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Daniel Hesse, AT&T Wireless
When earning his MBA at Cornell University in the late '70s, Hesse wanted a summer internship at AT&T but knew the company recruited only from Harvard and the Wharton School of Business. Hesse asked his sister, who was based in Boston at the time, to travel to Harvard's campus and gather information so he could find out who the recruiter was, reports USA Today. After writing the recruiter a letter, Hesse landed the internship -- beginning a 23-year career with the company where he wound up as president and CEO of AT&T Wireless Services. He is currently the CEO of Sprint.
Lesson: Prove you'd be an asset to the company by going above and beyond.
Hesse won an intern slot because he was able to prove that he could meet his employer's needs despite not having a degree from Harvard or Wharton.
"Sometimes it's more hassle (for an employer) to have an intern than it is to not have an intern," Smulders says. Offering to pitch in on projects without being asked can help prove an intern's value and show that you're a problem solver, she says.