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An Interview with Sean McKenna: Comparing An Internship To A Traditional Summer Job

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  • Indium Corporation
  • I conversed with one of our summer interns, Sean McKenna, about the differences between his experiences as an intern and his experiences with a traditional summer job. Sean draws from a rich experience set: he's interned at the Indium Corporation for two summers, and, about six years ago, he and his brothers started a landscaping company. The team of brothers grew a thriving business after starting with only 2 push mowers.

    Jim: What is the biggest difference between what you are working on at Indium and what you were working on for the landscaping business?

    Sean: The most obvious is the lack of physical labor that this setting provides. I have no hesitation to toil under the sun all day with my body, but within a professional setting the expectation is much less physical accomplishment and much more mental. This work can be just as taxing, the only difference being the way in which it is expended.

    Jim: The corporate atmosphere must be a big shift for you as well?

    Sean: Even though there is a certain amount of professionalism that is expected when dealing with our landscaping customers, that mindfulness is nowhere near what is required in this professional setting. The communication skills that are necessary to properly liaise between departments, colleagues, etc. is much greater than what is required to adequately talk to customers in a landscaping setting.

    Jim: Could you describe some of the different challenges of your internship, as they compare to your summer job?

    Sean: The mental challenges presented during this internship are much more varied and complex than anything I see while landscaping. Once a person has mowed one lawn, it is pretty easy to transfer that process to all others, but that is not necessarily true for the work I am doing here. Each task I do requires me to think about what I am doing, requires me to think about how I am going to present the work, requires me to reflect as to whether it is communicable to others, etc. This position challenges me to learn in a way I would not get with traditional summer employment.

    Jim: Students have a decision to make every summer, to work a traditional job or to take on an internship. Could you tell us what made you choose an internship this year?

    Sean: That transitions to yet another obvious difference in how I can use this experience to market myself. It is true that having a spot on my resume about my landscaping could depict that I am willing to work hard and that I am not afraid to “get dirty” (each have their merit), but that bullet point does not differentiate me from the masses nearly as much as the real-world engineering opportunities that Indium Corporation has provided me. I am extremely grateful to the company for everything they have given me in that respect.

    Jim: Thank you Sean, is there anything else you’d like to say to someone considering an internship?

    Sean: Yes, I would advise them to take every opportunity they can. Never turn down an invitation to work on a project or in a certain group; you never know how the experience will expand your repertoire - and that level of adaptability is paramount to being successful. Also, I would like to thank Indium Corporation for giving me the opportunity to be able to speak like this.