Like Herding Dogs

A summer internship in human resources requires Emily Searles '19 to draw upon what she’s learned as a double major in theatre and business.

By: Meghan Kita  Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:14 AM

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Emily Searles '19 at her summer internship at Seventh Generation. Photo courtesy of Emily Searles.

In her second week as a human resources intern at Seventh Generation in Burlington, Vermont, Emily Searles '19 was tasked with planning a company-wide event: Take Your Dog to Work Day.

“There are so many great dogs here,” Emily says. “My manager actually brings her golden retriever [with Emily, at right] every day.”

Seventh Generation, which makes eco-friendly household products, boasts a dog-friendly office, and full-time employees get unlimited sick days, 20 hours per year of paid volunteer time, free gym membership and more—perks that, before this summer, were not immediately obvious to job hunters. One of Emily’s ongoing tasks is to enhance Seventh Generation’s LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other online accounts to better reflect the company’s ethos, and that began with coordinating photos of employees with their four-legged friends.

Emily, a theatre and business major, drew on her stage management experience—working with students as well as seasoned professionals—to take charge of the event despite her brand-new-intern status. “The greatest asset is just the confidence with other people: I felt comfortable contacting everyone because of the experiences I had stage managing at Muhlenberg,” she says.

Emily learned about the opportunity in mid-February through the Career Center, where she’s worked since her first year. Tom Dowd, executive director of career services, saw the posting for the full-time, paid internship and passed it along to Emily, who had applied to a number of other internships and was feeling anxious that she hadn’t secured one.

“If you think about the show ‘The Office’ and the character Toby, there’s this stigma around HR—not a lot of students are exposed to what HR actually does,” Dowd says. “But talent acquisition and management are big businesses now, and I knew Emily was interested in organizational management and development.”

After an intense hiring process that included games to identify strengths and weaknesses followed by several rounds of interviews, Emily learned she was in. Meanwhile, she had started planning an unconventional honors thesis: a workshop that will help students understand recruiting from HR’s perspective so they’re better prepared to look for jobs. She says her advisor, associate professor of business Roland Kushner, helped her settle on the idea.

“He really made me think about why I want to do this and what I want to accomplish,” she says. “I want my thesis to be something with an actionable result: I don’t want it to just be a presentation and a paper. I want to change Muhlenberg for the better in a small way.”

The project will allow her to draw upon the experiences she’s having this summer and to collaborate with her colleagues at the Career Center, whom she describes as instrumental in helping her land the competitive position.

“I was really bogged down in the rejections I’d gotten and I was ready to settle for just about anything,” she says. “They were very supportive of me.”