininos

Should you Include High School Activities on your College Resume?

Continuing our series on resume writing, college students often ask us if they should include their high school experiences on a college resume.

Staff members at college career centers will often tell students that once in college, you should never list high school activities on a resume. However, from our perspective, most college freshman and even sophomores really don’t have enough college experiences that would reveal enough to a potential employer.

Plus, students should really be focusing on academics for the first year! Therefore, we suggest a combination resume that lists college activities first and relevant high school activities second. As the student gains more experience each year, high school activities can be pared down or eliminated.


6 Tips When Asking for a Letter of Recommendation


Colleges are interested in students who seek out experiences related to their academic interests and talents. Most colleges accept up to three letters of recommendation- from a teacher, guidance counselor and one additional letter from another adult such as a coach. Including a letter from a workplace mentor shows that the student has sought out this type of experience and has excelled.

In our school-to-career program, we help students as they ask their mentors for these letters. Whether on a job or internship, asking for a letter of recommendation is one of the most stressful, but important tasks. Students in our program tell us that they use their letters for many years to come, as they apply for jobs and internships in college.

Asking for a Letter of Recommendation….Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Ask your immediate supervisor, the person who you are working directly under.

2. Don’t wait until the end of your internship. Two weeks before your end date would give your mentor enough time.

3. Ask if you could possibly get the letter on your last day but have a stamped, self-addressed envelope ready to give them in case they need more time.

4. Hand them a written request. This will make it much easier for your mentor.

Your written request should look something like this

I have learned so much working here. If possible, I would appreciate a letter of recommendation on your company letterhead for my files. I will be using this letter for college and work applications.

My email is:
My mailing address is:

I would appreciate a hard, signed copy as well as a digital signed copy.

It should be addressed as: To Whom It may Concern

Since colleges are particularly interested in my academic interests, I have described them below. If possible, I wondered if you might mention them and how they related to the internship.

 My academic interests are:

I have also bulleted a list of tasks and activities that I participated in on this job:

Thank you for taking the time to mentor me on my internship.

-Your name

5. Don’t pester your mentor if you haven’t received the letter. Wait 1 month and only ask them one more time.

6. After you receive your letter of recommendation, send a hand-written thank you note.



Pragmatic Tips for Parents: Internship Connection Interview with Boston Tech Mom

“My son is great in math. He may be interested in engineering but is not sure if he should apply to a liberal arts college or engineering school.”

Getting exposure in high school to a field the student may be interested in gives them the chance to “try on” a career. They will absorb the work culture, understand what the day-to-day experience is like and the types of projects people work on. Often the experience confirms a career interest but sometimes the student realizes that field is not right for them. It’s certainly better to discover this early on. These days too many students lose time and money by changing their college majors mid- course.
Continue reading “Pragmatic Tips for Parents: Internship Connection Interview with Boston Tech Mom”

High School Resume Guidance For Upward Bound Students

December/January is the time of year students should be thinking about summer jobs and internships. Creating a high school resume is the first step necessary before reaching out to a potential place of work.

We recommend that students create a 1-page resume, listing only their most important activities and experiences. The rule of thumb for resumes is 1 page per 10 years of experience.

Your Format should be Chronological and use Action Verbs.

* The sections for athletics and honors can be omitted if not applicable.

When describing degree of expertise in language:

For Basic knowledge, use the term: “Working knowledge of Mandarin”

Higher level, use the term “proficient in Spanish”

Most advanced would be “fluent” in French”

Now you are ready to apply!

Once you create a resume, you should update it every year, putting your most recent experiences first. Not only will you have a resume on hand as positions come up but you will have one ready to go for your college applications.

5 Tips To Help You Think About Your Career

As early as sophomore year in college, students are expected to choose a college major, but without workplace exposure, how is a student really able to make that determination?

Too many college students switch their majors, mainly because they haven’t gained the career exposure necessary to make a career decision. Participating in a summer internship is one of the best ways for a high school or college student to “try on a career,” gain work experience in the field of their choice and walk away with a solid letter of recommendation.

An internship can either confirm a career interest or lead the student in a new direction, saving valuable time and money. Often an internship is the first step in building a resume, offers the opportunity for networking, and provides the student with confidence and life-skills for the future.

Identify an initial career interest, then gain career exposure through an internship related to that interest.

1. Think about a subject in school that interests you.

Perhaps you have several interests that could be combined in an internship. If you like to write and you also enjoy music, the communications department of a symphony orchestra would be one place to begin. If you are interested in the environment but also business, you might think about a green technology start-up.

2. Do you spend time on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter?

These days students are versed in social networking and employers simply don’t have time to dedicate to these important tasks. If you a decent writer you could even work on a company’s blog.

3. Do you have a particular talent?

An internship would provide an opportunity for you to understand how that talent could be applied to the workplace. For example, artistic ability is sorely needed for every organization in terms of web design, marketing materials and photography. If you enjoy acting, interning behind the scenes for a theater company would be great exposure.

4. Computer skills are sought out by every business.

If you are familiar with Power Point, Excel or basic programming, your skills would be highly valued in the workplace.

5. Has a travel experience inspired you?

Perhaps you participated in a travel program or school field trip that inspired you. Community Service work can be parlayed into an internship. For example, previous experience with Habitat for Humanity abroad could be applied to organizations in your own city. A field trip to Washington, DC could be inspiration for a government internship in your own city or state.

Whatever your initial thoughts are related to a potential career, early and successive internships will help you decide on what career is best for you.


What To Wear: Fashion Dos And Don’ts For Your Summer Internship

Dear students,

Many of you have asked me about how to dress professionally for work and my suggestion is to dress as professionally as possible, especially for the first day. Once you begin, you will be able to pick up clues from your co-workers. That being said, if someone is wearing flip flops, a top with their midriff showing, or torn jeans, that does not mean that you should too!

I have had several interns at a fantastic company called Wayfair where business casual is welcomed. The Director of Recruitment once told me that as the summer goes on, they notice that some of their full time employees’ mode of dress tends to get more and more casual (inappropriate shorts, T-shirts and flip flops) He mentioned that the executives in the company take note of this and not in a good way.

For some of you working in a start-up environment, you may pick up cues from your office mates. Startup workplaces may be much more casual.

Summer attire Dos and Don’ts

Experts offer the following guidelines for business casual dress:


– Khakis
– Dark dress jeans may be ok but consult with your mentor.
– Low heeled shoes. Sandals are fine but not flip-flops.
– Polo shirts
– Tailored jackets
– Blouses
– Skirts, not too short.
– Sundresses are OK but wear with a cardigan sweater


– Flip-flops
– Shorts
– Wrinkled clothing
– Clothes that are too tight, too loose or low cut.
– Torn jeans

15 Guidelines For Interns To Achieve Professionalism In The Workplace

Here are 15 helpful guidelines for interns who want to achieve high levels of professionalism in the workplace:

1. Most important- Always be on time! In an emergency, call if late.

2. Dress in a professional manner.

• Ask your mentor what’s appropriate for the office.

3. Develop a good relationship with your Mentor:

• Make sure you understand his/her expectations.

• Keep your mentor up-to-date on the projects you’re involved in.

• Follow-up on your mentor’s requests right away.

• Be willing to take on new (and sometimes dull) responsibilities.

• Distinguish between problems that require your mentor’s attention and those that you might handle alone.

• Don’t take things too personally- do your best to think positively.

4. Develop a good relationship with co-workers:

• Be friendly.

• Don’t speak critically of others or the company policies.

• Be a good listener.

• Know where you fit in the hierarchy-this effects how you deal with others.

• Develop a team mentality:

Take the initiative, but don’t over-step your bounds.

• Complete assignments on time.

• Ask if there’s anything else you can do.

5. Arrange to receive a schedule, if applicable, to learn what meetings to attend, what information you should have in advance, what role you should play, etc.

6. Speak up! Don’t be afraid to make suggestions and ask questions. Your mentor is a busy person and will want you to take as much initiative as possible in establishing a good working relationship.

7. Get to know your mentor’s secretary/assistant. She/he can be very helpful.

8. Try to learn as much as you can about your work environment. With permission, move around to other offices; try to meet other key people to learn what they do, etc.

9. Let someone in the office know where you are at all times: where you are going, where you can be reached by telephone, when you will be back.

10. Plan to spend the first two weeks getting to know your mentor, the staff and the company. Ask your mentor if there might be a special project that you might work on. This will help you to establish your own activities at the workplace.

11. Take notes about everything. Notes provide a good record about what you should be doing at work and will be a handy reference for journal entries and later on your college application essays.

12. See if you can establish a meeting time with your mentor on a weekly basis when you can discuss questions you have written down, what you’re learning, plans for the future, etc. You may have to take the initiative in this regard, but it’s very important that they get to know you as an individual.

13. Be a volunteer. Think of additional ways that you can increase your value and learn more about the office. For example, you might volunteer to follow-up on phone calls and or correspondence.

14. When calling other offices, emphasize the name of the Mentor rather than your own name. Example: “This is Commissioner John Smith’s office calling, and my name is Joe Johnson.” You will get faster results this way.

15. Finally, at the end of your internship, send a hand written thank you note to your mentor.

Many of our students keep in touch with their mentors for years to come.

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