Guest Blogger Kristine: Taking a Semester Off

Hey everyone!

I’m Kristine, and I’m so excited to be a guest blogger for the JHU Career Center! Less than a year ago, I was one of those students who had never even stepped into the Career Center, not even to get one of those awesome free water bottles. As I was working through my focus area and upper division courses for my BME degree, I started to realize that I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, and that “after college” was coming up faster than I had anticipated! I finally went into Career Center and made an appointment with Tracy Carter, and since then I’ve been telling all my friends about how incredibly helpful a good career counselor can be.

Tracy was instrumental in taking me through the steps to find an internship: she helped me figure out what I might want in a career, helped me network with JHU alumni in my fields of interest, and guided me through the process of finding internships, crafting my resume and cover letters, and acing the interview. In January 2012, I decided to take a semester off to really focus on my career goals and my internship search. I was apprehensive at first, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to focus my efforts on learning about different careers and landing the right internship to get a taste of those careers for myself.

I looked at careers and internships not necessarily related to my major, to give me some taste of the wide variety of options that are open to me after graduation. I eventually started to look into careers in computer programming and user experience design. Once I honed in on a career field, I was glad to have my days free to look for internships, draft resumes and cover letters, and network with professionals in the field. Tracy again was a huge help in connecting me with her contacts in various fields and getting me started doing informational interviews with various JHU alumni. After I got started meeting UX designers and game programmers, I began to attend networking events specific to those fields, where I met and talked to a lot more people about their career paths. Attending networking events and doing informational interviews eventually became a bit easier and a lot more fun once I got started; unfortunately, once I started my internship, I had very little free time to do these things.

After a few weeks of networking and applying to internships, I landed an internship at GameDesk, a small nonprofit that makes educational games and works with schools to implement creative programs that make learning both fun and effective. I started out as a project management intern, which was an interesting experience both due to my inexperience in (and eagerness to try) project management, and due to the nature of interning at a startup. When I started, there wasn’t a project manager that I was working directly under, but everyone at GameDesk was friendly and willing to provide what guidance they could. Roles at a startup are fairly flexible, which was great for me as an intern because I was able to explore a variety of different roles. At the same time, I longed for the structure that I imagined a more established company would give. All in all, my first few months at GameDesk were incredibly educational for me in figuring out the kinds of things I’d want to do, and the kind of place I’d want to work at. I was able to experience trying out everything from game programming to project management to event planning to recruitment, and I learned the meaning of “company culture.”

In May, GameDesk offered to extend my internship through the summer as more of a full-time position. By this time, I had become fairly involved in the company. I was a key coordinator of conferences and travel, and I was directly involved in managing the development of one of the games up until that point. I was also able to see the development of the company itself. In April we received a large grant from AT&T, and as a result, we expanded from about 15 people to 45 (and we’re still growing!). I watched us grow to have not only more game developers and teachers to work on our individual projects, but also more middle management to take care of the GameDesk as a whole. By being a part of this process, I learned a lot about company structures and the needs of a growing organization.

My experience at GameDesk has taught me a lot about different careers and what it’s like working in video games and education, along with probably more than I ever wanted to know about running a nonprofit. I’ve met a lot of great people who are not only valuable industry contacts but also have become friends I’ll look forward to keeping in touch with. I started out my semester off a bit anxious about finding an internship that would be a good use of my time. I found that my experiences, not only at GameDesk but also in networking and learning about myself different careers and industries, were exactly what I needed to help me answer the big question in my mind: What comes next? In the fall I’ll be back at Hopkins finishing up the last year of my degree, but while doing so I’ll have my experiences to reflect on and my contacts help me in deciding and discovering where I’ll be after graduation.


Middle of summer check-in: Right in the thick of it

A lot has happened since my last blog- let me catch you up…

I was contacted about an interview for a full time job/internship at the Johns Hopkins Mount Washington campus in late April.  It was very different compared to other interviews I have had in the past because I was tested with questions.  The interview was broken into two parts.  The first part was basically talking about what I would be doing at the job, and then I was tested on different parts of a hypothetical coding situation.  The second part was a test of my programming knowledge.  I knew I nailed both parts of the interview, and when I was done with the questions, I believed I had done a very good job and possibly got the job.

A week later I received an email from the person I interviewed with and he told me that, yes! I got the job- I was going to be a Java Developer! I was so excited because a lot of the other internships I applied for didn’t end up working out, and I really wanted the experience of having a full time job.

The result? Now, I have a ten week internship where I work forty hours a week.  I like that I can get up in the morning, come home after work and not have to worry about any school work or upcoming exams.  But the part I needed to adjust to most was getting up early, and being tired when I got back to my dorm from work. That didn’t take too long, though, because I began to develop a routine.

Like I mentioned, my job title is Java Developer. That means in this position, I am testing and developing code for a new type of software for doctors to use in the near future.  The software helps doctors view and receive patient information faster and more efficiently than the current software they use.  I have about three weeks left in my internship and I have taken in every moment that I can.  It has been such a learning experience for me.  I have gotten a taste of what my future might be like and I definitely like where it is headed.

One of the more difficult aspects of the job was not having as much knowledge and experience as my coworkers. It took me a little longer to learn the code and programming style because I haven’t been in an environment like this before.  My boss said he hired me because he knew I was smart — and that there were people that were more qualified than me that he interviewed — but I was smarter than them.  I used that to motivate me every day to work as hard as I could in every task that I was given.

One of my favorite parts of the internship is working with some great people. I have made some good friends and learned so much from them, not only about programming, but about where they come from and their culture. I work with people who are from different parts of the world, so I was exposed to their culture and way of life. I also work with a rising senior from Hopkins. This has been really helpful, since he has already taken a lot of the classes I will take in the next few years.

This job has been a great learning experience for me and I know it will help me in my future endeavors getting other jobs or internships!

From Summer Camp to Wall Street

Hello everyone! So, as mentioned briefly in my last blog, I have been highly successful in my quest for an internship this summer. Last summer, I worked as a camp counselor in a town called Starlight, Pennsylvania. To give you a feeling of what Starlight is like, the nearest Wal-Mart was an hour away. The closest thing we had to a chain restaurant was a McDonald’s in the next town over. You could drive down the (one) main road for 20 minutes and never see another car.

Camp days were typically long. Being in charge of the 15 and 16 year olds, it was a never-ending process of making sure everyone was where they’re supposed to be. At that age, it is very easy to find ways to go off on your own, and thus it was key that I kept an eye on them at all times. This led to several late nights and early mornings, with hardly a minute to rest during the day.

The camp hiring process was pretty simple. No career centers, no complicated networking tools needed. Since it was a camp which I attended, I knew many of the staff members already.  I emailed in my resume and cover letter and heard back a few weeks later asking for a phone interview, and at the end, was told that I got the job. All that was needed after that was filling out an I-9 and a one page contract, and I was done.

This summer, about the only thing I am expecting to be the same is the lack of sleep. This coming summer, I will be working on Wall Street and living in New York City. A little different from Starlight, huh? Instead of a wooden cabin, I’ll be staying in NYU’s dorms in Manhattan, and instead of being hours away from any form of civilization, I’ll have the entire city at my grasp.

In terms of work load, I’m genuinely not sure what to expect. I’ve heard two stories, both of which make logical sense. The first, from a friend working in one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, is that during your internship the company will butter up to you, making you think it’s all a wonderful and easy life, so after graduation you will immediately go work for them. Then the butt kicking can start. The other side of the story is that the butt kicking starts immediately, so they can see if they even want you back after graduation. Either way, I feel confident that I’ll make it through the summer.

The Wall Street hiring process? Well, that was a little different too. Cover letters, a resume and an email contact aren’t exactly enough anymore. First came the online application, then the career-fair half hour interview, then the “super day”, where I interviewed with 12 people over the course of the whole day. Finally, after getting the job comes background checks, information checks, SEC clearance, declarations of any stocks/bonds I’ve held, previous employer information, etc. Much more than the one page contract I got from camp.

So, as you can see, this summer is sure to be a lot different from last summer’s experiences. However, despite these differences, I plan on having just as great of an experience in New York as I did at camp.

Thanks for reading,


Mission Internship Search Accomplished

I think everyone, including me, is swamped with work for the next two weeks… but I hope everyone has had some luck with internships.  This summer, I will be doing a marketing internship at L’Oreal in New York City! Last time, I briefly told you about the interview process, but I couldn’t say much about the actual internship.  Originally, I was looking at internships that had much more to do with my major of East Asian Studies.  However, I have taken many marketing and entrepreneurship classes and have always been interested in a career in marketing.  Both of my parents have working in different facets of the marketing industry in New York, so I had already been exposed to the field.

That said, many of my internships were more in the international relations or studies field… so I used some clever marketing on myself and really highlighted the experiences I have had that could relate to general business and product/company branding.  In particular, my experience working at a Chinese factory over two summers turned out to be a great example.  I had always told potential employers about my knowledge of how factories work and Chinese work culture.  However, I also communicated with American and European clients in an effort to convince them to buy products from our factory.  Many of my tasks were related to branding the entire factory, which definitely qualified me for marketing internships.

Fast forward to my interview at L’Oreal.  Many of the other people they interviewed and hired were in traditional marketing and communications programs at their respective universities.  The people who interviewed me were incredibly interested in my international experiences, background in Chinese language and culture, and willingness to travel.  The human resources person I worked with later told me that L’Oreal is an international company in need of internationally-minded employees.

From this process, I learned a lot about myself and how the job market works.  Of course, the people who had been studying marketing for three years were perfectly qualified for this marketing internship – and many will also be in the internship program.  However, I was able to turn my favorite classes and some of my previous experiences into qualifications for a completely unexpected internship!

I hope that all of you have figured out your summer plans, but if not, think outside the box.  Your internship or job may not be exactly what your major is… think about how your favorite classes and the best parts of your previous work experiences can be applied to potential opportunities.

Take note: Helpful Career Center resources

As scary as it is to admit, one day, I’ll have to go out into the real world and do the unthinkable…get a job. While it seems ages away at this point, it is still something very crucial to start to think about.  One of the great things about Hopkins is the Career Center, where students can go to get resume advice, learn to write a cover letter, connect with employers,  get help in seeking out their future careers, and more.

There are several things which the Career Center has done very well, and resources that I have found to be very helpful in my search for summer internships. Here are several things which I believe makes our Career Center unique and which have helped me get a fantastic internship for this summer.

1. Walk-in hours. The Career Center holds walk in help hours all semester long — and even has specified walk in hours just for sophomores. No appointment needed, simply show up an get advice on whatever you need. I took advantage of walk in hours during the fall semester, expecting to enter in to a madhouse of people waiting, only to have someone look at my resume for all of 5 seconds and move on to the next one. But when I arrived, I found that after only a minute or two of waiting, someone brought me in and stayed with me to go through my entire resume start to finish, and to give me tons of much needed advice.

This is what the Career Center's "Hot Jobs, Cool Internships" newsletter looks like. They're also available on the office's website,

2. Recruitment emails. Every Friday, I get an email with the subject   line “Hot Jobs, Cool Internships” sent to my JHU email. In this email is a list of dozens of job openings which match something similar to my major or future career goals. These weekly emails are very helpful in keeping you posted on what kind of opportunities are out there, as well as to remind you to keep an eye on new job postings. These e-mails are sent out based on three different areas of interest: Engineering, Natural and Life Sciences, and Humanities and Social Sciences.

3. J-Connect. J-Connect is Hopkins’ own job listing site, where you can upload your resume, cover letter, transcript, writing samples, and apply directly to jobs. When you go on, it is often overwhelming the number of posts for job listings. After spending some time narrowing it down, chances are you’ll be able to find something that interests you. Once you have found it, you often can apply directly from J-Connect and then all that is left is to wait for a reply!

4. Other career centers. In the fall, the particular employer I will be working for this summer came on a recruiting visit to campus. Due to limited availability and high demand, you actually had to apply to attend their info session (this is unusual; normally info sessions are open to everyone). I applied and was not accepted to attend. However, a few months later, the Hopkins Career Center sent out an email regarding a career fair in New York, which Hopkins teamed up with several other schools to put on and was only open to students from those schools. At this fair, I met with the same employer that I had been turned away from, got an interview, and two weeks later had a position for the summer!

So, when you’re searching, be sure to use the Career Center as a resource, because it is a great one!

Thanks for reading,


Current track: Over, Hyper Crush Remix by Drake (JHU_Ruthie, if you are reading this, you should download this song)

The Waiting Game


Being in limbo and not knowing what your future holds can be wearing on a person. Waiting to hear about an internship or job can sometimes be very frustrating and nerve wracking. You might not know what to do during this waiting period.  Well, I am currently playing the waiting game for a few internships that I have applied for.

One thing that I haven’t done while waiting is constantly email the employers about if and when I should be interviewed or contacted.  This is not a good idea! You don’t want to bother the potential employers!

But I did keep applying for internships.  It’s not good to assume that you are guaranteed an internship or job anywhere. You never want to be left with nothing to do over the summer because you didn’t apply to enough internships or jobs.  I am making sure I keep my options open, even if that means having a part-time job over the summer.

It’s also a good idea to try to use any alumni connections that you may have.  Try to see if there are any Johns Hopkins alumni at a company that you want to work for.  Contacting an alum that works for the same company that you applied for or want to work at can only help your chances at getting that internship or job. It allows you to learn more about that organization as well as displays your interest in what they do — all of which is a good thing.

Another thing to do while playing the waiting game is so make sure that you keep your resume updated. I know for me, during the school year, my resume changes constantly.   Keeping it up to date will help you  when you want to apply for more jobs or internships because you won’t have to go back try to remember everything you’ve done that semester. A semester’s a long time and you can do a lot!  Keeping that resume updated helps you in the long run; when you see something, you can apply right away.

My last tip for making it through the waiting game is to try to not give into mind games. If the employer says he or she will contact you on a certain day, and you haven’t gotten the call yet, don’t freak out!  Wait a day or two, then email to see what’s going on.  I have been waiting to hear about a full scholarship I applied for over four months ago.  I was told that I would be contacted a few days ago, but all I heard was silence.  I then waited a day and contacted the scholarship office to make sure that my name wasn’t accidentally left of the emailing list or something.  Don’t start playing the “What If” game.  It’s always better to be patient — but calm!– when it comes to applying to internships and jobs!

The finish line: Interviewing your way to the offer

I got an internship offer!  The week before spring break, I was getting very nervous because I had not heard back from many places.  I did have one offer, but it was unpaid and in a different country… so it was really just a backup plan in case nothing else came through.  However, 2 weeks before Spring Break I got a call from a human resources representative at a Fortune 500 company requesting a brief phone interview.  I was really excited about the interview, and even more excited about the company (which I will tell you about in a few weeks)!

The first step was the informal phone interview.  The HR representative said that it would only take about half an hour and was really just to get to know me and my background a bit better.  However, I still wanted to be just as prepared as if I was going in to the office for a formal interview, so I did a lot of research on the company.  It’s a well-known consumer products company that has offices all over the world.  Therefore, I made sure that I knew about all of their brands and product offerings, as well as which products I use and their specific names.

In my opinion, the most important part of this step of the interview process was to demonstrate how excited I was about the company and the possible internship opportunity.  Because of my background working and living in China, I focused on the global aspects of the company and made sure that the interviewer knew how up to date I was on their company.  Obviously this strategy paid off because the next week, I was asked to come in for an interview at their NYC office.  I was able to arrange to go home to New Jersey just before break to do the interview.

I was told who I would be interviewing with and what departments they were from, so I immediately looked them up on LinkedIn to find out more about their backgrounds, interests, and specific roles at the company.  In preparing for the interview, I reviewed some marketing terms, researched the internship program, and thought about what aspects of my school and work experiences could be applied to the internship.

Although the interview was later in the afternoon, that day, I went into NYC early to have lunch with one of my dad’s friends who works in marketing.  This gave me an opportunity to casually discuss my experiences and interests with a family friend.  I HIGHLY recommend doing something similar to this before a big interview.  I was able to put into words why I wanted to work in marketing this summer and how my background qualifies me for those types of positions.  Having an hour or two to talk about myself professionally made me more comfortable and warmed-up when I walked into the actual interview.  Talking through your experiences and why you want the internship with your parents or your friends before you actually go to the interview will relax you and warm you up.

Once I got to the interview, I was calm and collected.  It was set up so that I had 2 interviews – the first with a more traditional marketing person and an HR representatives, and the second with a product development person.  Because the company promotes itself as young, fashion-forward, and friendly, I made sure to act that way.  Presenting myself in a way that I would immediately fit in at the company definitely helped.  I felt great after the interview and knew that I did the best I possibly could!

On Monday morning, I emailed the three people I interviewed with to thank them for their time.  Literally one hour later, I received a call offering me the internship!  I have accepted the internship, which I will hopefully be able to tell you more about in my next post, and will be living at home and working in NYC this summer.  It is a paid marketing internship at a Fortune 500 company that I am really interested in and passionate about!

Ultimately, knowing the company and how I could fit into it proved to be necessary in being offered interviews, and later the internship position.  The most important thing is to get excited about the company and the role you will serve as an intern, and also to be comfortable and collected when you actually do the interview.  I hope everyone is having some luck with hearing back from internships and getting interviews!

When applying for internships, some items to consider

Finding an internship is one thing. Finding the right internship is another. As you are applying for internships, here are a few things that are good to consider.

First, you have to be conscious of when you want to start your internship.  Companies may want you to start right after you are offered the internship — but you might want a summer internship, even though you might be applying for it in the spring or fall.   Most of the time, the application it will indicate whether the internship is in the fall, spring, or summer. Take note of this when applying and be sure to make sure your plans are clear during the hiring process.

Another thing to look when applying for an internship is whether the company will pay you for your work. If the internship requires traveling or renting an apartment, you probably will want to be paid in order to pay for those expenses.  But if you are living at home and just want the internship for experience, then an unpaid internship might be a better option.

Check if the internship is part-time or full-time.  You might not be ready to work 40 hours a week, 9-5. You might want to start slow with 10-20 hours per week. Make sure you look on the application to find if the internship is full-time or part-time.

It might sound like a no brainer, but also check to see that you are qualified to work for the company.  Read the full position requirements before applying to make sure that you fall under most of them.  You don’t have to have every single requirement an employer is looking for, but make sure you know and understand most of them. One particularly important requirement to look for is US authorization; many companies cannot sponsor students who don’t have the ability to work in the country without support. If this is something that is applicable to you, make sure you take note of any requirements or get any questions you may have around your work authorization answered.

An issue that I am especially attuned to is meeting the minimum age or class-year requirement.  Many internships are for upperclassman, and you might be like me, a freshman.  If it says they’re looking for upperclassmen, keep that internship in the back of your mind; you can always go apply for it when you are an upperclassmen.  Also, if you are a freshman, some internships want you to be 18, and depending on the time of the internship, not every freshman will be 18.

Finally, don’t think that you have to find an internship “in your major.” Part of the internship experience can be exploring opportunities or industries that seem interesting or a little different. You might want to find one that interests you or helps you build a new skill.  Being able to demonstrate that you are a diverse and well-rounded student is a great thing to have on a resume!

Interview like an ace: Helpful tips

I hope everyone has been having some luck with their internship search!  In February, I applied to a ton of internships – through J-connect, corporate websites, and from some other internship databases.  Now, I’m beginning to hear back from companies, and have even done a few interviews already.  Last week, I had several phone interviews because I was unable to interview in person.  Although I generally don’t mind interviews, phone interviews tend to make me a bit nervous.  There are always awkward pauses and the interviewer can’t completely get a sense of who I am.  However, I think they went pretty well, and I was able to have some in-depth conversations about my interests and experiences.

For this blog entry, I wanted to compile a list of some of the most helpful interview tips I’ve read and heard.  Although applying for internships may seem daunting, the interview, whether in person or over the phone, seems to be the most important part of the process for many employers.

1.  Do your research!  You should know about the company, especially the company’s mission and core values.  Use some similar vocabulary during the interview to show that you’re actually interested in that particular position.  Oftentimes, we apply to so many similar internships that they all run together, but it’s important to show the interviewer that their company and their opportunities are a priority for you.

2. In addition to studying the “About Us” section of a company’s website, you should also take a look to see what the company has been up to lately.  Many corporate websites have a news and events section, or just Google the company.  Understanding the projects that they are currently working on will show the interviewer that you are already up to speed on the company’s work.

3.  Bring a few copies of your resume, your cover letter, recommendations, and any other documents that relate to the internship.  Even if the person interviewing you has already seen your resume, you should always bring an updated version.  I bought an official looking notepad/portfolio at the bookstore and always bring that along with copies of all of my internship documents.  If an interviewer mentions computers or graphic design, I can just pull out my graphic design portfolio instead of having to describe it.  Also, this will show the interviewer that you are prepared and organized.

4. Always get to the interview location early and be especially polite.  I usually try to get to the office about 20 minutes before the scheduled interview so I can sit down and collect my thoughts before the meeting.  Usually a secretary or assistant will greet you, so make sure to be polite and friendly to anyone you see in the office.  These could potentially be your coworkers, so it’s important to make a good impression.

5. During the interview, focus on being calm, cool, and collected.  Try not to speak too fast or too much, as this may make you seem flustered and nervous.  I always try to have an actual conversation with the interviewer, as opposed to a basic question and answer because it calms my nerves and makes the interview more natural.

6.  Prepare some questions beforehand.  An interviewer will always ask you if you have any other questions or comments after they are done, and I find they really appreciate a few questions.  Depending on the type of company and nature of the internship position, you can ask about what a typical day in that internship is like, what their favorite part of working for that company is, what type of corporate/office culture exists there, etc.  Generally, students have trouble coming up with questions to ask the interviewer, but you must have something that you’re curious about and the Interviewer will always be happy to answer these types of questions.

7. Be positive!  Even if you did not love a previous work experience, you should not bad-mouth that company or person.  After all, it was a learning experience.  Throughout the interview, make sure to speak positively and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.  You want to seem engaged, optimistic, and professional.

8.  Follow up with the interviewer.  The next day, always send a thank you note.  it can be a brief email thanking the interviewer for their time or a more elaborate hand-written note.  No matter what, you should always send a thank you.  The interviewer took time out of their day to meet with you.  Also, a follow-up note shows that you are really interested in the position and are waiting to hear back.

Of course, there are dozens of interview strategies, but I think this covers the most basic tips.  Essentially, you just want to seem professional and mature.  It needs to be obvious that you will fit in at the office, perform well, and actually benefit the group or company by interning there.  I hope everyone’s doing well with their internship search and starting to hear back about interviews and the next steps in the internship process!  Good Luck!!

Conquering the Career Fair as a freshman

On February 9th, I went to the JHU Career Center’s Spring 2012 Career Fair.  I didn’t know what to expect considering I didn’t go to the career fair in the Fall.  I had planned out which employers I wanted to see before I got there, so at least I didn’t go in blind.  I wanted to see about four employers.  But four employers soon turn into about ten employers!

The first organization I went to was ESPN. I thought that would be a great place to get an internship because they were looking for computer scientists, like myself.  It would be great if I could merge my career and my love of sports together.  But when I got the booth, I introduced myself and said that I was a freshman looking for a summer internship.  At that second I was turned away because they were looking for juniors their internship.  I was a little discouraged, but I knew that there were many other people to talk to.

I approached some social media and cell phone app companies.  All of whom took my name and resume. I made sure to talk to the National Security Agency (NSA) because that is ultimately where I want to work. I told them how I applied for a scholarship this year and last year with the NSA. They encouraged me to go on their website and to apply for any available internships through their.  Almost all of the companies that I talked to told me to go on their website to apply for and internships that I was interested in.

After that, I got business cards from many different companies that were looking for computer scientists.  The first thing I did when I got back to my dorm was to email all the employers that asked me to email them. I included my resume and briefly said what I was looking for in an internship.

I definitely learned from my career fair experience, like that I should improve my “elevator pitch” in order to try to sell myself to these companies.  First impressions of a person will never change and you definitely want it to be a good one!

Many of the employers from the career fair have their business cards available at the Career Center if you wanted to get in contact with anyone.