I’M JENNA ZIPF.
Internship expert, career readiness coach, college football fan, Taco Bell connoisseur, one-arm push-up pro and founder of The Intern Hustle.
My internship experience helped me launch. My hustle got me the internships.
Going into college, I had a plan. I pursued internships with intention, and (to my surprise) they taught me what I DIDN’T want to do. So I dug deeper. I worked to better understand my interests, learned how to pivot, developed my personal brand and eventually carved a path that made my college to career transition a smooth one.
As for my life after internships, I built up 10 years of experience in a variety of dynamic roles in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have learned from strategic business leaders and partnered with some of the most forward-thinking companies in the world, in sports, tech and healthcare.
Now, I’m sharing the lessons I’ve learned throughout the full lifecycle of my career (internships and beyond) to coach current students and recent graduates into intentional action. I launched The Intern Hustle in 2018 with a simple mission:
TO HELP STUDENTS TAKE CONTROL OF THEIR FUTURE, ONE INTERNSHIP AT A TIME.
I break down the career development journey for you with insights turned actionable advice, and I promise to support your hustle every step of the way.
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If you’re interested in learning more about my intern hustle, I’ve shared it below.
I’m glad you’re here, and I look forward to being a part of your intern hustle!
Visual preview of my intern hustle.
Why The Intern Hustle?
Because I learned the importance of hustling for (intentional) internships early on and I’m on a mission to ignite that same hustle within as many college students as I can.
The Intern Hustle was born out of the experience and lessons learned from my own intern hustle. While in college, I landed multiple sought-after internships in professional sports, including a dream opportunity with the Chicago Bulls.
I know what it takes to get in the door and then use the internship experience to hone a personal brand that gets you the job offer.
You see, I graduated with a bachelors degree from Ohio State in 2008. Any idea what the job market was like for college grads in 2008? I’ll give you a hint…terrible. (Insert doom music here and check out this Google search.)
However, the job search never plagued me. It was actually the opposite. I landed a job 2,500 miles away, in California, three months before I ever walked across that graduation stage.
How did I beat the odds and graduate from college with the perfect job lined up?
Don’t get it twisted! Getting the job did take work and initiative on my part. But once I got going, and once I got intentional in my pursuit, door after door presented itself for me to knock on, and each door led me closer to my perfect job.
My perfect job? When I started college, I thought my perfect job was training professional athletes as a strength and conditioning coach. I grew up surrounded by elite athletes and spent a good part of my youth as a competitive gymnast, so I had a strong interest in optimizing athletic performance.
However, through the course of my first couple internships I realized that training professional athletes was not my idea of a perfect job after all. Through the course of my internships, I learned that I craved a bit more of the business world.
What does living your best internship life look like?
My journey started in the summer of 2005 (between my freshman and sophomore year of college) with Velocity Sports Performance in the Chicago suburbs. I had a couple family members who trained there, and they provided an introduction to Velocity’s Executive Sports Performance Director.
Despite having just completed my freshman year of college, with little experience or applicable course work, the Executive Director at Velocity liked my background. Early on, I started to seek jobs in high school that were aligned with my career goals and would lay a foundation for a solid resume. That focus during my high school days was ever so helpful, and I was offered the internship with Velocity. (Pro Tip: Start building that resume in high school, folks!)
I learned a lot from the experience at Velocity, but things really started to align for me when I was fulfilling an internship requirement to become a certified coach with USA Weightlifting. To make the most of the certification course, I networked. Yep, I introduced myself to strangers (in the flesh!).
All of my networking paid off. I met someone who was currently interning with the Chicago Bulls. Having grown up in Chicago, in the 90’s, I couldn’t imagine a more sexy internship (I mean…this. team. was. everything.). It became my mission to make that internship with the Chicago Bulls mine the following summer.
Mission accomplished. I asked my new USA Weightlifting buddy for the phone number of the Chicago Bulls’ Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, and I called him. Multiple times. Eventually, I got the interview and the internship. My internship for Summer 2006 was set, and it was with the Chicago Bulls (eeek!).
Interning with the Chicago Bulls was the experience of a lifetime. Not only did I get to work with some of the top athletes in the world, but I got to learn from some of the best in the business when it came to athletic performance. On top of that, the Bulls had the 2nd and the 16th picks in the NBA Draft that summer, so I learned the ins and outs of draft testing while working with the top college basketball prospects from the year.
As easy as it would have been to float my way through the dream that was that summer as an NBA intern, I couldn’t forget the importance of networking. After all, it worked for me the previous summer, and I was determined to make my network work in my favor once again. (#initiativemuscle)
So I got to talking with the various people I encountered at the Bulls’ training facility, and I eventually got my intro to a prominent NBA and NFL sports agent and Founder of Priority Sports & Entertainment.
Here’s where I started to pivot in my own internship journey. You see, the most important take away from my internship with the Chicago Bulls was that I enjoyed the business aspects of the internship far more than the performance coach aspects. (Pro Tip: You’ll never know what motivates you until you try. And wouldn’t it make things a heck of a lot easier if you figured it out before you graduated?)
With a shift in career path on deck, what was a girl majoring in Exercise Science to do? Answer: Add a Business minor and secure that internship with the sports agency. And so I did. By February 2007, my internship for Summer 2007 with Priority Sports was locked in.
It was time to take my resume in a new direction, and Priority Sports checked all of those business boxes I was missing. I learned a great deal about basketball and football operations, contract negotiations, marketing & PR and client services. Not to mention, I got to experience the NBA draft from the agents’ perspective this time around. The opportunity to intern with Priority Sports was invaluable.
But with all of this fun internship talk, it may be easy to forget that I was still pursuing a degree, and working to fulfill all of the requirements needed to graduate. Headed into my senior year, I learned that Ohio state would not count any of my previous internship experience toward my graduation requirements (say what?!).
Ohio State required that I complete an internship (specifically related to my major) during the final quarter of my senior year. So even though I had moved on to the business side of the sports world, my degree in Exercise Science had me pursuing athletic performance internships all over again.
In an attempt to fulfill Ohio State’s requirement, I applied for a handful of new internship opportunities that interested me — the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, a private training facility for elite athletes in Santa Barbara called P3 and a handful of NFL teams that I made connections with via my internship at Priority Sports. (Read as: still hustling!)
A few short months after submitting all of those internship applications, I received an email from one of the founders at P3 in Santa Barbara. He was moving to the San Francisco Bay Area to open up his own facility for elite athletes and he wanted me (yes, me!) to potentially be the Business Director of his new company, Sparta Science.
I couldn’t believe it, I had two quarters left before I graduated, and I was getting my perfect job offer. It combined all of my internship experiences into one role and allowed me to focus on the business side of sports while still leveraging my degree in Exercise Science.
My combination of internship experience is precisely what stood out to my soon-to-be boss when he reviewed the resume from my former internship application with P3. He flew me out to California for an interview and I negotiated and signed my employment contract with Sparta Science a couple months later.
Because I had the perfect job already lined up, and knew I would soon be moving to California, I had the flexibility to stay on campus and live out the final quarter of college with my friends. I opted to do my senior year internship with the Ohio State Strength & Conditioning Department (shout-out to Buckeye Power Club!).
All of my hard work and networking paid off, and two days after graduation I would find myself driving across the country, to California, to reap the rewards of my own intern hustle.
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What’s with the one-arm push-ups?
It’s my party trick. I can do one-arm push-ups. A lot of them. I discovered this skill my junior year of college (story behind that for another time), and it quickly became the trick that got me and my friends free drinks at the bar. It still works to this day!
One-arm push-ups have become a part of my personal brand, and they’ve crossed over to my professional life. Kid you not, I’ve done more one-arm push-ups at board meetings, partner dinners and company events than I have at the bars by this point. One of my CEOs even started a company challenge, inspired by my party trick, and awarded prizes to any employee who could successfully complete a one-arm push-up after a two month training period.
I share all of this with you because a) I’m damn proud of my party trick and b) I believe in the power of your personal brand. Build your personal brand. Be memorable and stand out in a noisy world. You never know who is going to remember that party trick…
I’m so pumped you’re here!
In support of your hustle,
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