Success Story | Ann Peckskamp, Family Social Science

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Ann Peckskamp
Family Social Science, Senior
Family Communication Project
Assistant Project Manager

How did you learn about your internship position?
It’s a long story – My advisor, Bibiana Koh, works as the recruiter for the project, so at my Family Social Science orientation meeting she asked if anyone would be interested in a position. I’m lucky that I was in the right place at the right time, otherwise I would have had no idea that this project even existed. I applied for the only open position of coder. How the project works is that families come in and are video taped doing a variety of activities. Then, a coder watches the video and assigns codes to different types of behaviors or interactions (e.g. how well the father communicates with the daughter, or how good the parents’ relationship is).
After both the preliminary and second interview for the position, Bibiana decided that my personality and skill set would be better utilized in a different area of the project. She recommended that I contact the assistant project manager (who would be leaving the project soon) and ask her to interview me for her position. So that’s how I ultimately found out about my current position.
What are your key responsibilities?
Administration: Taking minutes, writing agenda’s for meetings
Finances: Keeping track of budgets that are used for the project expenses, doing purchase orders, keeping in contact with the FSoS accountant to make sure her accounts line up with ours
Website: Being the liaison between the web designer and the project in order to keep the website updated
Miscellaneous: Making copies, going to the reuse center to pick up free office supplies when needed
Advisory board: Communicate with advisory board members about meetings, setting an agenda, and working with researchers about what information they want to present and getting it ready
What steps did you take in the application process?
First, I e-mailed my advisor (who told me about the position) asking for more information about the position. Then I updated my résumé so that it was current and reworded or modified my previous experiences so that they were more relevant to my prospective position. I wrote a cover letter highlighting my strengths and how my skills from previous experiences could be transferred to the coding position.
I had a first interview, and was informed that I might not be a good fit for the position, but that I would still be advanced to the second interview. After the second interview, Bibiana was confident that coding would not be a good match for me, but she felt strongly I should find a way to become involved with the project. So, she recommended that I talk to Emily Becher, the assistant project manager (see question #1). Emily and I communicated via e-mail to set up a time and place to meet so that she could interview me. We met at Caribou Coffee and discussed what the position entailed, how I could benefit the project, and how the project could benefit me. She offered me the position at the end of our interview.

How did you help yourself stand out from all the other applicants?

As a former elementary education major, a lot of my previous volunteer experiences weren’t relevant to my new position. While I was worried that this might make me a less desirable candidate, I worked really hard to show how my skills were transferable – and it actually worked to my advantage. It made me unique and it showed that I could bring things to the internship that other people couldn’t.
I’ve had some really good jobs with a lot of responsibilities, which most other undergraduates just don’t have. I’ve worked in a professional office and I also teach ACT test preparation for the same company. By having two positions in the same company, it shows that I’m loyal to my employers and that my employers believe that I’m a valuable employee, capable of accepting increasing responsibilities. I’ve made conscious efforts to grow my résumé with the most impressive positions that I can. It would have been easier to just get a job at a coffee shop or something, but in the long run, it’s paid off that I’ve made getting valuable job and volunteer experiences a priority in my life.
During my final interview, for the position that I actually accepted, Emily said that the one thing a lot of applicants had had trouble with, was articulating how the position would benefit the applicant. It’s unpaid, so she said that she wanted the position to go to someone that would get something out of it too. I said that I had gotten where I am today by means of making connections and knowing the right people, and that this position would give me access to a wide network of professors, professionals, and other students who could help to further me in my future careers. She seemed pretty impressed by that answer, so I would encourage other internship seekers to think about how they would answer a similar question.
What did you find most helpful during your internship search process?
Keeping myself on my future employer’s radar. I made sure to follow up with Bibiana on the same day that she presented the position to me. After I sent her my résumé, I contacted her a couple weeks later to see if I would be able to have an interview. After she told me that I was not right for the position, I asked what my other options were, and I contacted the people that she suggested right away. Just being very proactive was the most helpful thing that I did.
Do you have any tips to share with others?
Take advantage of your resources! I made an appointment with a career services counselor and I found practice interview questions, cover letter templates, and action verbs to strengthen my job descriptions on my résumé all on the CEHD Career Services website.
Don’t forget, your resources include people too! Build a network. I am friends with someone already working as part of the research project so I asked her what they look for in applicants. My advisor was the recruiter, so I made sure that I took the time to get to know her. I had my sister, an English major, read my cover letter and résumé. Anything that can give you inside knowledge or help to make connections will definitely make you stand out.