CLAS Student Meets Personal and Professional Goals During Her One-of-a-Kind Internship Program

Company culture, an important yet overlooked factor when searching for internships, is at best, difficult to uncover and in the worst cases, flies completely under the radar. For Brooke Larkin—a junior studying Communication, Leadership and Strategy—finding a company where her personality and individual strengths would mesh was essential.

At her summer internship with United Wholesale Mortgage, she found precisely what she was looking for—and more.

"I'm a summer team member on the corporate training team," Larkin said. "My team posts online trainings for teams inside of UWM. What I've been doing for the past couple of weeks is editing job aids, which is an instruction manual for doing literally anything you could think of. We then post those on our Learning Management System."

Distinctive, team-oriented and unconventional are just a few words to describe the company culture at UWM. While these environments might not work for some, for Larkin, it's exactly the kind of atmosphere in which she thrives. These interesting business practices range from team chants, escape rooms, company pillars and luckily, plenty of employee input.

“You’re going to hear from people who interned at a large company, and they ran coffee or did busy work,” Larkin said. “But UWM is constantly looking for new perspectives and new ways to grow. What they do is bring interns in, teach them as much as they possibly can, get their unique perspective and utilize it–if only for twelve weeks. It’s an amazing environment that I believe is extremely unique.” 

Larkin felt so comfortable at UWM that she was able to "shake things up" on her first day. She noticed that sentences on job aids were lacking periods, so she suggested to her supervisor that they be added. Low and behold, the recommendation was heard.

"On day one, I was already making changes," Larkin said. "To feel like I have a hand in the company's success and to know that people around me are cheering me on—that’s a company I want to be a part of. I want to be at a company where I can trust the leadership, learn from the leadership and question the leadership. I think UWM has all those things for me."

This question is directly supported by President and CEO Mat Ishbia, who graduated from MSU in 2003. Larkin also asked around to fellow MSU students who had internships with UWM, most of which had glowing reviews of their experiences, only further motivating her to apply.

"What made this internship stick out was that there was a lot of people at Michigan State who liked working there," she said. "It's fairly common that people talk about their internship and say it wasn't quite what they expected, but the people who were talking about UWM were saying it's incredibly hands-on and that the activities you'll do are designed to build a portfolio."

After hearing this positive word of mouth, she was certain she'd be a perfect fit. And when she got the position, she literally jumped for joy.

"I genuinely jumped up and down, muted the call and screamed," she said. "I was ecstatic because I'd done the research, talked to the right people, asked the right questions and I knew this place was going to be a fit. I was so excited to get the opportunity to prove myself. On the first day, I could not take the smile off my face. We learned about mortgages, HR processes and boring things and I smiled the entire time."

Though things worked out for Larkin, she acknowledges that it can be discouraging to be rejected or to find that a company isn't a good fit. Larkin's best advice is to surround yourself with a good support system, know your worth and above all else, just keep applying.

"You have to know that (getting rejected) is just because you don't fit with the company," she said. "It's not because you aren't smart, it's not because you aren't capable, you just don't fit with the company. Keep applying, keep trying and surround yourself with people who encourage you to do those things. You'll find the place you're supposed to end up." 

Though Larkin's ideal career path has taken a few detours and reroutes, shadowing jobs within UWM is giving her a clearer picture of her future in communication and leadership.

"I acknowledge that my career trajectory has changed many, many times even since I've been in college," she said. "As of right now, I would like to be the head of communication for a large corporation, a famous individual or a sports team."

Regardless of any uncertainties, she's charing headfirst into her career with enthusiasm and determination—no matter what her future holds.

"I've never been so excited to go to work," she said. "It's awesome. This is my first experience in corporate America and I'm going to take advantage of it."

By: Stella Govitz