“Will I be taken seriously?” is a common thought many sophomores have when applying for internships. However, thanks to her confidence and determination, one Redbird not only landed an internship with a top organization but is graduating with a full-time job ahead of her.

It all started when Illinois State senior Abigail Struthers had just begun to plan for her college career. She initially had plans to go to college locally in Oklahoma, but after strolling through Illinois State’s campus while visiting a relative, she knew Redbird country was for her.

“I had such a great time checking out the campus. ISU is large, but it has a small community feel,” states Abigail. “Then when my dad joked with me and said that I look good in red, I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

Internships

Abigail’s confidence continued to grow as a sophomore. She knew an internship would be a good opportunity to gain experience and to explore a career in marketing. Determined, she took her chances and attended the Fall Internship Fair.

“I was a little intimidated because I thought the fair was only for juniors and seniors – those getting close to graduating. I just didn’t think I would be taken seriously. I knew I had to be strategic. So, I went to the fair website and made a list of employers attending. I looked for those in sales and marketing and narrowed my search from there.”

Ironically, after the fair, Abigail was contacted by an organization that wasn’t on her original list; and everything changed from there.

“I got an interview with the Sherwin-Williams Company. The recruiter Kara Otis not only shared about the company and its culture, but also shared her personal experiences with them. I got to hear why she chose to work there, and how much she enjoyed her career with the organization. I became very interested in them.”

That summer, Abigail participated in her first internship working in a Sherwin-Williams store. After the 10-week program, she and other interns presented to a panel of leaders on what they learned and ideas they had for the organization. Not only did the team win second place in the team competition, but Sherwin-Williams implemented some of the ideas. One phone call later, Abigail was offered a second internship for the following summer.

By the summer of 2021, Abigail was working a second internship with Sherwin-Williams, only this time she was working directly for Kara, her original recruiter. The two grew in their mentoring relationship and Abigail was committed to remain with the organization. However, as the summer was ending, it was time for her to get back to campus and finish her final year as a senior.

Campus ambassador

Growing in her confidence, Abigail asked the organization is if there was a way that she could work in a role as a student, perhaps utilizing her skills in marketing to share about her experiences as an intern, and what she learned from the company. All her hard work as an intern paid off. Sherwin-Williams hired her as part-time campus ambassador for the organization, while taking classes at Illinois State.

In her role with Sherwin-Williams, Abigail attends College of Business events designed to connect students to the organization. She presents career information to student organizations such as the American Marketing Association, and Business Week. She shares how she applied her marketing experience to her retail sales internship, answers questions about the organization and her role, and proudly explains how attending an internship fair a few years ago changed her life.

Abigail Struthers helps fellow Redbirds serving as a Sherwin-Williams campus ambassador.

It’s not unusual for students to be hesitant about attending a career fair, participating in an internship, or voicing their interest in an organization. But as Abigail’s story testifies, Redbirds can succeed if they are open to explore their interests, develop their skills, and build connections with professionals who can help them succeed.

Her fairly-tale concludes with greater news than she expected. As Abigail is about to turn her tassel at Commencement, she does so with Redbird pride as she has been hired as a manager in training with Sherwin-Williams – an organization she never thought would be her dream come true.

Abigail’s career tips for Redbirds

To help students along their journey, Abigail shares these tips with fellow Redbirds:

  • Attend career fairs – Don’t be afraid. Making connections in person can have a strong impact on your career.
  • Research organizations – When you meet employers you have to be able to have a conversation with them. Don’t just let them ask you questions. You’ll have much more confidence if you are prepared and know something about the employers you meet.
  • Communicate with employers – Show interest in organizations, make something of your meet-up! Get their business cards, send thank you notes, and reconnect with them.
  • Finally, don’t ever minimize any organizations or the contacts you make throughout your career. Even if an organization isn’t where you think you’d want to work, build those connections.

If you’re interested in pursuing an internship, Career Services can help! Visit Hire-A-Redbird to explore internship opportunities or connect with your career advisor.