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Intern Insider: Williamson follows up, networks her way to internship with UBS

When searching for internships, college students are often taught the importance of cultivating personal contacts and maintaining communication with potential employers. It's sound advice because it works.

So much so, that Austin Williamson, a junior Accounting, Finance and International Studies major, now an intern in the Elon in New York City program, offers the same tips to her peers: “I got really lucky, but I utilized my connections, which I recommend for anyone to do. Using my connections is definitely how it happened for me.”

Williamson is interning for UBS, a wealth management, investment banking and asset management firm. She works with the management team on Tuesdays and with a certified public accountant and financial adviser on Thursdays and Fridays.

Williamson got the internship, in large part, because of people her aunt knew. Williamson was accepted to the Elon in NYC program before Christmas, and when she went home for the holidays she began to discuss potential internship opportunities with her aunt.

“She said, ‘I have several friends in New York City,’ so she put me in touch with several different people, one of whom works for UBS,” Williamson says. “I didn’t ask for an internship. I just asked for advice about how to go about the internship search and if they had any contacts.”

A woman Williamson spoke to at UBS told her she could likely have an internship with the company. So Williamson reached out to some folks within UBS and eventually was chosen.

“It’s been great,” Williamson says. “I love the environment. It’s a great working environment. The people are great, the business is run very efficiently. I was very intimidated, and I’m still intimidated, but it really has been a great, great experience.”

But that’s not where the entire story ends. After Williamson made the initial contact with UBS late in January, she sat around for a while, waiting to hear back from someone in the company. She again reached out via email to the first person she had spoken to. Williamson says the note she sent was a simple follow up, asking generally what other materials she could provide.

Williamson hit “send.” Ten minutes later, she received a phone call from an unknown number. She let the call go to voicemail. When she played the message, she learned of her acceptance to the UBS internship program.

“Basically, I had it happen through connections and following up,” she says. “I was so excited and relieved. I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

Now at UBS, Williamson says she helps her supervisors prepare materials for upcoming meetings and communicates information about projects being completed in her department. She says the courses she’s taken at Elon have given her a high level of confidence to do her job, but getting real-world experience is providing her with valuable knowledge she can’t get in a classroom.

“You learn so many things in your textbooks, and you always hear about what working in a business setting will be like,” Williamson says. “But you don’t understand it until you’re there.

“I’ve definitely learned that working a 9-to-5 job is not easy, and I only work three days a week. But you really have a to have a good attitude about everything and take things day by day and task by task.”

Intern Insider will run one to two times a week during the summer and will feature brief stories about some of the interns from the School of Communications or in School of Communications programs.

Colin Donohue,
6/27/2011 12:09 PM