Earlier this week we had the opportunity to interview a current employee of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Matt Ottinger is a Manager of Membership Development for the Chamber. He’s been with the organization since 2007. We asked him about his career experience and what’s important in the early stages of professional development.
Indiana INTERNnet: What is your current position and what do you do?
Matt Ottinger: I’m currently the Manager of Membership Development and I’m in charge of finding new members that we can offer our service to. I find and research potential companies to contact through various methods such as events and conferences, Chamber programs and news. I have been with the Chamber since 2007 and started out in communications and publications.
IIN: When did you decide to start searching for an internship and why?
MO: I started searching for an internship after college, a little later than expected. I had a job as a receptionist but didn’t really look for an internship. My main drive for looking for an internship was because I wanted to start my career. My first internship was unpaid with Centerfield Marketing. I worked with various creative marketing campaigns for customers at Centerfield. It was interesting experience because it was a fun environment and located downtown. After I finished that internship my boss bought me a suit for my work as a thank you which was cool. Then I got another internship with Hudson Institute which was unpaid as well, but I got to work with public policy and marketing. I was interested in public policy after that internship which made it easier for me to be in the role I’m currently in.
IIN: What was the most valuable thing you gained from your internship experience?
MO: Centerfield was the most valuable experience because I got to see how a business was run and how to overcome challenges. During my internship experience the economy was near the end of doing well and then declined. I was able to see challenges in advertising companies; companies that once had high budgets reduced them. It was a nice segue into the professional world and getting prepared for my career.
IIN: What advice would you give to a student searching for an internship?
MO: The number one thing that’s important to do is get involved early in what you are interested in. It opens you up to what you want to do, and you get real exposure. It’s beneficial because you get to see what it is like and whether you’re built for it. Also, it allows you to make connections with people that are just as valuable as your degree.
IIN: How did you separate yourself from candidates?
MO: Knowing someone at a company can really help bridge the gap. At Centerfield one of my friends worked there and recommended me for the job. Having a good cover letter and being able to leverage that is what helped me. But also, being able to demonstrate your skill and what you can do in an interview can go a long way.
IIN: How did your previous internship experience prepare you for your professional career?
MO: When I was in college, I used to write for the IU school paper. Writing for the school paper paved the way for me to get a job as a sports editor and then editor of a small newspaper in Wyoming for several years starting in 2003. Since I didn’t have a journalism degree, that experience helped me get the job and made me qualified for the position. I tell people that moving to Wyoming at that time was “the most random thing I could think of to do with my life.”
IIN: What would you have done differently in the past to prepare yourself?
MO: I would have started earlier and volunteered more in college. Getting an internship would have helped me start my career sooner, getting more experience earlier versus later. Volunteering is important too, and employers really value that. Volunteering can help you with networking opportunities as well.
IIN: What advice would you give when someone is applying for a job?
MO: It is hard to overcome typos on your resume. A typo can hurt your chances of getting an interview because it shows you’re not detail-oriented. I would strongly recommend having someone look over your resume and cover letter to review it and help you make any needed changes.
IIN: What skills have helped you with your roles?
MO: Clearly being able to communicate with different departments and people. You must be able to get your point across but make it understandable. This applies to all aspects of life.