Create Your Own Internship

Still looking for that perfect summer internship but not really finding the “ right” internship in those guides and on-line postings? Maybe it’s time to look at this a little differently! You don’t need to find and internship that already exists— you can create one! As you may know, as many as 80% of all jobs are found through networking. That same approach can be helpful with the internship search—and it’s a great skill to develop.

So, how would this work in locating an internship?  Let’s say you are interested in an internship in marketing and public relations, but haven’t landed anything with the big New York firms. How might you connect with the PR world?

First. think about Burlington. We have some wonderful marketing and PR firms right here.  Even if they haven’t listed an internship this semester, they might be willing to consider someone to work on a particular project, if approached.  Every business has projects that they never have time to get to—you could help solve this problem.  Your process?  Use Catamount Job Link to identify some possible firms of interest and then talk with a career counselor, your faculty, and friends about how you might make a connection with them to see if they would consider an intern.  Dress rehearse how you will make a case for yourself as an intern.

Not planning to be in Burlington? Think about other networks that could help you with this same entrepreneurial process. You are really trying to “ sell” someone on the benefits of having an intern for the summer.  UVM’s alumni Career Connection can be a great resource for this networking –both in Vermont and all across the country. Career Counselors and faculty can provide additional resources.  Don’t neglect family, friends and even families of friends. Start building that network—it will serve you well in the search later.

Finally, be imaginative. Where else does PR and marketing happen? Who markets those summer events in the park? Who is doing the PR for that political candidate/ you are looking to gain experience and build skills. Think outside the box and you may think yourself into the best internship ever!

World of Work: Allie Tompkins '10, National Prison Project Intern for the ACLU Foundation

Allie Tompkins '10

Allie Tompkins ’10

National Prison Project Intern for the ACLU Foundation

Washington, DC

Major: Political Science/Global Studies

How would you describe what you do on a typical day?

As an intern, I come into the office 5 days a week for a half day. I answer letters from inmates writing the prison project for assistance, and I work with a paralegal to do research on policy and prison programs for the attorneys on staff at the National Prison Project.

What advice do you have for students searching for jobs or internships in your field?

Look for the jobs that really speak to what you are interested in. I applied to a ton of internships, but the two places I received offers from were the places I was most passionate about working at. I think this really stood out on my cover letter and during my interviews.

What motivates you to go to work every day for this organization?

Even though I’m an unpaid intern, I’m motivated to go to work every day because the ACLU puts into action what I was most passionate about learning at UVM, Constiutional Law. In our project, we represent prisoners and provide them with information. I think this is important because they are a truly underrepresented part of society and it requires a lot of viligance to make sure that their rights are being upheld in prison.

How did your time at UVM, both in and out of the classroom, prepare you for your position?

At UVM I became really interested in Constitutional Law, and the ACLU is one of the best places to gain experience in this field. During my interview the attorney I spoke with was very happy that I knew a lot about the federal courts appointment process, something that we spent a lot of time on in my Political Science senior seminar. Outside of the classroom at UVM, meeting so many critical thinkers and people who are willing to question the status quo and ask important questions has really influenced the way that I understand what I do at my internship and how I interact with the other people at my job.

What was your childhood dream job?

My childhood dream job was a Marine Biologist (wasn’t that everyone’s dream job at some point?), somewhere along the way I also wanted to be a doctor.

If you’re interested in seeing all our World of Work profiles, click here. If you are a UVM alumnus and would like to be featured, please contact us at If you are interested in contacting a featured alum, check out the Career Connection alumni database or contact us.

Communicating Professionally via Email

In today’s tech-savvy world, knowing how to communicate appropriately via e-mail is crucial to professional success.  E-mail is now the dominant form of communication in most careers, and you can make a great impression on potential employers, co-workers, and clients by following these tips:

  • Use an appropriate e-mail address.  In any job search or work-related e-mail, make sure to use your UVM e-mail address or another address with your name and/or numbers.  Save your “” address for personal communication only!
  • Make sure your e-mails have a clear subject line and greeting. Use the subject line to specify the purpose of the e-mail (for example, “Resume for the Business Analyst position” or “Question about travel to the April 20 client meeting”).  Also, begin each e-mail with a greeting geared toward your recipient.  If it is a formal e-mail, use “Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,” or if you are more familiar with the recipient, use “Hi First Name.”
  • Be careful with your tone, spelling, and grammar. Professional e-mails should have a respectful and approachable tone.  Do not use all caps in a professional e-mail (it makes the recipient feel like you are shouting at them), and do not use abbreviations or emoticons, even when replying from a smartphone.  Always take the time to make sure you have used correct spelling and grammar before sending the e-mail—a few mistakes can go a long way in damaging your credibility.
  • Be concise. Most people receive hundreds of e-mails a day and don’t have the time to read extremely long messages.  Try to get to the point of the e-mail as quickly as possible (while still including the necessary details).  When appropriate, use bullets to highlight your key points, and bold or underline any key deadlines or pieces of information.
  • Finish with a sign-off and signature. Try to end all e-mails with some type of respectful sign-off (such as “thanks,” “sincerely,” or “best”) followed by your name.  When applicable, set your e-mail preferences to automatically include a signature at the bottom of each e-mail that includes your name, title, and contact information.

Now that you know how to compose a professional e-mail, here are a few tips for using e-mail appropriately in the workplace:

  • Before sending any e-mail, triple check who is addressed and copied. Make sure your e-mail program did not auto-fill the address line with the incorrect recipient, and don’t become an “accidental reply all” or “accidental reply instead of forward” horror story!  Also, beware of the BCC—it is best to only use this feature if you are sending an e-mail to a long list of people so that all of the e-mail addresses remain private.
  • Strive to answer e-mails on time, every time. Even if your inbox seems to be constantly overflowing, make sure you reply to urgent or time-sensitive e-mails as soon as possible and to all other professional e-mails within a reasonable period.
  • Remember that e-mail isn’t private. Most companies can access work e-mail accounts belonging to employees, and e-mails can be used as evidence in a court of law.  Plus, any e-mail you send has the potential to be forwarded to unintended recipients!
  • Some things are just better in person. Although e-mail is the most common form of professional communication, sometimes it’s best to meet with someone in person or over the phone (for example, when you are expressing strong emotions about an issue, when you are asking someone for a recommendation, or when you are severing a professional relationship).

Need help crafting the perfect e-mail to accompany your job application materials?  Feel free to stop by during Career Services Drop-In Hours on Mondays-Thursdays from 1-4PM in L/L E140.

A few resources from around the web:


World of Work: Jackie Madsen '85, VP of Sales for L'Oreal Paris Cosmetics

Jackie Madsen '85

(Jackie Madsen ’85, second from left in blue)

Jackie Madsen ‘85

Vice President of Sales, L’Oreal Paris Cosmetics

5th Avenue, New York, NY

Major:  Economics

How would you describe what you do on a typical day?

Each day is very different. While in the New York Office I spend days participating in meetings with all levels of our organization where we are developing how the L’Oreal Paris brand will be distributed in the US market to include pricing, promotion, displays and in store environment.  On the other days I am traveling to the Headquarters of our Retail Partners, including Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, and Target meeting with their beauty teams to execute the plans we have discussed internally.

What advice do you have for students searching for jobs or internships in your field?

The beauty business is extremely exciting to be involved with. It is a very high-energy field that requires flexibility, adaptability and quick reaction time. From a sales standpoint, people successful in this field truly need to be extroverts who are comfortable in presenting and leading people. In addition sales has become extremely analytical in terms of the selling process, using available data is how the trade expects to be interacted with. People motivation and management are also key competencies.

What is your favorite part of your work? Most challenging part?

Favorite part is absolutely presenting in front of our retail partners. Also, being a female, I enjoy using the products. It’s very exciting to represent products that are so much part of my daily life! Because our business is so trend sensitive, change is difficult for some people to adapt to and ensuring people who work for me understand why the changes are necessary and how to manage them is always challenging.

Tell us about your best day at work.

Any day that I have been able to work through an issue with a major retailer that results in us having a successful launch of a new item, or an event in a major chain is a good day!

Did you expect to hold this job when you were a college student?

My path has been all over the L’Oreal Paris Company. From direct sales, to consumer promotions, to customer marketing to sales planning and back to direct sales. When I left college I had no idea what I wanted to do. In all honestly I didn’t think of sales as any particular interest for me but as I took my first job with L’Oreal (Territory Manager) I realized sales was a terrific option for me and met my desires to have days that varied, and opportunities to interact with people.

If you’re interested in seeing all our World of Work profiles, click here. If you are a UVM alumnus and would like to be featured, please contact us at If you are interested in contacting a featured alum, check out the Career Connection alumni database or contact us.

Responding to the Dreaded Interview Question: "What are Your Weaknesses?"

So you are all prepared for your job interview. You know the skills, strengths and experience you have to offer.  You have chosen what to wear: professional and not distracting to the eye.  You have the directions to the company and have planned out how to get there on time with bit to spare.  You know the questions you want to ask about the job at the end of the interview, but before you get there, the dreaded question may arrive: “So, what are your weaknesses?”

Is this a trick question?  Did they notice my black socks don’t quite match? Do I have poppyseeds between my teeth?  Or do they know I was laid off from a job a few years back?

What is most important is to prepare for this question in advance. Here are some tips for approaching this:

  1. Keep it professional: having an obsession with chocolate may indeed be your biggest weakness, but it most likely won’t impact your job performance unless you are working in a chocolate factory.
  2. Be clear concise: don’t spend too much air time on this.  Clearly state a weakness you have been working on.
  3. Show that you have taken action.  What matters most is that you are AWARE of your weaknesses, and have developed strategies to address and compensate for them.    “I have a tendency to…. so I have done ….. to address it.”

Here are some resources to navigate this territory.

Finally, don’t make an actual interview a practice session! Career Services counselors conduct mock interviews, via phone and in person. This is a great way to practice responding to a variety of interview questions and to debrief your interview skills before the real deal.