A "workplace experience" includes internships, student teaching, practicum, and co-ops. We talked to two current UW-Madison students to find out about their summer internship with Walgreens, how they went about the process, and how they tapped into various advising resources on campus to help them along the way. Meet Kiersten Johnson (left) and Haley Schmitz (right), current UW-Badgers and Walgreens Ambassadors. 
Thank you for taking the time to talk to students about your internship experiences. Before we get started, could you give us a little background about what you’re studying and hoping to do in your future career?
Kiersten: Of course! My name is Kiersten Johnson and I am currently a senior in the Wisconsin School of Business pursuing a degree in marketing with a specialization in supply chain management. I was a Merchandise Exposure Program intern at Walgreens the summer before my senior year. It’s a career goal of mine to become a category manager or director at Walgreens.
Haley: And my name is Haley Schmitz, I’m currently a senior (graduating in May!) here at the University of Wisconsin. I’m a double major in Finance, Investment, and Banking as well as Marketing. During my internship with Walgreens, I worked as an Accounting & Finances Intern in the Market Planning and Research Department. I plan to work in the Corporate Finance field, maybe one day dabbling in some Financial Consulting.
How did you find out about your internships?
Kiersten: The fall career fair and Bucky Net were the two main places I sought out internships. Besides that there are other great websites that tailor to college students trying to find internships, such as The Muse, InternMatch, and Intern Queen.
Haley: I also used BuckyNet, where I know many business students begin their search for job shadows, internship, or full-time positions. It’s an amazing resource for business students looking for internships, as hundreds of companies in the Midwest, (and some from other regions of the US) post their openings. Because BuckyNet had so many internship opportunities that I was interested in, I didn’t need to search elsewhere.
As for my internship with Walgreens, I had interacted previously with Walgreens Campus Ambassadors who provided me with more information regarding the internship, how to apply, and what the company was looking for. It is definitely important to utilize company resources on campus, which includes Campus Ambassadors such as ourselves!
Some students find the process of finding and applying to an internship overwhelming, or stressful. What advice do you have for them?
Kiersten: My best advice is to make an Excel document to organize the companies you’re applying to. I created one that listed the name of the company, the job title, what they required me to submit, and the due date. That way, my applications were all organized into one document and I could easily see which ones I completed or what I needed to work on.
Haley: Applying for internships, especially when it is your first corporate or professional experience, can be extremely daunting. The most important thing to remember is that companies are looking for INTERNS, not senior analysts or someone who knows everything about their business.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to apply to as many internships as possible – even ones that you find remotely interesting. Even if you don’t necessarily want to end up with that company, applying and interviewing with them is great practice. The more interviews you take part in, the more prepared you are for the interviews that really matter.
Don’t be afraid of doing or saying something wrong with companies, simply learn from your mistakes, always walk-in over prepared (and with questions!), and be confident no matter what.
How did you prepare for your application and interview?
Kiersten: The first thing I did was get my resume and my cover letter checked over by a Career Advisor. After I made changes, I went back and had it checked one more time by a different advisor to make sure it was perfect. To prepare for interviews, I signed up for three mock interviews on BuckyNet. These mock interviews took place in the Wisconsin School of Business with companies like Nestle, P&G, and Kohl’s.
Haley: I also prepared for my interview by participating in mock interviews. The business school offers them each semester and I would suggest visiting your academic or career advisor to determine when this takes place for any particular major or career interest. You can also visit the Career Fair and chat with the companies you are interested in. Come prepared with updated resumes (checked by your career advisor beforehand) and questions specific to each company. This is a great opportunity that allows for you to interact informally with companies and get some important questions answered.
What would you say to a student who thought, “I’m a pretty good writer, I can handle it on my own,” or, “I already had a friend check out my resume”?
Kiersten: You can never have too many eyes check over your resume! UW-Madison advisors know exactly what employers are looking for, so it is very beneficial to set up an appointment with them.
Haley: Resumes are one of the most important parts of an interview, and if your resume is not organized appropriately for the internship you’re seeking it can do more harm than help. The rules of resumes are constantly changing, and there is no better or easier place to get yours checked by a professional than with your career or academic advisor.
Clearly all your preparation paid off as you both were accepted into the program! Can one of you tell me more about one of the projects you worked on that summer?
Haley: I was part of the Market Planning and Research team, and one of my main projects was to determine the impact that a change in store hours had on Pharmacy and Front-End business over time. I spent a lot of my time running regression analysis, testing for correlations, utilizing pivot tables, and other functions on Excel. It was an extremely satisfying project. Once it was completed at the end of my 10 week internship, I presented my findings and my recommended model to my entire department! It was implemented into their business plan, which made me feel extremely grateful to have the opportunity to actually affect business for an organization as large as Walgreens.
What did you learn from your internship, and what did you find the most challenging?
Kiersten: I learned what it was like to work in a corporate environment where daily decisions affect the end-customer in a store. Working for a retail company gives you a more tangible perspective because you are actually working with products and you can go see the work you’ve done in a store. I also learned how to facilitate a project where multiple groups of people were involved. I had to reach out to people in space management, marketing, sourcing, supply chain, and finance to gather enough intel and data for my project. Furthermore, I had to keep everyone in the loop with any updates on the project, so I was constantly emailing people.
Haley: I learned two important lessons over that summer: 1) how important Excel is to business, and 2) how to conduct myself in a corporate business environment. There are so many things that can’t be learned in the classroom, and the only way to truly prepare for the real world after college is to actually participate in it through an internship, or other real world experience.
What would you say to a student who was on the fence about going after an internship?
Kiersten: Internships are a great way to dip your foot into the corporate world and gain practical experience! They prepare you for a full-time position after graduation and give you an edge over other candidates.
Haley: I think there is no better way in which you can help yourself secure a job after graduation than by participating in an internship. Walgreens, along with many other companies, use their internships as feeder programs into their full-time positions. After I spent the summer at Walgreens, all of us interns interviewed for full-time positions, and those who were hired received their offers before the summer was even over! This means that, before my senior year began, I had already secured a full-time position after graduation. In June, I'll be returning to Walgreens to begin their two year rotational program known as the Finance Development Program, where I will take part in 4 separate positions in order to learn about all aspects of the pharmacy retail business. If this is not a reason to participate in internships, than I don’t know what is!
Now that you’ve both gone through the whole process of searching, applying, preparing and interviewing for an internship, do you have any thoughts on how students could utilize advising services to support them during this process?
Kiersten: I think it is extremely important to use advising throughout your entire job search. 1) Go to lectures or classes that are offered by advisors for resume writing or career fair prep. 2) Sign up for mock interviews with a company or advisor. 3) Visit a career advisor to check your resume and cover letter. 4) Utilize a career advisor when searching for internships or full-time positions that fit your interests.