EPAC Members Offer Internship Advice

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek April 18, 2022
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EPAC internship advice

​Internships can lead to more interview callbacks, higher wages after graduation, expanded professional networks and even higher grades while still in college, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. So how can students get the most value out of the experience while preparing for a career in HR?

SHRM Online reached out to members of the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) Emerging Professionals Advisory Council (EPAC) for advice on what they found useful from their own internship experiences or as HR professionals working with interns.   

CLAIRE STROH PETRIE, SHRM-CP, has worked in HR since 2012. She is the director of technology talent management for Lighthouse Technology Services, a technology staffing and recruiting partner to the Buffalo, N.Y., technology community. Claire Stroh Petrie, SHRM-CP

She also is president of Claire Petrie HR & Training in Buffalo, N.Y., and serves as college relations and emerging professionals director for Buffalo Niagara HR Association, a local SHRM chapter.

Petrie interned at Rich Products, a multinational food company in Buffalo, for three semesters when she was an undergraduate student at the University of Buffalo. During her internship, she worked in recruiting, learning and engagement.

Her internship was extended, she said, because she:

  • Did what she said she was going to do.
  • Didn't ask for more assignments until she successfully completed the work she was given.
  • Asked clarifying questions.
  • Asked for feedback and took all information received seriously, "even if I didn't like it at first. All feedback is at least worth reflecting on," she said.
  • Got to know her co-workers, both those adjacent to the work she performed and colleagues she interacted with outside the department.
"[I] asked them to lunch or coffee, asked questions about their life and careers," she said. "Getting to know someone and building rapport outside of the day-to-day work can help strengthen the relationship and make those day-to-day interactions smoother.

"My best advice is to stay busy," Petrie added. "If you finish your work, ask for more to do or offer to help someone. And then follow the above tips and always deliver on what you say you will do." 

WILLIAM W. SPENCER III, SHRM-CP, is an HR business partner at Innovative Defense Technologies (IDT), a federal defense contractor specializing in groundbreaking warfare capabilities based in Arlington, Va., where he has worked full time in HR since 2019. William W. Spencer III, SHRM-CP

Spencer completed multiple HR internships while an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee, including two at IDT.

"My internships ultimately exposed me to broad-spectrum HR," he said. "My initial internship at IDT led to another internship at the same organization, but it ultimately led to me being selected to come on board as a full-time HR professional once I graduated" with a master's degree in management and HR.

"I did not know there was a full-time opening, nor did I know the team had intentions of bringing me on board full time," Spencer said. He was offered a job at IDT during his performance evaluation when the internship ended.

Spencer encourages all students, whether or not they are HR-focused, to pursue internships.

"It will certainly benefit them as they begin their careers," he said. 

ANGIE HERRERA, SHRM-CP, is senior HR partner representative at United Airlines in Chicago. She has worked in HR since 2003 and is one of the program managers at both United Airlines and Year Up, a free job training program that hosts interns for six months twice yearly. Angie Herrera, SHRM-CP

"The student learners are often the first in their families to obtain corporate experience, and our goal is to create 80 percent conversion to full-time corporate employment before their internship ends," Herrera said.

Among her advice to interns:

  • Take time to network and follow up with people who have offered to connect.
  • When learning about policies, procedures or scope of work, ask how decisions were made and what stakeholders were involved.
  • Ask others what challenges they faced both early on in their careers and where they've grown the most.
  • Become comfortable being uncomfortable, as everything is a learning process and we all bring different experiences.
  • Always have open communication and ask your supervisor if there's anything you could have done differently.

What Is EPAC?

The 10-member council represents SHRM's five regions—North Central, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Pacific West. Council involvement offers leadership, speaking and travel opportunities, including attendance at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022.

EPAC members are SHRM members, have held an HR or related position for three to five years, and preferably have experience as a SHRM student chapter leader. They have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree related to HR.

Committee members meet virtually on a monthly basis to:

  • Provide feedback or suggestions to SHRM on potential and existing services and experiences for the betterment of emerging professional (EP) members within the SHRM community.
  • Assist SHRM with identifying strategies for gaining and retaining EP members.
  • Encourage recognition of EP programs that chapter and state council affiliates lead.
  • Connect with other EP members using social media and various local events and activities.
  • Promote and coordinate the establishment and support of activities at the local level, along with strategies that help SHRM student members transition from school into the workforce.

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