Q. How can I help students prepare for the technology challenges that are prevalent in most offices?

May 27, 2010 at 9:58 am | Posted in Intern Support, Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Most internship descriptions list the technology skills that are needed. Review those lists with each intern to ensure that your student is proficient in the required technology. If the internship doesn’t indicate any technology skills, ask your student to find out what, if any, skills will be expected. If your student feels unprepared for the technology challenges, the following suggestions may be helpful: 

  • Utilize a resource, such as a computer lab, technology class, or even your Career Center, at the university or college to help your student develop new technology skills before the internship starts. A technology tutor may be useful, too.
  • Arrange pre-internship training at the internship site on how to use the appropriate technology. The intern supervisor at the company will respect an intern willing to dedicate additional time to be up-to-date by the start of the internship. As a result, the intern will feel much more confident by Day One. If necessary, your student may have to put in extra time even after the internship starts in order to master the technology.
  • Recommend books or manuals, either online or in stores, about the various forms of technology as resources to help your students understand the technical aspects of the equipment they’ll use at their internships.
  • Invite Computer Science majors at your school to act as mentors for your students while they’re on their internships. Establish a hotline or email address for your interns, giving them immediate access to a mentor who can direct them in using technology.
  • Ask the intern supervisor to provide a company “techie” who is willing to answer any questions or help your intern figure out the technology. Such an arrangement will improve efficiency at work and be a good support system for your student. Emphasize to your student that the quality of work is what really counts; technology is simply a tool.
  • Facilitate a change of assignment if the intern still feels totally incapable of meeting the technology challenges in the company. Discuss the situation with the intern supervisor and ask for a different position for your student. Both the student and the intern supervisor will be grateful for your help in resolving the issue early on before it becomes a major problem.

Q. What are some tips to help my students quickly develop positive images at their internships?

May 24, 2010 at 10:48 am | Posted in corporate culture, Intern Support, Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You’re so right to make sure your students generate great first impressions. An internship is the perfect place to learn the appropriate behaviors that will serve them well throughout their careers. Many career centers offer a mini-course for their interns on how to develop positive images at their internships. Although some of your interns may already be familiar with the following tips, a refresher course is always helpful: 

  • Dress for success is not simply a poetic phrase. It’s based in reality. You could review the Intern Certification Program on internships.com to see the accepted style in terms of clothing, hair, and accessories. If in doubt, take the conservative approach, staying with neutral tones and traditional hairstyles. Also check the company regulations for dress code. Still unsure? Imitate the dress of the other workers.
  • Arrive early. Getting to work about 15 minutes before everyone else creates an excellent first impression. When employees walk in and see you hard at work at your desk, they immediately conclude that you have a strong work ethic. They know you’ll be an asset to the team.
  • Complete your first projects ahead of time. How you perform on your first assignment sets the tone for your entire internship. Make sure that you accurately complete the project ahead of schedule. In fact, do more than what is required.
  • Talk about work. A good way to “fit in” to the office environment is to ask work-related questions, avoiding office gossip. You’ll be perceived as a real team member rather than a temporary intern. 
  • Offer to help wherever needed. When you finish your day’s assignment, ask your office mates if they need any help. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” is a good mantra to develop. Even if the answer is “No,” you’ll have created an image as a helpful person willing to take on extra duties to lighten the office workload.

Q. How can we support and monitor our summer interns?

May 20, 2010 at 11:52 am | Posted in career center, Intern Support, Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Summer interns, especially those who are off campus, need to have safety nets built into their internship programs. Internships serve as great building blocks for future internships, so each internship has to be a successful experience. If you have lots of interns and limited staff capacity, you can use technology to stay in touch. Some ideas are: 

  • Weekly email newsletters: Send a weekly newsletter to each intern with campus news and helpful tips for interns on how to deal with specific situations or problems. A column by an intern would be motivational, too.
  • Daily or weekly reports:  Request daily or weekly email reports, depending on the length of the internship. Give each intern a form to follow when sending the report. The intern may want to keep a diary each day and simply send you a copy of the diary, which will help you monitor the intern’s progress and spot potential problems.
  • Webinars:  Hold a weekly webinar or online conference with your intern audience. You could introduce the Q & A format as well as acting as the speaker, addressing relevant topics.
  • Diversity resources:  Remember that your interns may be of different ethnic backgrounds and could benefit from links to international student groups that deal with work-related problems. Ethnicity is a sensitive area and your interns may be more comfortable discussing uncomfortable work issues with people who may have experienced similar situations.
  • On-site visits:  If possible, try to make an on-site visit at least once during the intern’s program. You can do double duty by visiting with both the internship manager and your intern and getting an accurate reading on how the internship is going.  You can also see first-hand the intern’s assignments and meet your intern’s colleagues. If you don’t like what you see, this is the perfect time to discuss—face-to-face with the internship manager—how to improve the situation. Even if your school doesn’t require on-site internship visits, you might want to schedule them anyway. Your interns will be happy to see you.

Q. Our Career Center still has students who want internships this summer, but we don’t have enough available. What can we do?

May 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Posted in career center, Finding internships | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You’re not alone—many Career Centers nationwide are experiencing increased demand from both undergraduate and graduate students. More students than ever before recognize the importance of multiple internships starting in the summer of their freshmen year, driving up the number of requests. Since summer jobs may be hard to find in this recessionary period, more students are seeking internships as an alternative. Recent graduates who don’t have jobs also want internships. Suggest that your students do some independent research to locate internships:

  • Internships.com was created to fill this growing need. Refer your students to the site to explore the nearly 20,000 internships available. New entries come in every day, so ask your students to check the site daily until they find internships that interest them.
  • The newest tool for finding internships is Internship Seeker, an iPhone app that provides mobile access to thousands of available internship listings on Internships.com. Your students can download this FREE app to search internships while on the go.
  • Students can use their LinkedIn connections to help get internships. Once your students find an internship program that interests them, they can do a “people search” and check if a hiring manager or HR staff members of that company are on LinkedIn. The goal is to have a mutual connection with the “insider” of the company, so students can even ask him/her for an introduction to the intern manager. 
  • If you have time (or have interns working in your office), you may want to hold an informal Internship Mini-Fair for students who have not gotten a summer internship and still want one. You’ll earn points with your students for your efforts and impress potential internship managers, too. Invite local businesses or campus departments to attend, ensuring them that you’ll help them develop an internship program if they don’t have one.
  • Instead of developing internships one by one, try working with a local business group, such as the Chamber of Commerce. For example, the Jones County Junior College and the Laurel Main Street Association partnered to create internships with downtown businesses in Laurel, Mississippi. The college, located 11 miles from downtown, benefits from new internships for its students and downtown businesses expect to enjoy a boost in business.  

Q. What are some tips for instilling confidence in new interns?

May 14, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Your question shows you’re a conscientious career counselor concerned about the success of your interns. You probably have already prepared materials for your interns, giving them helpful tips for a positive experience. However, many students are still nervous and unsure, especially if it’s their first internship. Here are some ways in which you can bolster their self-confidence to help them perform better: 

  • Arrange for each of your new interns to have a mentor who has already been an intern and can give some helpful advice. The mentor can be from any major or have interned in a different company as long as he/she is willing to share insights.
  • Set up an online support group for the new interns, enabling them to communicate among themselves during the internship period. They can ask questions about problems that arise on the internships and compare successes and challenges.
  • Emphasize that the interns are a select group and the Career Center is proud of them for being chosen. Organize a pre-internship meeting to honor the new interns. Be sure to serve light refreshments to create a celebratory mood. Former interns could address the group about their experiences followed by a Q & A session.
  • Present each new intern with an Intern Care package that could include a notebook, pen, breath mints, and a health bar. If the budget allows, include a university mug, tote bag, or t-shirt to demonstrate school support.
  • Review the skills that each intern will need at his/her internship site. If the intern’s skill level, such as IT skills, is not up to par, arrange for the intern to receive help before the internship begins. Confidence is often rooted in capability.
  • Let the new interns know that you or someone on your staff will be in contact with them on a regular basis. Set up the schedule ahead of time, allaying any intern fears of being isolated. Encourage the new interns to contact the office for advice. Assure the students that they will be successful and that they can count on the full support and resources of the Career Center.

Q. How can I help my students understand the individual corporate cultures at their internships?

May 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Posted in corporate culture | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Corporate cultures can be confusing—even for long-term company employees, much less new interns. These shared values, standards, and behaviors reflect the leadership style and ultimately the success of a business. To help your interns understand and “fit in” to the corporate culture, suggest that they research the following elements in their individual companies:  

  1. Values: Prospective interns can read up on the company history to understand the initial values and goals. Annual reports are also an excellent source of information on the company’s achievements, problems or changing values. Other documents that illustrate a company’s value system are the corporate mission statement and  slogan, such as Pfizer’s “Working together for a healthier world.” Google and other search engines reveal information about the corporate leaders, reflecting the company values.
  2. Standards: Is the company a corporate citizen, sponsoring community events, including educational initiatives or fundraising? What kinds of events does it hold for employees? Is the holiday party a dinner at a fine dining restaurant or is it a buffet in the company lunchroom? Does the company award employees for reaching goals? Interns can find out this information from company newsletters or by asking employees. If interns listen to the lunchroom chatter and ask questions, they’ll hear lots of stories that will identify company standards.
  3. Behaviors: Behaviors, ranging from dress to language, can change from department to department. The executives may exhibit one behavior in the boardroom, but the employees may practice other behaviors, depending on department. Age also makes a difference in behavior. Social media may be more accepted in some departments.  
  4. Different Cultures:  Is it a bureaucratic culture, often found in government, banks, universities, hospitals, and insurance agencies? If so, the intern will probably work with forms, formal reports, and policy statements. Performance may be judged by adherence to compliance and procedures. Or is the company a work hard/play hard organization, usually true of startups, with short-term deadlines?  If so, the student should have high energy and a can-do attitude. Some companies, such as Apple, believe in management by objective and offer stock options, innovative work rules, and profit-sharing. Teamwork drives that type of culture.
  5. Interns may want to share with each other their observations on corporate cultures in their individual companies, helping each other gain new understanding.

Internship opportunities: a college to career GPS

May 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Posted in America's education system, Current events | 1 Comment
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by Dr. Rudy Crew USC, Advisor to internships.com

For the last decade, this country has been trying to “Leave No Child Behind.”  One premise was that the institutions charged with the care of children and young adults would operate seamlessly, and collaboratively in building skills, attitudes and values that enable successful careers.

I got the point, however subliminal.  As a former Chancellor of New York City Schools and later, Miami Dade County, I think the notion of leaving no child behind, had tremendous strategic potential.  But then there’s life and tyranny of the day to day.

The K-12 system is only loosely connected to that of junior colleges and other post-secondary institutions.  And from there, the way from college into the career or job of one’s choice is a function of luck, circumstance and as one young man once told me, a “hook up.” In truth, by contrast to other developed nations, we do a poor job of teaching the needed skills of occupational and civic literacy.  Worse yet, the path from college to a career requires a “GPS,” which very few students actually have.  Were it not for college career centers, savvy parents and big business, few students would make it into the job market at all, and even fewer from poor communities.

It was once taken as an article of faith, that college exit meant job entry.  The numbers tell a different tale.  First, 7 million jobs have left this country since 2006. Employment numbers are slow going north, and for the age group of the average college student (18-24) unemployment is still double the national average.   All this makes the case for a more explicit means by which students in this country get from college into a job—a National Internship program.  This is an investment in college age youth by small and big businesses alike.  It argues from the place where vision meets strategy– like that of other eras in our history when the marketplace was in turmoil.  The GI bill after WWII, the Civil Rights Bill both came after decades of deferred dreams for education and access to jobs–good jobs.

So now education is going to “Race to the Top.”  President Obama is right to suggest that we need to double time our pace if we intend to be competitive, globally.  But again, is it a slogan for the campaign or is there a strategy behind it?  Is there a real set of stairs from a community college in rural or urban America to a good job in the US economy?  I’ll know it’s for real when the “race” is being run with incentives for small and medium businesses to take on interns in the workplace.  It’ll be true when colleges and universities enlist their alumni associations to give an internship to the entire junior and senior class.  It will be true when career center budgets swell because of volume of demand and America’s Mayors campaign for the youth vote by harnessing themselves to youth employment. And when the skills taught in American public schools are ratcheted up to bear some relationship to skills needed to join a college, or vocation—for all students.

So much to do; so little time to win this race.  Your thoughts please; just no slogans.

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