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The Internship Experience: Origin Story

Back in 2011, I spent the summer interning with The Principal Financial Group. Along the way, I documented my experience in this series of blog posts. While the work I do today is very different from what I aspired to do back then, I’ve kept the series on the blog for the “in-the-trenches” perspective it provides.

This post describes how I actually landed the internship in the first place – you can follow my day-to-day adventures starting in Part 1.

Tomorrow I start as an IT intern for The Principal Financial Group. Since internships are a “must-have” experience for college students, I will be detailing my experience during my internship this summer on College Info Geek.

A new installment of The Internship Experience will be released every Friday until I go back to school, and meanwhile I’ll still be writing all the other College Info Geek content, including study album reviews, web app geekery, and my attempts at cooking.

This series will have more of a “journal” feel to it, and it’ll give you an in-depth look at what an internship is really like. Maybe you’ll even find out how to fetch the perfect cup of coffee. (spoilers: you won’t)

To wrap up this preview, I’ll go over how I actually got the internship. This is more interesting than you might think, because I landed it without an interview. 

Here’s the story.

We start our story off in BusAd 250 – that’s Introduction to Business, player. Yeah, the intro class is 200-level. Iowa State doesn’t play games.

As the prof starts to cover the basics of marketing, I think to myself,

“Perusing Twitter would probably be a better use of my time than paying attention.”

In this case, it actually was.

I see a tweet by @ISU_CoB advertising something called the Principal Leadership Conference. I like two out of those three things (leadership and conferences; principals, not so much), so I sign up.

A while later, I receive an e-mail telling me I’ve been accepted.

A Few [arbitrary units of time] Later

Now the day of the conference actually rolls around. I drive down to Des Moines, park my car, and walk into the Marriott where I’ll be staying.

After figuring out that they reserved my room under “Frank Thomas” – an occurrence that happens far too often – I check in and head out to the tallest building in the city.

The conference turns out to be like most business conferences for students – there are sessions on the company, dressing professionally, and leadership. We then are matched up with “mentors”.

This is where it gets good.

I was the only person at the conference with an IT-related major, so they paired me up with…. The VP of IT. I talk with him during lunch that day, and then have a meeting the next day at the building’s 41st floor.

After essentially talking shop with him (telling him how much I love Dropbox and swapping tech support stories), we agree to meet again during the summer. This is the start of a mentorship and professional relationship that I’ll cherish forever.

The conference ends, and I go back to ISU to finish out the year and start my summer (as well as College Info Geek – here’s the first post if you’re curious).

More [linear, fixed-rate time travel] Later

August. Thinking that the conference back in May was just that – a conference – I start my internship search like a man on a mission.

I’m the first one in the career services office to get my resume reviewed; I attend three career fairs, hit up a networking breakfast, and add recruiters like crazy on LinkedIn. It pays off. I get seven interview offers, including ones from Boston Scientific, Union Pacific, General Mills, Cargill, and 3M.

I cancel all of them. A week before my first interview, I get a call from Josh Ingalls, on of the main recruiters at Principal. He says,

“Thomas, we’d like to offer you an internship for summer 2011. Since we got to know you at the conference last May, we’ll go ahead and skip the interview process. What do you think?”

(bolding added by me, though I find it funny to imagine him straight-up yelling that part into the phone)

I accept right away. It may have been a good idea to attend the other interviews; I’ll never really know. I just knew that I had a great connection at the conference and I wanted to intern there, so I took it.

That leads us to today. In seven hours and 38 minutes, I’ll start my first day in the V.I.P. – the valued intern program.

A lot has happened during the nine months since I accepted that internship offer, and I feel I’ve grown by leaps and bounds both professionally and personally since then.

This is another opportunity to grow, and I plan on doing just that. I’ll keep you posted along the way! 😉

Click here to read Part 1 of the series.