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Success Starts Here: Finding a Job

| Carrie Ottum

"Success Starts Here" is a series of six articles that introduce new students to the UW-Eau Claire College of Business. A new article will be posted each week until the fall academic term begins. This is the fourth article in the series.

Finding a Job

Nearly ninety-seven percent of all UW-Eau Claire business seniors who graduated in 2018 are employed or continuing their education, according to the most recent First Destination Report compiled by UW-Eau Claire Career Services. Not too surprising . . . from the moment new business students arrive on campus, faculty, staff and advisors start encouraging students to get involved in activities that will make them more marketable. One of those activities are internships.

“Internships are a good way to get your foot in the door of a company you may want to work for in the future,” according to Brenda Thalacker, senior accounting lecturer and internship coordinator. “Our students are so fortunate to have so many companies offering internships to them”

Carrie Ottum, Outreach Program Manager, interviewed Thalacker to learn more about this important high impact experience.  

CO: What is an internship?

BT: An internship, or practicum if you are a health care administration major, allows you to apply the knowledge you’ve gained in the classroom by doing meaningful and needed work for a company or organization. An internship can be a part-time or full-time experience that takes place during the summer, a semester or even longer. The position can be paid or unpaid. Finally, an internship can be taken for credit, which means that the experience counts towards the credits you need to graduate from UW-Eau Claire.

CO: Why should a student do an internship?

BT: An internship gives you a feel for your future profession. Take accounting as an example. Can you see yourself doing audits or providing tax services for a variety of clients in a public accounting firm? Or are you interest in private accounting where you’ll prepare and analyze financial information for a single company or organization? An internship can help you zero in on the area that most interests you.

CO: It's obvious that an internship is a good experience for students. What do companies get from hosting interns?

BT: Many companies use internships as a way to pre-screen prospective employees; students often come back to campus with a job offer if their experience went well. Other employers have part-time or seasonal work needs that can be met by hiring interns. If a student doesn't receive a job offer, they gain valuable work experience that can be added to their resume. 

CO: Many students applying for an internship have never done one. What's it like?

BT: That’s a difficult question to answer as internships can vary quite a bit. Generally, you'll be given a job description that includes your responsibilities, the number of hours per week you'll work, how much you'll be paid, and who you'll report to.

You'll be given “real” assignments that must be completed on time and as professionally as possible. Employers don't expect you to know everything about your job -- you are an intern, after all. But they do expect you to ask questions right away if you don't understand an assignment or are having problems with one. The skills you’ve developed in your business communication classes will come in handy when writing reports, sending emails and making presentations. You may work with people who are older than you, unlike in your classes where everyone is your age. You will probably have to dress up; often times interns wear business casual attire around the office and business professional attire when they meet clients or make a presentation. Your supervisor will let you know what the norm is for your office. Prior to the end of your internship your performance will be evaluated. Your supervisor should tell you what you've done well and offer suggestions for improvement.

And there are non-work related fun activities, too. Companies, especially larger ones, include their interns in social activities, golf outings, and community service projects. 

CO: What do employers look for in interns?

BT: This varies by company and with the position. Knowledge of your academic area is a given. This can be demonstrated by GPA, related work experience, and participation in extracurricular activities like the VITA program or in competitions. Good communication skills – oral, written and interpersonal--and the ability to work independently and in a team are important. Finally, more employers are looking for students who know how to use Excel to analyze data and solve problems, so it will be to your advantage to have these skills.

CO: Earlier you mentioned that an internship can be unpaid. Should a student do one if it isn’t a paid experience?

BT: That’s an interesting question. If you are interested in gaining the skills that the internship will offer, then yes, you absolutely should do an unpaid internship. Sometimes an unpaid internship will lead to a paid one or a full-time job down the road.

CO: When is the best time to do an internship?  

BT: Internships are offered throughout year.  Many accounting internships, for example, are offered in the spring semester during tax season. In general, the best time to do an internship is when you are ready for one! By the way, this is a great topic to discuss with your academic or faculty advisor.

CO: Can first year students do an internship? If not, what can they do now to prepare for one?

BT: Technically yes, but typically first year students haven’t completed enough business coursework for most employers. So, what can they do now? They should do well in their coursework, get involved in their major’s student organization, and take on leadership roles whenever possible. Finally, I recommend to students they should take advantage of the one day or two day experiences many employers are hosting for students. Check with Career Services for more information.

CO: How do students learn about internships?

BT: Internships are posted in Handshake, the recruiting platform UW-Eau Claire students use to view interview offerings, work-study and part-time jobs, internships, and full-time opportunities. Learn more about Handshake on the Career Services website.

CO: Any final tips you can offer incoming students?

BT: Become familiar with Career Services and the services they offer. Check out Career Conference. This is a good way to learn about the companies that typically hire interns. Some departments also host internship/career fairs for specific majors like accounting, professional sales marketing, and health care administration. Be sure to check these out as well.

GH: We certainly covered a lot, Brenda. Thank you for all this great information. You can find out more about internships at the COB Academic Mixer on September 3. Check your UW-Eau Claire email for more information.

Brenda Thalacker

Meet Brenda Thalacker, MBA, CPA
Senior Lecturer, Accounting
Internship Coordinator, Accounting

Hometown: Chippewa Falls, WI

What I do . . . I teach accounting and tax classes for the Department of Accounting and Finance as well as coordinate the department's accounting internship program. I manage the department's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), a program where students provide free income tax assistance to low income individuals and families. Last tax season our VITA students did over 700 tax returns.

Why I become a professor. . . I wanted to share my knowledge and passion for accounting with students

The coolest thing I have been working on this summer is . . . helping my husband renovate a house that our daughter will be living in 

My favorite thing to do on campus is . . . walking or biking on campus on the weekends

People are often surprised to learn . . . that my three children are adopted and each one is from a different country

When I'm not working, you will find me . . . spending time with my family, especially playing with the grandchildren, or reading a book

If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to . . . Australia

My favorite sports team is . . . the Green Bay Packers

Introducing the Class of 2023! Meet your classmates, business faculty and staff members, your advisors, and some of the college's student leaders at the COB Academic Mixer on Tuesday, September 3 from 1:00-2:15 pm in the Schneider Hall. Watch your email for more details