3 Steps to Internship Search Success

Wenzhe Zhang
Wenzhe Zhang

Wenzhe Zhang recently graduated from the full-time Master of Science in Enterprise Risk Management program at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and is working in the Office of Risk Management of Inter-American Development Bank in Washington D.C. Her main responsibilities in the Bank include quantitative assessment of operational risk and the risk aggregation project. Before joining Carey, she worked at KPMG, Ernst & Young in Beijing as a financial statement auditor, and was involved in more than 15 annual audit engagements in manufacture, retail industry, and multi MNCs. She also worked at a state-owned group as an internal auditor in Zhengzhou, China, initiating the internal audit framework by applying COSO frameworks, IIA regulations and Sarbanes Oxley Act. Wenzhe holds Bachelor’s degrees in Hospitality Management and Management Science from Florida International University and Tianjin University of Commerce.

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A couple of weeks ago, I finished my project presentation to the Unit Chief of Operational Risk Management at the Inter-American Development Bank. I had been working for two months on the quantitative risk aggregation project. My manager gave me full authorization and flexibility to obtain resources in the bank, and it was the best internship experience I have ever had. Now that I have completed my internship, I reflect back on my time at Carey and appreciate what brought me to a successful internship.

1. Set demanding but achievable targets: I put these words on a small note and attached it right in front of my desk to remind myself never to forget to push myself forward. It is common for graduates to put themselves in a low position, think they do not fulfill the requirements of a role, and never send the resume. But if we don’t trust ourselves in the first place, no one else will trust us either. It is necessary to know our market value and put ourselves out there, in the right market, with the right price. During the internship, I asked to work on a completely new project and was surprised by what I could accomplish in two months. And of course, more opportunities will be offered if you prove your value and potential to others.

Some of you may be afraid of failure. I came to Carey with no finance or computer science background so I chose to enroll in most of the finance and IT related courses, which benefited me a lot during my internship search. Employers will be excited if they find some unexpected experiences from you. Even if I earned a B in those courses, the knowledge would still be valuable (but please try to aim higher than a B!).

2. Walk solid steps: This should be an attitude towards our daily life. Set your mind to do something, do it well, and put sufficient time and energy into it. Otherwise, don’t even waste your time to start. I remember I spent quite a long time on an Enterprise Risk Management course project and mentioned it during an interview. I could still remember the project clearly and gave solid explanation about the key points to the interviewer because I put a lot of time and energy to write it in the first place. The enhanced understanding of ERM was a key reason to clear that interview.

During another interview, the Chief of Staff asked me to give an example of how I manage my time and multitask. I said I am a list killer. I could feel they were not satisfied with the answer because it was quite cheesy. So I elaborated. I said I found keeping a list helpful to manage time because it helps me track the important but non-urgent tasks. You may feel some tasks are not important but they could be beneficial if you start on them early. So, keeping lists helps me start on important but non-urgent tasks early and gives me sufficient time to multitask. The interviewers were happy with the elaboration. Even for a small action like keeping a list, if I do it solidly, I can reflect on it and further apply it to job seeking.

3. Interviews can’t be prepared for in one day: Don’t be misled. The majority of preparation should be done every day. What we can do after the invitation is to become even more familiar with the organization and the department, and think how it aligns with our career path. Even before you receive an interview invitation, if you take a solid step every day and are serious about each assignment, you will know exactly how to give special and vivid examples and ask specific questions during the interview. The ultimate weapon to clear all interviews is to get more exposure and gain experience before the interview. The greatest answers always come from small daily accumulation and are tailored based on previous discussions.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Start now, start small.

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