Securing An Internship (And The Best Companies For Them)

The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Toi Williams, who is a professional finance blogger for MarketBeat. She has backgrounds in personal finance, sales, and real estate.

For many students and graduates, the pathway to employment starts with landing the right internship. An internship is program offered by an employer to potential employees that allow interns to work either part time or full time at a company for a certain period of time. The Random House Dictionary defines an internship as:
“Any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession.”

Internships are an essential pipeline for talent for employers and a great steppingstone for students. Many students try to do a few internships throughout college to get a feel for what career they’d like to pursue. Internships are most popular with undergraduates or graduate students who work between one to four months.

Internships allow you to experiment with a career that interests you. Most American internships are work experience internships. There are also research internships, which are more common in scientific fields. Some internships offer college credit for the successful completion of the program.

Internships can be paid or unpaid. Paid internships for college students are less common than unpaid internships. Unpaid internships are usually subject to stringent labor guidelines. U.S. federal law mandates that unpaid interns must not be used to displace the work done by paid employees or benefit the company economically. Some states have additional laws that govern the activities of unpaid interns.

Just about any internship program would be a good entry on your resume, a great way to gain references, and help you with networking. You’re not bound to work for your employer after the internship is over. However, a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers that polled U.S. employers with interns found nearly 7 out of 10 internships result in a full time job offer after successful completion of the program.

If you’re hoping to change geographic location for your internship, there are some things to keep in mind. The first is where you will live during your time with the company. Some internship programs offer housing to students or include a stipend for housing and expenses. Others have developed some financially accessible options so their interns can focus on doing the job rather than worrying about their housing. Make sure you know where you will be living before you make your choice.

Today, employers are being a lot more specific about the skills they need from their interns. These days, interns at some of America’s most popular companies are responsible for a wide range of high level projects. Many companies use their internships as trial runs for potential hires or future promotions. Law firms and investment banks have operated like this decades.

According to a new report by jobs site Glassdoor, the 25 best-paying companies for internships generally pay their interns a median of more than $4,500 a month. Those companies are all generally pay their workforces well above average wages. The intern programs at Facebook, Google, and many of the other Silicon Valley companies on the list are notoriously competitive and challenging, somewhat justifying the higher pay.

Topping Glassdoor’s list is Facebook, with a median pay for interns at $8,000 a month. Microsoft was next, with a median pay of $7,100 a month. The rest of the list is as follows:
• ExxonMobil ($6,507)
• Salesforce ($6,450)
• Amazon ($6,400)
• Apple ($6,400)
• Bloomberg LP ($6,400)
• Yelp ($6,400)
• Yahoo ($6,080)
• VMWare ($6,080)
• Google ($6,000)
• NVIDIA ($5,770)
• Intuit ($5,440)
• Juniper Networks ($5,440)
• Workday ($5,440)
• BlackRock ($5,400)
• Adobe ($5,120)
• MathWorks ($5,120)
• Qualcomm ($5,040)
• Capital One ($5,000)
• Chevron ($5,000)
• Accenture ($4,960)
• Deutsche Bank ($4,640)
• AIG ($4,616)
• Bank Of America ($4,570)

While New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are the primary metropolitan areas for internships in the U.S., there are plenty of other locations that offer great unpaid and paid internships for college students. There are hundreds of thousands of internship opportunities available with employers across the country. You can focus your internship search by where you live, by your college major, or by specific company.

There are many avenues available for securing an internship. calls itself the largest internship marketplace online, listing “202,897 internship positions from 123,218 companies located in 9,152 cities across all 50 states.” Another resource is, which lets you search for internships in your local area or any other US location you are interested in. WayUp is advertised as “the #1 place for college students & recent grads to get hired and launch their careers,” listing both available jobs and internships for companies across the nation.

Burning Glass Technologies, a research company that collects employer postings for internships, has released a list of the top 20 fields for internships by number of online postings. Those fields are:
1. Business Operations
2. Marketing
3. Engineering
4. Sales and Business Development
5. Media, Communications, and Public Relations
6. Data Analytics
7. Finance
8. IT Development
9. Arts and Design
10. Project and Program Management
11. Human Resources
12. Science and Environment
13. Health Care
14. Educations and Human Services
15. Database Administration
16. IT Support
17. Economics And Policy
18. Legal
19. Retail
20. Event Planning

Securing an internship will provide you with a wide range of benefits. You get a valuable opportunity to talk to real workers in the fields that you are interested in and experience what working for a particular company would be like first hand. Internships also give you a chance to hone your skills and improve your leadership talents. Employers overwhelmingly point to internship experience as the most important factor they consider in hiring new college graduates for full-time positions. Research shows that 85 percent of companies use internships and similar experiential education programs to recruit for their full-time workforces.

How about you all? Did you use an internship to start your career?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of

Office Work Hacks

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Marie. You can read more of Marie’s articles over at her own blog, Family Money Values. Enjoy! 

Getting along and getting ahead in the office involve age old problems.  Here are some problems with ideas on solutions.

Inability to focus is causing you to be less productive.

You head into the office each day refreshed and ready, but once you get logged in to your applications, the next thing you know it’s lunch time and you haven’t accomplished anything!

Hack: Downsize distractions and focus on priorities.

You can’t control your office environment, but you can change its effect on you.  If the guy in the next cube has a constant stream of visitors, talks to himself out loud, plays loud music or just otherwise distracts you – put on your headphones (they will discourage visitors from approaching and can block the noise).  Reduce clutter in your area so that you aren’t distracted by it.  If you are in a high traffic area, see if the company will put up some noise and sight protection in the form of higher cube walls, signs or other preventative measures.

Focus on priorities by writing down the very most important things that you accomplish each day, and listing tomorrow’s priority tasks.  Check in once in a while with the boss or project leader to make sure you are on track.  Avoid diverting phone calls, emails, text messages, and non-essential or less important project tasks so that you have laser like focus on the priority items.  BUT, if you get stuck working on priority items, it is OK to switch off temporarily to work other items – as long as you get back on track fast.

You feel invisible to the boss.

A boss or mentor higher in the corporate chain of command is an important ally when trying to advance your career.  He or she can steer special projects to you, make you known to other executives, put you in for a raise or bonus, push your ideas, save you from a general layoff, or help in a myriad of other ways.

Hack:  Go face to face

Electronic or phone communication is fine, but your boss is inundated with it day in, day out.  Get to know the boss by going face to face on select topics.  You won’t be invisible long – but take care to be visible in a positive way!

Here are some ways to to meet person to person with your boss.

If he assigned a task or deliverable to you and you finish it successfully, try hand delivering it with a very short verbal reminder of what it is and when it was requested.

If your boss does an annual evaluation, request a touch base meeting once a quarter or twice a year to ‘verify that I’m on track’ with what is needed.

Ask around to see what your boss’s outside interests are, and if you have similar ones, strike up a conversation in the lunch line, bathroom or break-room about the topic.

Volunteer for special projects or activities in which your boss is also involved.   Working directly together on a project will allow you to directly demonstrate your ability, creativity and productivity.

If your boss is not at the same location as you are, try using the phone, video calls or attempting to schedule a visit to his or her location for a special meeting on something important to the boss.

Your work performance suffers due to co-worker or staff member office socialization.

Yes, you are part of a group.  Yes, the group is important.  Some socialization is good for the group and good for productivity, but too much is just a waste of time.  Creativity can be spawned by some group socialization, but so can negative, hurtful gossip that distracts you from the job at hand.   If your good friend in the next department makes a habit of stopping by for a chat each day, and ends up talking for half an hour, the benefit of inter-department communication is outweighed by the loss of work time from both of you.

Hack: Turn the talk back to work subjects.

Don’t be a jerk, do visit for a few minutes, but then gently turn the talk back to what is going on with the project, or a new idea you had to make things better, or a discussion of how to go about the next steps you both need to take.  Don’t get me wrong, managers can gain a lot of good perspective by being open to informal communication with their staff and peers, but perspective on who will take the Superbowl may not be all that beneficial.

Use off hours (such as breaks, lunch and after work time) to really socialize with co-workers.

Meetings suck your office time, then you have to stay late to get your actual work done.

As a manager, I attended and ran a lot of meetings.  There were very good reasons to hold many of the meetings, but often the purpose was not realized.  Sometimes (actually many times) the meeting participants are unprepared to fully participate in what could be a great meeting. Sometimes the meeting organizer isn’t aware of other work that should be happening in the meeting time frame.  Meetings don’t equal work done (usually), but can be beneficial in some cases.

Hack:  Make your meetings meaningful.

When you attend a meeting:

  • Understand its purpose.

Question the meeting purpose it doesn’t make sense or if a meeting is not the way to achieve that purpose, but question in private.

  • Make sure you should be attending – are you an interested party, can you contribute? Check in with the meeting organizer or your boss if you are unsure why you are attending and then:
  • Participate fully.

As the meeting organizer:

  • Make sure you have a purpose.

Consider carefully whether a meeting is the very best way to achieve that purpose.

  • Verify that each and every meeting participant is required.
  • Hold the meeting for the shortest possible time, with the tightest possible agenda.
  • Lead efficiently.
  • If you hold a lot of meetings, get training on how to lead effective ones and how to accomplish things without meetings.

Any meeting where the leader talks and everyone else sits around fidgeting is a failure!

Work sucks but you don’t feel like you can do anything to change the way things are.

When we lack seniority, we often don’t feel empowered to put our own imprint on our work place.  If we try, sometimes we are told “This is the way we do it – it’s always been done this way”.  Yet you do know of a better way – or at least think you do.

Hack: Figure out how your company solicits or allows input. 

Most companies have implemented multiple ways for employee ideas to trickle up to higher levels of management.  Many companies long for the great employee suggestions and go to great lengths to make sure they are heard.  You just need to figure out what those currently are.

A few methods I have seen at various employers include:

Company wiki’s with sections for various parts of the company – where anyone can post an idea.

Ongoing braintrust meetings – open invites for certain departments, levels or mixes of employees gather to present and discuss ideas for new products, process improvements and etc.

Awards – formal channels to submit written proposals to an award committee to review and get implemented.

Third party award systems – third parties sometimes are hired to come in and solicit money saving suggestions from the folks closest to the work.  These usually come with some pretty significant ‘prizes’.

Special calls to action – a director or vice-president is on a special mission and requests ideas on how to accomplish that mission.

Company Strategic mission committees – most companies have a mission, with goals, strategies and tactics to get to them.  Ask around to find out who is eligible to work on these committees, offer up strategies and tactics or be on the projects to implement them.

Brainstorming meetings – typically held around one particular topic.

Once you understand the change procedures, explore the particular item you want to change.  Learn the history of how and why the process came to be.  What was tried before, would it fail again now?  Was your idea previously suggested?  How could it be implemented differently to be more effective?

Of course, you can always just talk it over with the boss or your other co-workers.  Building support for your change can give its chances of adoption a big boost.

The above work hacks are based on my own work experience and may not necessarily work for you.  It’s always good to get the lay of the land before diving in head first on some of these things.

How about you all? What work hacks have you seen?  Are there issues in your workplace interfering with your productivity?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy

Think Like You’re Self-Employed – Even if You Have a Job

boss-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is a freelance professional personal finance blogger for hire, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

Employees sometimes pigeonhole themselves into very tight niches. They focus on very specific tasks and skill sets, which can enable them to do their job more efficiently. But one of the problems with this approach is that it can result in a very narrow focus, that can result in them being passed over for promotions, or even subject to layoffs.

It might be better to think like your self-employed, even if you have a job. A self-employed person is always forced by circumstances to look at the bigger picture. That means being aware and prepared to deal with the bigger picture. That bigger picture focus can often expand opportunities, and produce new and valuable skills sets.

In truth, virtually every employee is really self-employed – they just don’t see it that way.

You’re a Self-Employed Person With One Client

Unless you’re in a union, you really are self-employed. But if you have a full-time job, it just means that you are self-employed with a single client. Yes, your employer is actually your client! You’re ability to earn a living is dependent upon your ability to deliver specific services, at a specific price. To the degree that you are successful, you keep your job, and even create opportunities for promotion.

Some people even have two or more jobs, which means – technically speaking – they actually have two or more clients.

This view of your employer as your client is more than just semantics. If you view your employer as a client, then you will want to keep them satisfied, so that they will see the value of your worth, and keep you as a service provider.

This is very different from the more common working-for-a-paycheck mindset that so many employees bring to the job. That’s often an attempt at earning the most amount of money, for the least amount of effort. Put another way – going through the motions.

But if you consider yourself to be self-employed, and you view your employer as a client, both the relationship and the work takes on deeper meaning.

In addition, viewing yourself as self-employed also tends to minimize the feeling that you are trapped. Since your employer is a client, the loss of that client at some point will simply mean that you move on to another client.

Take Ownership of Your Work

As a business owner, you would have to be prepared to stand behind your work. If you don’t, you will lose customers and clients. This is very different from the go-along-to-get-along thinking that often accompanies the more traditional view of work.

A business owner isn’t content to merely to get the job done, but also to make sure that his client is happy with the work performed. He knows that the client can always go elsewhere, so he carefully provides his products and services to keep the client coming back.

Still another aspect of self-employment is taking ownership of failure. The business owner takes responsibility for failure – after all, there’s no one else to blame. More important, she works quickly to rectify the problem, whatever it is. Mistakes are made, and obstacles are encountered, but the self-employed person always knows whose responsibility it is to make it all work.

This is vastly different than the efforts to deflect failure that commonly happen in organizations. But if you can become known as a problem solver – as someone who takes ownership of the situation at hand – you practically win by default. While everyone else is ducking for cover, you become the seen as the person who saves the day.

Developing a Keen Sense for the Bottom Line

If you’re self-employed, you’re always aware of profitability. For this reason, you will consciously work to do more of what’s most profitable, and less of what is least profitable. This is a critical concept in virtually any money-making venture.

Many employees don’t grasp that it works the same way in a large organization. Look around your company, you will probably notice that the people who move up the chain of command the most quickly are almost always people who are closely connected to profitability.

The more that you can do to either increase sales or decrease costs, the stronger your position in the organization will become. This is in no small part because management will recognize and appreciate that your goals and actions are more closely aligned with theirs than the other members of the staff.

Always be Building New Skills and Contacts

Self-employed people work in a highly competitive environment. Since there is strong competition for the client base in almost every business category, the entrepreneur knows that his skills and abilities must stand out.

That requires building new skills and contacts as a part of business-as-usual. Every skill that you acquire puts you in a position to fill or expand a different niche. Every contact that you develop becomes a potential partner, and an opportunity to network and synergize skills.

In addition, a network of capable contacts can give you the resources you need to get a job done that may be beyond your own skill set. This is a talent that every successful business owner must develop. It enables you to take on larger and more important assignments, and to complete them even if you don’t have the necessary ability to do them completely on your own. It represents the ability to leverage both people and skills.

Always Be Looking for New Opportunities

If you’re self-employed, you’re never “stuck” with one client. You are aware that there are other clients, and you are always open to the possibilities that they present. This can go a long way toward eliminating the fear factor many employees have in regard to their employers. If you think that your current employer is the only game in town – whatever the reason – you’ll work with a certain amount of fear. That kind of emotional state is never conducive to doing your best work.

As an employee, you may fear the loss of your job. But if you see yourself as self-employed, you’ll likely see the loss as inevitable – at least eventually. For that reason, you’ll always be on the hunt for new opportunities. You may even make it a practice to build a portfolio of potential opportunities. This is Self-employment 101 – the business owner is always aware that he can and will lose clients. For that reason, he’s always on the lookout for new ones.

In today’s hyper-competitive job market, having that kind of attitude is practically a survival skill by itself. It doesn’t mean that you are disloyal to your current client/employer, but more that you are aware of the uncertainties of the business environment that you’re operating in.

There’s one other benefit to the perpetual search for new opportunities. If you find enough of them, you may be setting yourself up to enter formal self-employment. If you identify multiple opportunities – that is, potential new clients – you may create a niche for yourself as an independent consultant.

In this way, thinking like you’re self-employed, even if you have a job, creates an eventual point of entry into actual self-employment.

Give it a try, and see what it does for your career.

How about you all?  Have you ever tried something like this to give your career a boost?  How did it work out for you?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy

Are You Sure You Want to Be Your Own Boss?

self-employment-tax-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is a freelance professional personal finance blogger for hire, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

There are outstanding reasons why people are hesitant to start their own businesses. There are obstacles and activities involved in self-employment that you simply don’t have when you have a traditional job.

And yet every year many thousands of people strike out on their own and start their own businesses. It is possible – and you know it is just by the number of people who do it.

The secret is to know exactly what you’re getting into, and more importantly, to have strategies to overcome the obstacles.

Here are the biggest challenges to being your own boss, along with strategies to overcome them.

Creating a Reliable Income

This is probably the single biggest reason why more people don’t attempt self-employment. The regular paycheck that you can take for granted on the job just isn’t there when you start a business. That can not only make life difficult, but it can also lead to a lot of worry, and that won’t help your business either.

If you decide to start your own business, make sure that you have enough money saved up not only to start the business, but also to pay your living expenses for the first few months. You’ll need that at least until you get a regular cash flow going.

It will also help if you have income sources – like clients and customers – lined up before you start your business. One of the best ways to do this is by starting your business as a part-time venture while you still have your full time job.

You can then stair-step your way from full-time employment to full-time self-employment. As the income from your business grows, you can convert your full-time job to a part-time job, and keep that arrangement going until the business justifies being in it on a full-time basis.

A lack of reliable income is probably the single biggest reason why businesses fail. But if you prepare for it, with savings and employment income, you should be able to get over that hurdle.

Being responsible for everything

When you first start a business, there isn’t much income, and you will find yourself in a position of having to do every job that needs to be done. There’s no getting around this, and no easy way to overcome it.

But what you can do is focus your primary energy and time working on the jobs that are most important to the growth of your business. For example, the primary job is almost certainly to generate income. That means you should spend most of your time concentrating on marketing, sales, and filling orders.

That brings up the next challenge…

Unlimited Hours

If it seems that your new business venture requires something that looks like unlimited hours, you’re on the right track. Upstart businesses can easily require 60, 80, even 100 hours per week on your part.

It will be that way until your business has enough income that you can begin hiring others to handle some of the responsibilities. But until that day arrives, you’re going to have to be prepared to put in the time necessary to make your business successful.

Mental preparedness is probably the only strategy, other than having family members help you along the way.

A Lack of Benefits – Especially Health Insurance

This is a serious issue, and not one that is easily overcome. When you work for someone else, important benefits are often provided by the employer. But when you are self-employed you are the employer, and the only benefits you will have will be the ones that you pay for yourself.

One way to handle that is to be on your spouse’s benefits, if he or she has a job that provides them. Another is to hold on to your current job until you are in a position to pay for benefits on your own.

Failing either of those efforts, you will have to choose which benefits are most important to you. For example, you may focus your attention on getting health insurance, and temporarily letting go of setting up a retirement plan.

Paying Your Own Income Taxes

When you work for someone else, they withhold payroll taxes for you. That not only spares you the job of having to do it for yourself, but it often sets you up to receive a tax refund when you file your return.

When you’re self-employed, there is no payroll withholding, and you must pay your own income taxes. You can do this by being prepared to file IRS Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals. This is a form that you file and pay your taxes with on a quarterly basis. It only pays your taxes at the federal level, so you will have to investigate the process if your own state also has an income tax.

Paying income tax estimates requires discipline. Most likely, you will have to allocate a certain percentage of your income to the pay for your estimates. The good news is that you can deduct business expenses from the income before determining your tax liability. This is a fairly complicated process, and one well worth the investment of time and some money consulting with a CPA.

There are all sorts of challenges involved in being your own boss, but if you know what you’re up against and you have a strategy for dealing with each, you can dramatically increase the likelihood of your business being a success.

How about you all? Are you your own boss? What sorts of difficulties have you encountered and how have you handled them?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy

How to Control a Job Interview

interview-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is a freelance professional personal finance blogger for hire, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

A job interview can be an intimidating process, there’s no question about it. But you can take the sting out of it – and make it a more comfortable event – by taking control of the interview.

Here’s how…

Make Sure You Know the Job You’re Interviewing For

It’s mission-critical that you have a solid grasp of the position that you are interviewing for. Though this point should be self-evident, job candidates sometimes apply for jobs that they are either totally or substantially unqualified for, in the hope of a miraculous outcome. But it’s one thing to embellish your resume to make it look like you’re qualified, and quite another thing to prove it in an interview. Interviewers, managers in particular, can usually spot an unqualified candidate just minutes into an interview.

Carefully study the job and requirements presented, and make sure you understand the position you are applying for. That means not only having the skills and qualifications necessary, but also being able to comfortably explain how you’re the person for the job.

Make Sure You Know the Company You’re Interviewing At

This is easier to do with large publicly traded companies, but much harder with smaller ones. No matter, you still need to get as much information on the potential employer as possible. The more you know about the company, the more credible you will look in the interview.

Get information on the company from any public sources that are available. Also do a web search on the company name, and see what recent news stories come up. Be prepared to discuss the more interesting ones. Your interviewer can’t help but be impressed with your knowledge of the company.

Make Sure You Know the Industry You’re Interviewing to Enter

This is at least as important as knowing the company you’re interviewing with. In fact, it can be even more important if the company is small. It demonstrates that you have open understanding and an interest in the big picture environment that the employer operates in.

You might even want to be prepared to discuss challenges that the industry is facing. At a minimum, that will position you as a candidate who perceives problems, making you better prepared to solve them.

Rehearse Answers to Questions that are Likely to be Asked

If you have already been on a few interviews, you’re probably aware that there are certain questions that are common in just about any interview. Make a list of those, as well as your best answers to address them.

You should also consider questions that you are likely to face based on certain jobs. These aren’t as easy to know in advance, but if you spent time studying job requirements, that’s a good start. Be prepared to answer any questions that are likely to come up in regard to those qualifications.

Make Sure You Can Support Everything Your Resume Says You Can Do

Do a detailed review of your resume, and make sure that you can support everything you claimed. Understand that an employer may be interested in you based primarily on a single skill. If it turns out that you don’t really have that skill, or that you’re really not strong in it, the interview and your candidacy will be over.

Be sure that you can not only support what you claim, but that you can explain it easily. The interviewer may be looking for inconsistencies or a lack of comfort in your answers. Make sure that isn’t the case.

Prepare a List of Relevant Questions

This step is an absolute must on any job interview. Having your own questions will provide the following benefits:

  1. It will demonstrate clear interest in the position on your part
  2. It will show deeper understanding of the employer’s needs
  3. It will help you to determine if you really want the job (you may not!)
  4. It will take the pressure off of the interviewer having to ask all the questions
  5. Having a list of questions will eliminate periods of “awkward silence”
  6. It may give you the ability to get around answering a question you aren’t comfortable with

Make sure that your list of questions are relevant to the job, the employer, and the industry. That means that they need to be substantial – the kind that demonstrate your knowledge of the position and confirm your value to the interviewer.

In that regard, you must avoid standard questions, such as asking about salary, vacation time, or the 401(k) plan. Those are filler questions in a serious interview, and need to be addressed when an offer is made.

Make Sure YOU’RE the One Conducting the Interview!

The bigger picture purpose of going through all of these steps – knowing the job, the company, and industry, being prepared for questions that are likely to be asked, being prepared to support your resume claims, and having a list of relevant questions – is to put you in a position of being able to conduct the interview.

In truth, anyone can be the interviewer in a job interview – the employer or the candidate. But by assuming the role of interviewer, you put yourself in a position of strength. You’ll be able to control the flow of the interview, often to the point of being able to avoid uncomfortable situations and inquiries.

The interviewer will not only respect you, but the strategy will probably make you strongest candidate that they interviewed for the position. That should make an offer more likely to come your way.

How about you all? Do you have any other tried and true tips for maintaining control over an interview?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy