Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Converting Trek Leadership into Internship Offers

By Sam Omann, First-year MBA, Marketing

When the opportunity to lead the New York City “trek” was first introduced to me last August, I have to admit I was a little confused as to what that actually meant.  Would we be expected to hike all the way to NYC?  Was this a reality TV competition, like “The Amazing Race?” I put on my hiking boots, hoisted my biggest backpack onto my shoulders, and headed down to the student services office. Upon my breathless arrival I was informed that this was not an outdoor trek, but rather was a student led employer outreach initiative – and that we could simply use airplanes to visit the companies.  Sold! 

The reasons why I chose to volunteer to lead the NYC trek were straightforward: I had a geographical preference for the east coast, and last year’s trek visited companies near the top of my list. That last year’s trekkers found the networking opportunities so valuable made this a must-do for me.

All of the Kelley students that went on the NYC trek!
Leading the trek is a significant time commitment with many responsibilities. Not only was I in charge of logistical organization, but I was also the main point of contact persuading companies to host us for a visit. Now, I know what you’re thinking: How could a company not want to host a group Kelley students? We’re awesome! Colgate-Palmolive knows this, and had already committed to hosting us for an entire day, leaving the second day for one or two additional companies. After gauging student interest, I initially targeted Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, American Express, and Pfizer.

My role as trek leader was already paying off in networking opportunities! It gave me a reason to set up informational calls with alumni from these companies - many of which do not recruit on our campus - and practice my “pitch.” It still amazes me how helpful Kelley alumni are and how willing they are to make time for us. Even if a company was unable to meet with us, the alumni were still willing to share their experience at the company and provide additional contacts.  I locked in Pfizer for a visit, which was a great win that came with a bonus challenge of getting 17 Kelleys from Manhattan to the Jersey burbs.  Needless to say, I developed a few interview stories during this process.

After scheduling company visits, my focus switched to content. We met and heard from very senior executives, peppering them with enough high-quality questions that even Jonlee would be proud.  Additionally, Miss Mary Corona worked with GCS to plan a happy hour after the Colgate-Palmolive day so we could network with local alumni from companies we didn’t visit.  That’s the good news.  The bad news?  The bar recently closed due to health concerns. I personally disagree with this decision as I thought the food was great! The happy hour reinforced the value of face-to-face contact when building a network – and if you can do so with appetizers in a Hoosier bar, all the better.

It was my good fortune that Colgate-Palmolive selected me for an interview after the trek.  By the time I got to that point I’d met or spoken to each of my interviewers at least twice – mostly initiated by the trek. The hardest question in the interview came at the end: “Do you have any questions for me?”  I’d already learned so much about the company and program that producing a genuine question was actually difficult!  Colgate-Palmolive extended an offer, and leading the trek gave me the confidence to accept it, knowing I’d experienced the company and met its teams firsthand. I can’t wait to trade my boots and backpack for suit and tie as I make my own “trek” out there this summer!

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