Everything I Learned as an Intern

For 10 weeks, this college senior learned the value of an internship with meaningful work, the importance of taking initiative and her ability to master the grilled cheese sandwich.

PITTSBURGH – Before starting her senior year at Duquesne University, Kelly Rudzik spent 10 weeks of her summer as an intern with the PNC Financial Services Group. The corporate communication major was among 300 interns chosen from 15,000 applicants.

Working in the customer care center, she researched the dynamics of the employees by generation, with a focus on Millennials (born 1981 to 1997). In an interview with fellow intern Emma Hartzell, Rudzik shared insights about her internship experience, recommendations for other students and her future plans:

What factors led you to choose PNC?

With graduation upon me, I wanted to gain some hands-on experience in a corporate position in order to gauge where I’d like to begin my career. I knew I wanted an internship with a large corporation, but I was fearful of getting lost in the shuffle and not being able to complete meaningful work.

I wanted to spend my summer working alongside managers who would provide mentorship and fill my days with impactful projects, rather than have me memorizing latte orders and mastering the copy machine. After looking into PNC’s internship program, I felt they would be able to offer me the experience I was looking for.

What was the biggest adjustment?

Fortunately for me, I spent the summer in my hometown of Pittsburgh. However, this was the first time I lived on my own in an apartment and didn’t have a meal plan. It’s been an interesting adventure learning how to grocery shop and cook. However, I can now proudly say that I mastered the grilled cheese sandwich.

What was one important lesson you learned?

Hard work gets noticed; even when you think no one is watching. Recognition comes in many different forms, from “Spotlight” messages (via PNC’s recognition program) to promotions and every little praise is genuine. These little pieces of recognition inspire me to work harder in pursuit of the next.

The opportunities to grow here are endless and if I work hard, challenge myself by taking on additional responsibilities and put my best efforts into every aspect of my work, I feel I could succeed here.

Kelly Rudzik worked in the Customer Care Center for 10 weeks during the summer

What was one unexpected challenge or obstacle you encountered during your internship?

Sometimes I struggled with deciding which questions I should ask, and which I could find the answers to on my own. Managers have very busy schedules of their own, and aren’t always available to answer every single question. But I found it best to take the initiative and first use the number of resources provided to me, like the company’s intranet site and my fellow team members. I was then able to make my questions more direct and specific, so the manager only needed to fill in the gaps rather than explain the entire concept.

What did you learn from your research of the Millennial employees?

Millennials seek growth opportunities and continuous learning. We want to be challenged and add value to not only the company, but the community as well. I’ve encountered many statistics that indicate half of Millennials would rather have no job than a job they don’t love. That’s pretty powerful. If our current positions are not pushing us past our comfort zones, then we begin to seek alternative opportunities.

What advice would you give to other college students?

Try to seek out internships that allow you to do meaningful work. My internships have been a great way to apply the knowledge I’ve acquired in the classroom to a real-world environment. By adding value to the company you’re working for and working on meaningful projects you are able to figure out what aspects of that career you like and which you don’t, so you don’t want to be placed in an organization that will have you devote your time to coffee-fetching or long hours of filing.

We spend most of our life at work, so it is important to thoroughly enjoy what you are doing and where you are doing it.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’d love to stay in Pittsburgh for a few years so I don’t have to sacrifice Pirate games at PNC Park, walking across beautiful bridges and incline rides up to Mt. Washington. But while I’m not entirely sure what direction my career will take, I do know that I have a passion for working with people and giving back to my community. I want to be able to make an impact and change lives for the better.

Kelly Rudzik advises interns to ask questions and embrace opportunities

As an intern, there is wisdom to be gained but you have to take control of the experience yourself. Ask questions, be open to opportunities, take the initiative, work hard and you will succeed.