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Springternships

Stanford students get a head start doing part-time internships during spring quarter

The rush to secure summer internships as the school year winds down is a familiar feeling for many Stanford students. However, some students’ voyages into the professional world begin even before classes end, with part-time internships during spring quarter.

(ERIC KOFMAN/The Stanford Daily)

Edward Zhu ’13 is one of these early starters. About a month ago, he began a part-time internship with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in San Francisco. Zhu works at least two full days at the firm each week. For a stipend, he helps managers analyze portfolio returns and consider alternatives to investments in the wealth management section of the company.

Zhu stumbled upon the internship in his search for summer work. He described how, as a sophomore, he had set himself “high standards” and did not have much success getting offers from big investment firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

After initiating contact with a number of alumni who worked in finance, an alumnus who works at Morgan Stanley responded to Zhu with an opportunity to work in the spring.

“[Being a part-time intern] would be a really good experience for me, and I’m going to do my best to see if I could work around my schedule, because I don’t want to pass it up,” Zhu said.

For Zhu, the work experience is an opportunity to explore the finance industry, his desired career path. The internship, for him, is a way to learn “on the fly,” as his supervisors generally expect him to perform a good deal of problem solving on his own.

The biggest difference between a spring and summer internship, however, is not the delegated responsibility, but the balance of coursework and company work. Zhu is taking three major classes this quarter, but considers his two-day-per-week internship a good fit for his schedule, though he has occasionally skipped lectures in order to meet his employer’s expectation that he be present for the duration of his workdays.

Indeed, Zhu’s experience is not uncommon. Many of his finance-oriented friends have done similar part-time internships in the past or, like Zhu, during the present quarter.

Certain student groups also offer opportunities to get started in the professional world while attending classes. Stanford Women in Business (SWIB) has been running a program referred to as the “springternship” for five years.

“A lot of the students don’t really get business experience in their academic coursework,” said Rebecca Johnson ’11, SWIB co-president. “I think the springternship is a conceivable way to give students hands-on practical educational experiences outside to compliment what they’re learning in the classroom.”

Johnson herself did a part-time internship with the technology start-up Cooliris during spring quarter of her sophomore year. She worked on a market-research project related to user consumption in the Chinese market.

“It really helped me lay groundwork for my later internships and other things I did in the business,” she said. “It convinces me that I should do everything I [can] to help continue the program.”

The springternship team offers opportunities in business firms and non-profit organizations. They contact companies that may be interested in getting Stanford interns and then collect resumes from student applicants. After a brief pre-screening, all resumes are forwarded to the firms.

“This year, we have received about 50 applications in total,” said Elise Thygesen ’13, who directs the springternship program. Approximately 30 of those students will score an internship, for which they also earn academic credits. They work in a variety of fields, including technology start-ups, medical device companies, finance firms and fashion businesses.

In addition to providing internship opportunities, SWIB also offers workshops that guide students on how to cope with different work environments. SWIB checks in with interns to see if they have problems coordinating study and work.

“We as an organization try to limit to 10 or fewer hours a week,” Johnson said. “We really emphasize balancing out work and study.”

She noted that the students usually worked on one specific project rather than a number of small tasks, and for that reason, seemed to cope well with the program.

As summed up by Johnson, “The springternship…helps students] figure out what they are passionate about, what they think would lead to a long-term career and to really give them the opportunity to delve into those opportunities in the real world in addition to their classroom experiences.”