Many students dread having to leave the bastion of academia that is the University of Pennsylvania and enter the real world of salaries, early bedtimes, and responsibility. Yes, our time here at Wharton must come to an end, and we must find a job after college. Luckily, the recruitment process is very straightforward, facilitated by the ongoing efforts of the Office of Career Services – just one of the reasons that Wharton students have a relatively easy time finding a job after their senior year. The process typically begins junior year with an internship in your industry of choice, be it retail, marketing, finance, and so on. If you do well, you can get hired for a full-time position after that summer. Otherwise, there are plenty of recruiting opportunities around campus for full-time positions year round.
But I’m not here to talk about that. Unfortunately, genuine work experience can be difficult to find for freshmen and sophomores going into summer break. It makes sense, really; employers only need one summer to vet a student before making a hiring decision. For freshman year, I always advise students to actually enjoy their summer and do something cool. For the first half of my summer, I helped my dad write a business plan, and I gained some of the most comprehensive business experience that I could have possibly had. Simply by looking over his shoulder and drafting the different summaries involved in a business plan was a great experience for a freshman. In the second half of the summer, I hiked Spain’s incredible Camino de Santiago for a month. I love the outdoors, and having such a unique experience in Europe was an incredible opportunity.
Sophomores are forced to be a tad more creative and resourceful in gaining work experience. Most of my friends applied to sophomore-specific internships through sources other than Career Services, or they used family contacts as a foot in the door to an internship. As for me, I decided to take the opportunity to research as many different industries as possible. That’s when I learned just how valuable the Wharton name can be.
My generic strategy was to research companies that I thought would be interesting to work for or that would give me a wide variety of experiences. I looked at small investment banks; consulting firm offices in smaller cities like Charlotte, Denver, and Austin; and interesting companies like Patagonia, Michelin, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Simply practicing introducing myself and interviewing was experience enough for the future. I would attempt to find a Penn alumnus in the company (there was almost always one there) and contact him/her asking about any opportunities. At almost every one of these companies, my mention that I am a Wharton student would instantly pique the interest of whomever I was talking to. It was incredible to see how effectively the Wharton name can set you apart as an applicant.
Wharton did so much more for me than I could have expected. It got my foot in the door at companies just by having the school on my résumé. Plus the knowledge I’ve attained from my time here was obviously crucial in interviews. Now, all I can do is anticipate my summer with excitement for what lies ahead.