About internships: it’s all about the employer this summer

January 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Summer internships | 1 Comment
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by Colleen Sabatino

As career counselors, we always have our students’ best interest in mind. We work on behalf of the student first and support employers only as a means for getting our students connected to them. That is why this blog post is a tough reality check that we need to get clear on. This week’s blog is about an important message that we need to send to all students seeking a summer internship. The message?

“This summer, it is about the employer not the student.”

In the past year, the role of the intern has shifted dramatically. The employer mindset has gone from viewing the internship as a form of corporate community service to a method for accessing free labor. In a thriving economy, employers want to invest in the future workforce by providing opportunities for young emerging professionals to learn about their industry and professions. However, when times get tough, employers want to simply stay alive long enough to get through the recession.

As an intern, your student needs to adjust to this new mindset and approach internships differently than in the past. Instead of approaching their summer internship as an opportunity to learn about a profession or industry, they will need focus on pursuing an internship that helps them contribute their skills in a way that generates value and substance for the employer. As a result of that contribution, they will no doubt learn about the profession and industry but the goal should be contributing not learning. Employers in this tough economy are trying to make their dollars go farther and their people produce more. Internships help them accomplish both. A student that is committed to helping them get more for their money and do more with less is the one who gets the offer. The one who is looking to learn about the profession or industry will be sitting at home. It won’t matter how smart or good they might be, this summer, the winners will be the ones who recognize the needs of employers and embrace them. It is our responsibility as career counselors to help them shift their mindset and prepare appropriately for interviews. 

So what does this mean for your students? Well for starters, we can coach them on what to say when asked in an interview, “Why do you want this internship?” We can help them understand that the focus needs to on what they can do for the employer. Do not talk about how this is a great opportunity for them to learn about the industry and profession. While that might also be true, it is not the most important reason to highlight in the interview. What’s important to the employer is their ability to take initiative and produce quality work as a member of their team.

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