“A Day in the Life” by Shannon van der Walt

Intern Spotlight


Who: Shannon van der Walt

Spring 2017

Internship Site: Juma Ventures

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Shannon van der walt: “Photos of Juma youth and university pennants are scattered throughout the office, reminding us of who we serve and what they can achieve.”


What was the highlight of your experience?

As cliché as it sounds, the highlight of my experience was having the chance to work with some truly incredible people. My coworkers are from all over the country and world, and all have fascinating backgrounds and stories to tell. Similarly, the students we serve spend afternoons in the office and consistently bring excitement, happiness, and the latest pop culture updates. Juma is a family, my supervisor is a mentor and friend, and work has never been so much fun! From coffee/boba runs, to staff picnics out on the lawn, to cramming into the HR closet, every part of my experience has felt like a team effort. Juma made me feel valued and welcome, and it’s made all the difference!

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Views from right outside our office!

How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had?

No other internship has ever made me feel so immersed, impactful, or independent. Working 32 hours a week, for fifteen weeks gives you a much deeper understanding of the organization, which rarely to never happens over the course of a typical internship. I was given the opportunity to work on projects that wouldn’t typically be assigned to a summer intern, and as a result, I could contribute in a more significant and meaningful way to the organization. The capstone internship also provides an invaluable opportunity to live and learn in a new city, find a healthy work-life balance, and transition from a student to a young professional.

How do you think you have grown as a professional?

Some projects that I’ve worked on include: recruiting and onboarding new youth and full time staff, designing a brand new professional development program, and creating a manager onboarding packet. Each of these projects has been a unique learning opportunity, and has taught me how to apply HOD concepts to real business processes and decisions.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would recommend for the internship search process?

  • Start early, and start with your passions. This is a wonderful and unique opportunity, so don’t waste it! Be proactive and find an organization that shares your values and interests. You’ll be spending four months of hundreds of hours there- make sure you’re genuinely excited about it from the start.
  • USE YOUR NETWORK. I can’t say it enough, your professors, peers, and past employers will give you the best introductions, and will genuinely enjoy helping you out. As Juma’s CEO says, “Your net worth is your network” (but also you are worth so much more). Do not be scared to reach out to people you have not talked to in a while, it’ll be worth it if they can help you land that dream internship!
  • Kill the game from the beginning. Making a very strong, very positive first impression in the first two or three weeks will make the rest of your internship a breeze, and will earn you a reference that can talk in detail about your qualifications, professionalism, and work ethic. This means: get to meetings early, always be prepared, and give it 110% to make an impression. Don’t forget to add your coworkers on LinkedIn!
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Pi Day at Juma!

Why did you choose your site for your internship?

Having just taken Jim Schorr’s class on Social Enterprises, I was fascinated by this idea of nonprofits using traditional for-profit business strategies to maximize social impact and sustainability. Throughout the class, Juma was repeatedly used as an example of an innovative nonprofit that strives to break the cycle of poverty. Enamored with the organization and the location, I reached out to Professor Schorr to make an introduction at Juma. Soon, I had an interview with the CEO and then the Director of Operations, and was offered and accepted an internship within a week. I was very lucky to have such a targeted and quick process!

How will this internship impact your future?

My capstone internship has been extremely influential in regards to my future. This internship has also given me a chance to try out living in San Francisco, and I’ve realized I love the city, and will stay here post-graduation. Through my Airbnb housing adventures, I’ve lived in 5 parts of SF. I’ve seen how diverse and wonderful different parts of the city are, and have gained an appreciation for public transportation, food trucks, and walking up and down crazy SF hills. I’ve also confirmed my passion for nonprofits, and have begun building a network within the nonprofit sector in SF. Overall, I feel so much more prepared for graduation and the post-Vanderbilt life!



8 Common Interview Questions and Tips for Answering Them

Mock Interview Photo

Each step of the career marketing process is important, although the job interview is where many employers make hiring decisions. The interview gives employers the chance to evaluate how well your qualifications and skills fit into their organization. Remember YOU are the product in the interview. You have to learn to sell yourself and let the employers know you are the best candidate for the job/internship.

1. Tell me about yourself.

Do: Don’t:
· Keep your answer short – 45 seconds to 1 minute.

· Be specific about your professional experience and what you have learned.

· Align your story of self to reflect qualities the employer is looking for.

 · Tell your personal story (i.e. too many details about where you grew up or about your family)

· Emphasize unrelated job experience.

· Speak negatively about past experiences.

2400 Connection: What is your unique selling position (USP)? Use the data in your Employee Talent Profile and Marketing Analysis Assignments. Take into account the qualities sought by employers and The Vault Guide interviewing tips.


2. What interests you about this job?

Do: Don’t:
· Focus on the role and how it aligns with your professional interests.

· Show understanding of role expectations.

· Connect the role to specifics about the company.

· Talk about benefits, salary, commute or job/internship perks.

· Make the position sound like a stepping stone.



3. What do you know about our company so far?

Do: Don’t:
· Show knowledge of company mission and goals.

· Conduct market research and trends.

· Know the competition.

· Go in unprepared.

· Discuss secondhand information.

· Give critical feedback.



4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Do: Don’t:
· Take the opportunity to highlight a strength crucial for the position. Think about how your strengths relate to the organization’s need for an intern.

· Tell an impressive success story.

· Show that you are aware of your weakness and outline what steps you are taking to improve.

· Make claims you cannot support with evidence.

· Be too modest or too braggadocios.

· Cloak a strength as a weakness (i.e. “I work too hard” or “I am a perfectionist.”) – employers will see right through that.


2400 Connection: The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive. A majority of employers are adopting this style of interviewing. Your job is to prepare and practice your approach for how to respond to a behavioral interview question using the STARS approach. (Source: http://www.quintcareers.com/behavioral_interviewing.html).

The STARS Approach

Situation or 


Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did — not the efforts of the team. Do not tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you achieved What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish?
Summarize Summarize your response with what you learned that you could reapply in the future.


5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (This may not be asked in the internship search process, but it is an important question to think about – especially if you interview somewhere that may want to hire you after you graduate).

Do: Don’t:
· Demonstrate a level of commitment needed for the job you are applying for.

· Outline a realistic growth strategy.

· Emphasize long-term interest in the company.

· Discuss personal goals.

· Talk about being CEO of the company.

· Appear to have no plans for the future.



6. Tell me about a time when you failed.

Do: Don’t:
· Set the scene – tell what the story means.

· Identify the pivotal challenge.

· Describe what you learned.


· Frame it as a recurring issue.

· Complain about the working conditions.

· Place blame on others.

2400 Connection: David Hutchens suggests the following framework to turn your failure into a source of wisdom.

At the time I believed…

But I learned…

So now I …(what you are doing differently as a result)

Click the link below for his video explanation and suggestions for crafting your story.



7. Why should we hire you?

Do: Don’t:
· Point to your skills and track record that fit the position.

· Be engaging and enthusiastic.

· Demonstrate commitment.


· Tell them it would be a mistake not to hire you.

· Give off a nonchalant attitude.

· Mention other interviews or jobs.

2400 Connection: How would you describe your HOD (or other) major to a prospective employer? For example, Human and Organizational Development teaches students how to go into organizations and communities and identify and solve problems. Tell employers what knowledge, experience, and skills you have developed through your major(s). Tell the employer about the core classes, your track, etc. Give examples.


8. What questions do you have for me?

Do: Don’t:
· Prepare questions before the interview (see below).

· Ask questions related to company/market research.

· Ask questions about company culture/next steps in hiring process.

· Say, “No, I am good.”

·  Ask questions you could easily look up the answer to.

· Ask about salary (if it is an internship, it may not be paid) – but if you are asked, make sure you have a number in mind based on market research.

Sample Questions to Ask the Interviewer (adapted from the Vanderbilt Career Center):

  • What do you enjoy most about working for _______? Least?
  • What activities are routinely performed in this internship?
  • With what other departments or divisions do you interact the most?
  • What parts of the job or internship are most challenging?

For more information on Interview Tips, please visit the Vanderbilt Career Center: Career Center Tips

Finally, do not forget the HOD Internship Office is here to support you if you have any follow-up questions or would like to set up a meeting to discuss this material further. The HOD office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:30 and is located in Mayborn 104.

Top 5 Employer Feedback Takeaways from the Internship Fair

fair-supervisor-f17Would you like to know what employers thought of HOD students at the Internship Fair?

Here are 5 takeaways you can apply moving forward with the HOD Internship search:

  1. They are very likely to offer you a job.

93.93% of employer responders stated that they were either “Definitely” or “Very Likely” going to hire an HOD intern for the summer/fall. The odds are in your favor, but you must follow-up with employers you hear from via email/phone to continue the process smoothly. Do not take longer than 24 hours to respond to professional contacts. Remember, even it you are not interested, you stand to gain interview experience and to build relationships. Should you choose not to confirm with the site, you should send a letter of regret as follow-up communication.

2. Some parts of your resume are more important than others.

According to our employer feedback, here is what you should emphasize on your cover letter and resume:


You might be wondering how to show “work ethic” or “initiative” on your resume. Your implementation of course projects and/or role in extracurricular activities could demonstrate these skills. You can be creative with how to showcase these attributes on your resume.

3. The most important qualities employers look for in an intern are:

1) Professional Work Ethic 2) Oral/Written Communication 3) Teamwork/Collaboration


4. According to employers, your greatest area for development is conducting stronger market research.

It is important to employers that you have researched their business. You should demonstrate a handle on current, relevant market research before the internship fair and even more critically, your interview. Having a working understanding of current market trends specific to the industry/company you are applying to work in shows knowledge, initiative, and interest beyond meeting the requirements of simply being a student. It increases the likelihood that employers will take you seriously for hiring as an intern and potentially for a full-time position. You will also have excellent material to customize your list of questions for the employer.

Market research is critical to the success of any business. It helps companies understand their consumer, examine their competition, and develop innovative strategies to maximize impact and minimize risk. These are all skills that you will be expected to demonstrate in your HOD internship as an employee, and in your coursework as a student.

5. What sets our HOD interns apart?

We asked our Internship Fair employers what keeps them coming back to Vanderbilt to speak with HOD intern candidates, and have a sample of their responses. Insider tip: these are skills/abilities you may want to highlight in interviews.

“HOD interns are able to work on a wide range of issues at our agency, and they do so in a professional and competent manner.”

“They are well-rounded students who can transition into various areas of business.”

“Most of our interns come with a strong desire to have an impact on the company and to engage from day one. This is very important to us.”

“Having an intern for 30 hours a week versus 8-10 sets the HOD program apart from many other internship opportunities. The interns learn to become part of the organization, and not just an outsider working with us for a short time. That mindset leads to greater productivity and a greater fulfillment in the product.”

“Structured, high-performing candidates that add value through their time but especially through their primary program deliverable.”

“It is clear that HOD interns, above and beyond interns or volunteers that we may find from any other source, are hungry learners and are asking themselves if they can make something even better rather than just fulfilling the tasks that are asked of them.”

Finally, don’t forget the HOD Internship Office is here to support you if you have any follow-up questions or would like to set up a meeting to discuss this material further. The HOD office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:30.


“A Day in the Life” by Sydney Larsen

Intern Spotlight


Sydney Larsenlarsen-photo-1

Fall 2016

Internship Site: Interfaith Dental Clinic

What was the highlight of your experience (i.e. projects you worked on, people you met, events you attended)?

This internship gave me the chance to gain an in-depth view into all of the hard work that goes into running a healthcare-oriented non-profit organization. Working on projects for the Education Center and Development teams allowed me to cultivate new skills in Excel and graphic design, but my favorite experience by far was that involving the people that Interfaith serves. Although it was a small job, I was assigned the task of calling to inform clients that they were accepted into the comprehensive care program. Hearing the excitement and joy in many of their voices really solidified the importance of the work that Interfaith does, and reinforced my own desire to pursue involvement in the nonprofit sector of dentistry someday.

How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had?

As a pre-health student, it is often difficult to find internships outside of the research world, as healthcare positions require a great deal of training and qualification. Participating in the HOD Internship gave me an incredibly unique opportunity to be in a healthcare setting for over 30 hours a week, something that few other pre-dental students get to do. While my time was divided between clinical observation and projects for the Education and Development teams, this experience provided in-depth shadowing experience, something that is vital for anyone pursuing dentistry. The wide variety of care that Interfaith offers gave me the chance to observe everything from simple cleanings, all the way to IV-sedated oral surgery. Additionally the internship coursework gave me the chance to focus on learning more about the challenges and opportunities of the industry and gain valuable mentors.

How do you think you have grown as a professional (i.e. skills, learning to receive feedback, professionalism tips)?

I think one of the most valuable parts of this internship was simply getting used to a “real adult” schedule and workload. Learning to balance work with the demands of coursework and life, thought difficult at first, was great practice for life after graduation.


What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would recommend for the internship search process?

  • Start early! Even if you are still far away from your internship, start researching and actively seeking out organizations you think you might be interested in, make some contacts, and get your foot in the door. That will make the search process much less stressful.
  • Stay in your industry! This may be an unpopular opinion, but don’t use this internship as a chance to try something new or explore your far-fetched “dream job.” When it comes down to the reality of it, thirty-two hours a week is a very long time to spend doing something that you are only mildly interested in. Additionally, this is a wonderful chance to get experience and recognition within your industry, as many organizations are very enthusiastic about hiring an almost full time worker at no cost.
  • Cast a wide net. Even if you have one specific organization in mind, send out as many applications and resumes as soon as you can. Just in case things don’t work out, you will be thankful to have backups.

Why did you choose your site for your internship?

As a pre-dental HOD student (probably the only one), my choice was very straightforward. I came across Interfaith fairly early on during my sophomore year and was immediately drawn to their mission and the unique structure of the organization. Nonprofit dentistry is what I hope to do in the future, so it was very lucky that I was able to find such a perfect fit.

How will this internship impact your future (i.e. change career, landed a job)?

This internship has only reinforced and expanded my desire to pursue nonprofit dentistry. Additionally it has made me aware of Interfaith’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency, something that I would love to explore after my time in dental school. My time at Interfaith gave me the chance to start to create a network of dental professionals in the Nashville community, something that could be very useful in the upcoming years.

Thank you to Sydney for providing this helpful information and advice!

“A Day in the Life” by Rachel Vance

Intern Spotlight

The HOD “Day in the Life” features students who have completed the HOD Internship and then share words of wisdom to illuminate their experiences. This week highlights the story of Rachel Vance, a senior who interned at M Street in Nashville during the fall of 2016.


Rachel Vance

Fall 2016

Internship Site: M Street

What was the highlight of your experience (i.e. projects you worked on, people you met, events you attended)?

The highlight of my experience was meeting and interacting with all of the interesting M Street employees.  Not only did I develop a relationship with my coworkers in the Corporate Office, known as the Support Center, I also was able to collaborate with Front of House (managers, waiters, bartenders) and Back of House (chefs, cooks, dishwashers, etc.) staff in the restaurants.  I had a rewarding experience as I learned so much from this group who taught me a tremendous amount about the hospitality and restaurant industry.

How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had? Explain.

The HOD capstone internship was more rigorous than other internships I have had in the past.  This was due to the fact that in addition to working 32 hours onsite, as an HOD intern, I was required to complete a tremendous amount of work outside the office.  Also, I was not only responsible for undertaking tasks assigned to me by my supervisor at M Street, but I also had to complete my senior project for the HOD related course.


How do you think you have grown as a professional (i.e. skills, learning to receive feedback, professionalism tips)?

This experience helped me grow as a professional.  First, I acquired HR knowledge that I will use in my professional career, specifically related to recruiting and talent development.  Additionally, I enhanced my communication skills.  I interacted with colleagues through a variety of platforms including face-to-face communication, emails, and meeting forums.  Lastly, working in an office for a majority of the week was good practice that will help ensure a smooth transition into my post graduation life.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would recommend for the internship search process?

I would make sure to start the internship search process early.  It is often hard to connect with employees in organizations as many of these individuals have busy schedules.  The HOD program makes you adhere to strict deadlines, so it is best to prepare early in order to comply with guidelines.  Next, I would take advantage of the HOD internship database.  There were a lot of great opportunities on this platform that eventually enabled me to connect with multiple companies of interest.  Last, I would encourage students to reach out to as many organizations that they may be interested in because the first choice may not work out.  All sites provide valuable experiences, so, the most important thing is to find one that will respond to your initial request and can ultimately accommodate an HOD intern.


Why did you choose your site for your internship?

I chose M Street as my site for many reasons.  First, I wanted to work for an organization that represented my time spent living in Nashville.  M Street operates some of the best restaurants in the city.  These venues tend to be my “go to” options when I eat out, so I thought it would be enjoyable and rewarding to join their team.  Additionally, I was offered a position in the HR department, which is the industry I planned on pursuing after graduation.  I was hoping to learn HR related skills that would be valuable in my future endeavors.  Lastly, M Street seemed like the perfect site because they were able to meet all of the HOD requirements, wanted to learn about the internship program, and expressed interest in establishing a more formal relationship with the HOD department.

How will this internship impact your future (i.e. change career, landed a job)?

This internship has already and will continue to impact my future, as I am now better equipped to enter the working world.  Having this experience as a senior in college enabled me to get a feel for what life will be like after I graduate, and it no longer seems as daunting.  Even though I am disappointed that my college career is coming to an end, I am now more excited to begin my professional career with a prestigious HR department in NYC.  I am certain I will be able to take advantage of many of the skills I acquired during my time at M Street.

Thank you to Rachel for sharing such valuable insight!

An Afternoon with HOD Alumnus and Fashion Creative Director, Timo Weiland

An HOD alumnus and graduate of the Class of 2006, Timo Weiland, was kind enough to visit with current Vanderbilt students during his Homecoming Weekend trip and provide them with valuable information about the fashion industry. In addition to learning about his story as he began his own career in the fashion world and eventually created his own company, “Timo Weiland,” students can have a glimpse into his world as he shared a few personal vignettes and favorite NYC spots, detailed below.

Q: What would you like HOD students to know about you or your work?

TW: “As a creative director, I am constantly observing the world round me, getting inspired, and learning as much as I can from every situation, scenario, or interaction. I have a multi-faceted career that spans design, lifestyle, music, and business- but all aspects are interrelated and come down to interpersonal relationships and brand-building.”

Q: What are your favorite spots in NYC?

TW:  “Such a difficult question to answer! There are too many places to mention. Some highlights are below:

Favorite museum(s): Tie between The Frick Collection & The Cloisters
Favorite surf spot: Rockaway Beach @ 90th Street- accessible by subway
Favorite date spot: Lilia in Brooklyn
Favorite movie theater: NightHawk Cinema
Favorite bar: Acme or Loosie Rouge
Favorite breakfast meeting spot: Ludlow House
Favorite brunch spot: Marlow & Sons
Favorite burger: The Happiest Hour
Favorite staycation: The Urban Cowboy B&B”

Q: What is some advice you can give to students about things you did and/or would have done differently during your HOD experience?

TW: “HOD provided me with a phenomenal foundation for both the start of my career on Wall Street and after as an entrepreneur. In hindsight, I would have done more research and due-diligence prior to my HOD internship, especially for startup companies (now so many of them based in Nashville!). That would have ensured that I would be able to maximize learning from every aspect of the program. Take full advantage of all of the resources now available! So much more advanced and robust than when I was a student.”

Q: What do you look for in candidates who apply for jobs or internships? What do you think it takes to make it in the fashion world?

TW: “For internship candidates, I look for students that have put themselves out there in terms of extracurriculars, projects, and are committed to learning inside and outside of the classroom. We are a very all-hands-on-deck office, so we also look for candidates that can handle the fast-paced often highly stressful environment of a startup collective.”

Q: Do you have a funny story that you overcame to encourage current students?

TW: “When applying for school or a job, or starting a company of your own, it is crucially important to differentiate yourself in the most positive way possible- to really set yourself apart from the pack. When applying to Vandy in 2001, I was wait-listed (unfortunately hadn’t thought to apply Early Decision!), but was eventually accepted because the regional Admissions counselor remembered our very in-depth 1-on-1 conversation during his visit to my high school, Episcopal. Fast forward 4 years to when when I was applying for jobs on Wall Street through the Career Center, I had never seen longer lines for the meet & greets. I had minimal experience, only a 2-month internship at Merrill Lynch, but I took every opportunity to connect with Hiring Managers, Analysts, Associates, and high-ranking Vandy alum Managing Directors from each bank. I asked the right questions- things I genuinely was curious about- the learning experience of the Investment Banking Analyst program. With the Deutsche Bank Securities team, I felt a particularly strong bond and ended up as 1 of only 2 first year analysts hired from our class of 2006.”

If you are interested in learning more about Timo’s brand, visit http://www.timoweiland.com

Thinking About an Internship in London?

Students interested in pursuing internships in London met with HOD professors and London alumni to discuss the ins and outs of life and internships abroad.
Director of the HOD Internship Program, Kristen Tompkins (center), with six HOD students who spent their semesters in London.

“I think it’s such an amazing opportunity. You really learn a lot about yourself. It’s hard to get there but it’s so worth it, because you can really live independently and live in an international city.”  – Natasha
“This program is better than any opportunity out there with Vandy, because you get the study abroad cultural immersion type of thing and on the weekends you can travel but during the week you are having this completely immersive work experience. It’s a nice balance because you have the work experience in London and you can travel on the weekend and meet up with friends. It is such a cool growing experience unlike any other abroad programs.” – Aaron
Students in the Human and Organizational Development Internship placement process had the opportunity to attend high tea and learn about internship life in London. Students engaged in an evening of London culture, trivia, and questioned an expert panel of students who successfully completed the program abroad.
The expert panel shared a host of helpful information from how to get around the city, recommendations for internship placements, how to locate and select safe and affordable housing, and how to make the most of your time in London. They also shared the impact the London internship experience had on their development:
“You get a real cultural experience. It’s amazing.” -Shelby
“The work I did at my internship was so meaningful.” – Vivian
If you would like more information about the London Internship experience, feel free to reach out to these past participants via email as listed below:
Aaron Chasan – aaron.s.chasan@vanderbilt.edu
Mary Downs – mary.m.downs@vanderbilt.edu
Maureen Driscoll – maureen.a.driscoll@vanderbilt.edu
Natasha Raskin – natasha.e.raskin@Vanderbilt.edu