When Abby Burkhard ‘20, Business Administration B.S./MBA, received the Ruggiero Honors Internship Scholarship in the spring semester of 2020, she knew her options were limited. Completing an internship is required for almost every business program at Saint Rose, and the scholarship supports students financially with their summer internship aspirations. With a raging pandemic forcing companies and organizations to close their doors and pause their operations — Burkhard submitted hundreds of applications with little luck. That was until she heard back from Sizigi, a start-up company based in San Diego, California.
“I was quarantining in my apartment, and I probably applied for 500 jobs,” Burkhard said. “I got callbacks from a couple of places, but the only one I wanted to work for and gave me a job was Sizigi. That was the perfect direction to go. It has helped me so much in the long run.”
Sizigi, at its core, is about making connections. The company helps hopeful job candidates create virtual portfolios that paint a full picture of their talents and skills and help them stand out from the competition.
Tony Malz, the founder and CEO of Sizigi, said he had 4,000 applicants vying for an internship. Burkhard was one of a few dozen to make the cut.
“From her initial interview, Abby demonstrated complete confidence in not only the marketing abilities she acquired during her time at The College of Saint Rose but in her ability to learn and adapt,” Malz said in an email.
“Prior to her interview, she took the time to familiarize herself with our platform and created content that showcased her graphic design capabilities, her marketing knowledge, and her social media experience.”
At Sizigi, Burkhard worked as a social media marketing intern, helping to build the one-year-old company’s presence on TikTok and Instagram. Other interns managed other social media accounts. So, she took the initiative and helped organize and manage the interns for the marketing department’s internship program. Although deeply immersed in her internship, all of her work took place remotely from her apartment in Albany, New York, as Sizigi asked employees to work-from-home during COVID-19.
Her internship experience came to an end over the summer, but it was just the beginning for Burkhard. She was offered a full-time position as social media manager at Sizigi, and now oversees six interns across five social media platforms.
That includes an intern from the College’s Huether School of Business, Natalie Joseph ’21.
Joseph, who is a senior at Saint Rose and marketing management major, had been following Burkhard’s success at Sizigi for a while on social media. That’s how she learned about their internship program. When Burkhard was invited to speak in Joseph’s pre-internship class (via Zoom) about Sizigi’s internship program — she knew she had to take the opportunity to apply.
“She (Abby) told me about it. My professor told me about it. Even my close friend told me about it. So, I knew I had to hop on to this opportunity and see how it goes,” Joseph said.
And, Burkhard was happy to see her application come through.
“I had known Natalie before she applied. She is so bright and so talented, I knew she could do this. I knew she had the same training I had, which helped me do this job. It wasn’t even a question,” said Burkhard.
Making connections and networking is something that Sharon Edwards-Grant preaches in her pre-internship class at Saint Rose. As the coordinator of internships and business relationships for the Huether School of Business, Edwards-Grant prepares students for the hiring process — from writing a stand-out resume to nailing a job interview and everything in between.
Opportunities like the one that Burkhard and Joseph seized are exactly the opportunities she hopes all her business students find. Edwards-Grant makes sure that students pursue internships that fall within their major.
“It is a waste of time and energy when you are doing your three-credit internship in something that is not worthwhile,” she said.
Edwards-Grant is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SHRM-SCP, SPHR). Before coming to Saint Rose, her most recent role was director of human resources for Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consulting firm.
She is the perfect resource for students who need guidance and support with their career goals.
“The ultimate goal is to secure a job or create such a strong a network and perform so well that even if there is not an opportunity, you are the first person they will call (when there is one),” Edwards-Grant said. “That 10 weeks or 12 weeks of work (as an intern) is actually an interview process.”
Joseph is working remotely as a social media intern at Sizigi, managing social media accounts, just as Burkhard started out. As a full-time student at Saint Rose who is working toward graduation day, she is not yet sure what the future holds. But, Joseph said she has learned so much from this opportunity already: How to work as a team remotely, how to generate and engage an audience on social media, how to hit targets and measure results using analytics, and the importance of standing out in the hiring process.
“If in the future, Sizigi has any job openings, I would want to work there,” Joseph said.