Use those contacts: how Felipe Penaherrera dug into his network and struck internship gold

How many people can you say you know, through your network of friends and family? Hundreds, right? Just take a look through your phone contacts for a start. And then think about all the other connections who you might not necessarily call up on a regular basis, but who would be there with a helping hand if you needed it.

In his quest for a professional internship, American/Ecuadorian Bachelor student Felipe Penaherrera did just this. He looked at his network, he asked it for help, and he struck gold.

“I originally had two offers for my final Bachelor internship: one in Alicante, Spain, and one in Savannah, Georgia in the United States,” he explains. “But due to the pandemic, both offers told me that I wouldn’t be able to come, because they had to close for quarantine. I went back home to Ecuador to contact my friends to see if they knew about any internship possibilities.”

One of those he asked was a friend from high school. The friend suggested contacting an uncle, who happened to own the Termas Papallacta Resort, a hot springs spa and resort located high in the Andes mountain range.

“That was my breakthrough, because the owner got back to me and offered me a six-month position that was perfect for my internship.”

As well as the power of contacts, it also helped that Felipe had been given help sharpening his CV and motivation letter, as well as interview preparation advice, by the Career & Internship team at Glion.

“I also feel that my program at Glion helped me to be more sure of myself, so I become a better candidate for the position. And the program at Glion helped me to improve my communication skills, to be clearer in my answers in the job interview.”


Learning from leaders

While the initial Covid-19 lockdowns had interrupted his internship plans, there was a fringe benefit, in the form of a special online course created by Glion and sister school Les Roches, entitled Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times. This nine-week exceptional series featured expert guest lectures from academic and hospitality industry luminaries, including Yves Schemeil, Emeritus Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Sciences Po.

“The Leadership Series course helped me the most, because the sessions were about themes like geopolitics, macroeconomics, financial markets, strategies & tactics and organization & leadership,” Felipe says.

“I remembered in one of the sessions the presenter said that, because of the pandemic, we would need to be more flexible in terms of where to look for internships – for example looking away from the big cities to smaller towns.”

Although the Termas Papallacta is certainly off the beaten track, that escape from city life is very much part of the attraction for the resort’s international guests, who come to enjoy the uniquely restful natural environment, complete with its hot springs.

As an assistant in the resort’s Sales, Marketing and Reservations department, Felipe is charged with delivering excellent customer service.

“My motivation to persevere in my internship search was – and still is – to one day achieve my dream of being a general manager in a hotel or for an airline. In my personal opinion , in order to accomplish a dream it’s important to overcome the problems and obstacles that come in life.

“For students now looking to secure their internships, I would advise you to do your research using different channels, like online. Also, use your network like I did – send your CV to contacts you have, and be flexible in the job position and location for your internship.”

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