Helping interns with networking skills

April 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Posted in career center, networking | 1 Comment
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by Jane Finkle

Students often need an extra push to move forward with networking.  They know it has some impact on their career development, but for many students networking is a foreign concept that requires learning a new language.  As a student becomes proficient in the dialogue of networking, he or she increases the chance of developing a relationship with a professional who is capable of offering insight into a career field, or, who can lead them to a valuable internship. Counseling sessions that focus on networking as an essential skill, provide an ideal opportunity to enliven the student’s communication repertoire, strengthen their preparedness for professional life, and build overall confidence.  Career counseling offers students a safe place to practice skills, deal with their fears and learn how to use networking to their advantage.

Writing Skills

In my own counseling sessions, I have been able to assist students in drafting a note or an Email to a professional contact by helping them develop an outline that will explain the nature of their interests. Equally important, I work with the student on generating questions to further support their goals. By the time a student leaves my office, he or she has developed a plan for the initial correspondence to a contact and given a deadline within which to complete the note or letter.  Once the letter is completed, the student then sends it to me via email or brings it to my office for feedback.  We all know the staying power first impressions have.  If the letter to a professional is appropriately and carefully composed, the chance of that professional responding favorably to a student increases substantially.  I also view mastering this type of correspondence as a precursor to writing a strong cover letter.

Role Playing

For those students who are anxious about how they will initiate a conversation or approach a professional contact at an event, setting up a short role play can be very effective.  Typically, the first question I pose to a student has to do with what they hope to achieve by talking to a professional contact. This thought, in turn, helps the student to formulate and prepare probing and useful questions.   At this point, I ask that they imagine that I am the contact person and we engage in role playing ways they might introduce themselves and how they would articulate their goals.  For the extremely shy and reserved student who has performance anxiety, I do a short role play using video on the computer.  This is a technique that many career counselors use to help students develop interview skills but it can be equally beneficial to students who need extra initial support in order to communicate with professionals in a polished and confident manner.

As I counsel students on perfecting their networking skills in writing and in person, I find this process contributes to helping them mature and understand their own power  in securing internships, and best of all, it enhances their confidence as  they become more comfortable meeting and communicating with professionals.

Social media: a revolution in networking and finding internships

April 19, 2010 at 11:52 am | Posted in career center, Finding internships, networking | 2 Comments
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by Jane Finkle

I last wrote about the value of students tapping into Alums as a rich resource for discovering internship opportunities. In their mad dash to find a good internship, students can strengthen their chances of success by skillfully employing the revolutionary tool of social media. As they become more adept at the myriad uses of social media, students build and expand their professional connections. This cutting edge technology embraces the heart of networking through the fast and dynamic search functions offered by LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  With social media on their side, students can find professionals and potential employers and increase their chances of finding an internship that supports their career interests and goals. The best news is that this technology is a way to further our mission in providing the highest quality career counseling and job search advice to students.

Most recently I worked with a student who expressed his excitement about an internship opportunity at a software company.  I suggested he check his LinkedIn contact list to see if any of his contacts were acquainted with someone at the company.  It turned out that a professor on his contact list was linked to a Vice President at the software company. Through the normal route of LinkedIn introductions, the Vice President circulated the student’s resume to appropriate divisions and agreed to stay in contact regarding future internship opportunities. Even if this student is unable to obtain an internship at the company this year, he has learned how to approach a senior level professional and gained insight into the company.

Here are just some quick examples of how students can use social media sites to their advantage.

Contacts

By linking to friends, professors and past employers at LinkedIn, a student can search their contact’s lists and greatly increase the possibility of finding people connected to a company, industry or employer that sparks their interest. Students can also use the search tab under People to locate and learn more about employers and recruiters who they met previously through campus programs or other connections.

Research

Through LinkedIn, students can also search for career information via Group and Companies search functions. For example, by searching for an organization under the Company tab, a company profile will pop up with information about services and products including the number of current employees. Using the Group tab, a student can identify professional groups in a chosen field and location.  They can also pose questions about the profession and identify potential opportunities for internships. A student might even create a new group, “California Sports Management Interns” to build a network and increase his or her knowledge of the profession.

Job Postings

Companies and employers with LinkedIn and Facebook accounts often post job openings and internship opportunities on their accounts. This just offers students another online resource for finding internship opportunities.

Social media contains an ocean of possibilities, and my comments here are just the tip of the iceberg. This useful mechanism has the ability to create vital professional connections for students. Whether it’s Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter, social media is revolutionizing career development in many exciting and positive ways. This revolution is also impacting the way career professionals provide career education and support to students who now need guidance on how to use social media responsibly and effectively. We must become experts in the navigation and uses of this powerful tool if we want to continue to serve our students at the highest level.

Alumni: a rich and natural resource for students seeking internships

April 1, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Posted in alumni, career center, networking | 3 Comments
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by Jane Finkle

We all know that building a network is one of the key ways professionals discover work opportunities. Networking is a skill that students can develop and master as they seek out internships. Most college Career Offices maintain an online alumni career network. This dynamic resource helps students to explore their personal career interests with the guidance of alums. Students can also connect with alums who participate in college panels and programs. 

I have had many positive experiences working with students who take the initiative to contact alums and find this action often leads them to an exciting internship opportunity. Here are three cases that illustrate the power of alumni in supporting student career development. In each instance the relationship bloomed into internship possibilities. Please note that all three cases are women because of my career counseling experience at a women’s college!

First Case Study – Meeting alumni at career conferences

Susan attended a career conference in New York City, sponsored by her career office and featuring alums in a variety of professions. The alums were volunteers who were intent upon sharing their work experience and answering student questions. Susan was especially impressed by the work of one of the alumna in financial services. She engaged this alum in conversation asking her question about her career. The alumna was so impressed with Susan’s approach and personality, she arranged for Susan to interview for an internship at her firm.

Second Case Study – Alumni networking through college career center

Through her career office, Linda secured an externship (one week job shadowing program) with an alumna working at a high profile women’s magazine. Even though Linda followed this alumna for a week only, she volunteered to help on a project and conducted an informational interview to find out more about the alumna’s career background and accomplishments. The alumna was impressed by Linda’s initiative and genuine interest that she created a summer internship at the magazine for Linda.

Third Case Study – Online alumni career network

Joan was specifically interested in finding a summer internship related to City Planning. I suggested she use our online alumnae career network to see if she could find an alumna in the field to talk with about her summer goals. Joan located an alumna in the city planning field in California. Emailing this alum, Linda included a brief introduction and asked the alumna if she would be willing to talk with her via phone about her career. Joan also invited the alum to offer any suggestions for summer internships. The alumna agreed and provided Joan with substantial information on the best way to find a summer internship related to City Planning and also volunteered to circulate Linda’s resume at her organization.

It has been my experience that many students shy away from approaching or contacting alums. They worry about imposing upon alums or are not sure about the best way to take advantage of alum’s expertise. When they express their angst about connecting with alum, I see it as counseling moment; an opportunity to not only alleviate their fears but also teach and provide guidance. Suggestions such as how to write an appropriate email or make a phone call to the alum are usually helpful, along with aiding them in forming questions that would engage the alum and also provide the student with valuable information.

Alumni are indeed a rich and natural resource for students. They remember their own college experience, both the triumphs and failures and these memories inspire them to reach out and support students from their alma mater. When we teach students to connect with alums during their internship search they experience firsthand the power of networking and sometimes end up with a great summer internship.

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