An earlier version of this story was originally published in The WALK magazine, and is reprinted here with permission from the author. The WALK is the University of Pennsylvania’s premier student-run fashion magazine. Written, photographed, illustrated, and designed entirely in-house, the publication aims to highlight fashion, beauty, culture, and share it with the community.
by Sia-Linda Libbie, COL ’21
This summer I worked at Google as a marketing intern. The previous summer I worked at Viacom–now ViacomCBS–as a Nickelodeon Digital Programming intern. I am a low-income, black female who is majoring in Communication with minors in Psychology and Hispanic Studies. I say these things to convey that it is possible to succeed in the internship search without having prior connections in certain industries.
Prior to my internships, I did not know anyone who worked in the entertainment industry, nor the tech industry. All I knew was that I was interested in the intersection of storytelling, media and technology and I was lucky enough to be a student at one of the best universities in the nation. Being a Penn student gave me access to a wonderful career center that helped me in my search for an internship…one that I would love.
Penn Career Services is such an important office on campus. Before I got to Penn, my mom told me that it is crucial that I connect to Career Services, she had found so much guidance at her career services office at her university. This is what led me to make an appointment freshman year of college. I went in to discuss LinkedIn and how to start a suitable profile. One of the advisors gave me memorable mortals of wisdom, and she advised me to also sign up for Handshake. She then showed me how I can tailor Handshake to areas I am interested in and industries I would like to pursue internships and, further down the line, work in.
Through Handshake, I found out that Viacom was having an info session in the Fall of 2018. I attended the info session and signed up for a coffee chat with one of the recruiters early next morning. When I went to the coffee chat, I made sure to bring two copies of my resume with me, in order to hand one copy to the recruiter. She was gracious enough to look over my resume and gave me salient advice on how to improve it. She also told me more about the different brand and function areas that students can intern in, and I left the meeting feeling ecstatic to have the opportunity to apply to a Viacom internship.
Throughout my life, I have been a big fan of Viacom brands. From being a Nick kid, to loving MTV’s Awkward, to watching Love & Hip Hop and Mob Wives franchises with my mom, I respected the company and the content its various brands produced.
Following the coffee chat I had with the Viacom recruiter, I had a meeting with my pre-major advisor. During the meeting, I mentioned attending the Viacom info session and coffee chat and how I planned to apply to their Summer internship program. My advisor told me that she had a former advisee–who had just graduated the year before–who worked at Viacom now. She offered to connect me to him, and I jumped at the offer!
My advisor sent an email to her former advisee, and he immediately responded and said that he would love to have a phone call with me. A few days after that, we had a phone call and he told me all about his background in entertainment and what drove him to the Viacom post-grad rotational program that he was in at the time. He then offered to take a look at my resume and give me advice on how to improve it. I sent my resume to him, and he gave me feedback in such a quick turnaround time. I incorporated his feedback and the feedback of the Viacom recruiter, and then I applied for the internship.
After submitting my application, and prior to my first interview for the internship, I went to Career Services’ walk-in hours. I went so that I could meet with an advisor to help prepare for my interview. I met with Dr. Claire Klieger, Senior Associate Director, and she helped prepare me with potential questions I might be asked. Not only did she help me practice for the interview, she also bolstered my confidence by telling me that I was prepared and would do well! Dr. Klieger’s advice and support helped me feel confident during my two interviews for the internship.
I received my Nickelodeon Digital Programming internship offer on Valentine’s Day 2019! I was elated and cried. I thanked all of the individuals who helped me secure the internship, I was so grateful for their help and guidance.
I write all of these things to you to showcase the power of Career Services and connections. As Penn students, we are lucky to go to a world-renowned school where prestigious companies recruit from.
We as Penn students should take advantage of Career Services and our mentors and advisors to find internships and job opportunities that we are passionate about. Even if you, like me, come from a background where you do not have connections to certain fields, it is important to utilize the opportunities our university provides us.
If you want that internship that you have been dreaming about, it is pertinent that you go out, attend those info sessions, meet those recruiters, and speak to your mentors and advisors on ways that you can break into that industry.
I wish all of you success during the recruiting season. Remember that if you are interested in a particular area, pursue your dreams, regardless of what hurdles you might perceive to be present.