My Experience with Ladders for Leaders


This semester, I’ve had the privilege of participating in the PENCIL Summer Internship Program through the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development’s Ladders for Leaders program. As a competitive summer internship program, that includes intensive job-readiness training, PENCIL helps match high-school and college students, like myself, with a paid, 6-week internship at a company, non-profit organization or government agency in New York City.

I recently attended the 3-day, intensive job-training program from 9am – 5pm (with social breaks, of course!)

The event featured program alumnae from last year, who openly shared their stories of success since joining the program.

Guest speakers included Sibile Marcellus, a hard news, politics, and entertainment reporter for Chasing News and Jennifer Negron, a Program Officer for The Pinkerton Foundation.

The program also organized a former alumni panel of interns from the Big Four accounting firms Deloitte and KPMG as well as interns from the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. We capped the day off with volunteers that helped us perfect our resume and our Linkedin profiles.

Through the panels and networking sessions, I learned a lot from my peers and appreciated their level of honesty sharing both their funny (and sometimes) heartbreaking stories. One of the panelists recalled a time where she had confirmed she got the job, but the employer never called her back to tell her when she can come in to work and it’s been two months.

The reason why I picked PENCIL was because the program featured my major. I wanted to learn more about the work etiquette required to excel at a bank, government agency, or a leading corporation. Often times when we start interning at any workplace, no one teaches you the small nuances that can make or break your experience. I had to learn to adjust by seeking advice from mentors, and observing how other co-workers interact to know what’s the expected behaviors of the workplace.

From the intensive training, the PENCIL staff helped us learn and understand workplace norms through role playing in a fun and engaging way.

I also learned a notepad should be your best friend when you’re working. Whenever you can, you should be taking down notes from your supervisor about what is expected of you or more details about a particular assignment. You can’t remember everything they tell you unless you have hyperthymesia.

The PENCIL team also ensured we were sending forward our best possible resumes by offering one-on-one help. They also gave mock-interviews to practice how we should navigate a corporate interview.

For any of you interested in applying, I suggest always try to leave a good impression with the PENCIL staff because they will play an instrumental role in matching you with your potential summer internship! Part of the internship process is when they send potential employers your updated resume and cover letter online. This is done on a first come, first served basis. They match you with a company that you might be interested in and give you a brief description of the company.

I also recommend that you do more research on your own before making a decision because once you give them the okay that you are interested and want them to send the employers your resume, you have to commit to the firm. It’s a little like speed dating. They have a 24 hour policy that you have to respond within 24 hours, or else you lose their trust. If you do lose their trust, they’ll feel iffy about sending your resume to prospective employers.

If I could, I’d keep writing but I think the best thing would be to apply and experience it yourself! You never know.


Sunny Chang is a sophomore at Brooklyn College studying Finance & Investments and serves as the Director of Publications for Brooklyn College Women in Business.