Q. What should I tell students who love their internships and don’t want to see them end? What are their options?

June 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Happy interns are win-win situations for students, companies, and for you. It’s a promising start for a potentially long-term professional relationship for your student. Your role is to research the situation and come up with the best game plan for everyone involved. Here are a few tips not only to assess the current relationship but to also open doors for the future:

  • Find out if your intern has any specific ideas or plans on how to continue the internship. For example, would he/she be interested in working long-distance, utilizing technology and email, to extend the internship? Is there a particular assignment that the intern would like to perform for the company? Or is it even geographically possible to continue the internship or turn it into a part-time job?
  • After you understand your intern’s position and goals, explore the company’s situation with the intern supervisor. First, you’ll want to find out if there’s another intern scheduled to fill your student’s position. Then, you’ll need to discuss the company’s plans for your student intern. Would the supervisor like to retain the intern? If so, in what capacity? Onsite? Online? Paid or unpaid? Part-time employee? Different assignment?
  • If you discover that your intern and the intern supervisor are not on the same page, and your intern needs to refocus his/her sights, you might research other internships that would be similar and appeal to your student. You could point out to your intern that he/she might actually expand his/her career future by moving on and taking another internship with a different company. New contacts will increase networking opportunities for your student.
  • Another consideration is whether or not the student will receive credit for extending the same internship. How you counsel your intern may also depend on departmental policies. For example, does the department or your school honor cooperative education credits? Does your student intern’s academic advisor think it’s wise to extend an internship or continue it as a co-op? Or would the advisor recommend that the student choose a different internship in order to gain new experience? After you thoroughly research all the above questions, you’ll be ready to help your student intern make the right decision for a successful future.

Q. How can I prevent a student from leaving an internship when such an incident would reflect poorly on my school?

June 24, 2010 at 10:15 am | Posted in Intern Support | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. First, take a look at the scenario from various viewpoints before making a decision and taking action.

  • Talk to the intern. Find out why your intern wants to leave his/her internship. If it’s a personal problem that is affecting performance, suggest that the intern see a school counselor to resolve the issue. If it’s a conflict with a co-worker, you may be able to have the intern switched to another department. Evaluate the validity of the intern’s concerns and decide on the next step.
  • Talk to the supervisor. Ask the intern supervisor to weigh in on the situation and offer any insight that could help you understand why your intern is unhappy with the internship. You may find that the intern supervisor is dissatisfied with the intern and would appreciate your help in removing the intern from the position. Or the intern supervisor may suggest a more positive solution to the problem, resulting in keeping the intern.
  • Evaluate the problem. Review both conversations and organize the facts. If you feel that the best solution for all parties involved is to terminate the current intern’s position, then it’s your responsibility to take that action. Make sure to let the intern supervisor know you hope to place future interns with the company.
  • Make an informed decision. Remember that a student leaving an internship is not necessarily a poor reflection on your school. It’s better to terminate a bad situation than let it build into a major conflict area, which could then reflect poorly on your school. Your proactive response and effective solution to the problem will win praise from all parties and reflect well on your school and on you.

Q. How much responsibility should I take in ensuring the success of our college interns?

June 22, 2010 at 10:52 am | Posted in career center, Intern Support | 1 Comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. When making a decision about taking responsibility for individual students and their internship success  you should consider your school’s overall philosophy regarding how much responsibility students should take for their activities and how much responsibility the school should assume.

Consider these factors:

  • Individual professional style: Your own philosophy comes into play here, too, since you serve as a role model and mentor for your students. If you’re an independent person and take ownership of your decisions, then your students may model their behaviors after you. If you approach your work as a collaborative effort and your decisions are team-based, your interns may become more comfortable working within that style.
  • Individual intern style: Aside from the school philosophy and your own professional style, you need to evaluate each individual intern. An insecure student will want your help while a self-confident student may resent your advice. Unless you see a reason to change a student’s behavior, you may want to give your interns space to grow as individuals.
  • Parental involvement: Parents also come into the equation. They realize that an internship is very important to their child’s future, so if parents get involved they will bring their own set of expectations and possibly even issues.
  • Intern supervisor’s involvement: If the intern supervisor contacts you or you see something disquieting in your intern’s reports, then you have to sort out the problems. It may be easier to keep track of your intern through the intern supervisor who will probably appreciate your active interest in your intern’s success.
  • Balancing act: Please keep in mind that there is not a right or wrong way to measure how much responsibility you should take for your college interns. You have to balance the school, yourself, the intern, the parents, and the intern supervisor and come up with the right formula. If in doubt, it would be wise to take charge, especially if any problems would reflect badly on your school and consequently yourself.  
  • Written document defining roles: A written document, defining the roles and responsibility in an internship, could clarify the above issues. Then, make sure your student intern reads the document before starting an internship and also signs it as an acknowledgement of understanding who takes responsibility. You may want to sign it, too, as an affirmation of the agreement and as a protection against misplaced blame.

Q. What is my role in checking up on our college interns? Is it appropriate for me to call the supervisors or visit the site?

June 17, 2010 at 10:40 am | Posted in Assessing student performance | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Your role continues to expand as an increasing number of students sign up for internships. Also, you’re probably working with more companies than ever before as you try to help students find new internships. Most career centers combine a focus on internships and counseling services. And the intern, especially if he/she is a freshman attempting a first internship, often needs to have counseling in order to be successful at the internship. Here are tips on how to handle your evolving role: 

  • Internship supervisors usually appreciate phone calls from their intern’s career center. However, it’s a sign of respect to find out ahead the most convenient time for the supervisor to take calls. You could even schedule a weekly phone call for a 10-minute update on your student’s performance. If the supervisor feels that he/she has your support, the company is more likely to be responsive to your requests to take on more interns in the future.
  • Be available to your intern and the intern supervisor. Let them both know your hours of availability, phone numbers, and email address, so either one can contact you immediately if a problem arises. You could also send inspirational cards or notes to your intern at work. If your student is struggling with personal issues that are impacting the internship, you’ll be able to connect him/her to counselors at your career center.  
  • You probably have the dual responsibility to check up on your college interns and your internship companies. You may be able to do both at the same time by making on-site visits. Some schools provide travel money for school personnel to go to a city, especially if there are multiple internship sites. Then you can schedule visits with both the intern and the supervisor at each location.
  • An on-site visit is desirable because you can talk face-to-face with the intern and supervisor, interpreting body language in order to accurately evaluate the success of the internship. You may have to run interference or mediate between the intern and the supervisor, so it’s important to understand the logistics. For example, if the supervisor complains that the intern is always late for work, you may be able to point out that public transportation is unreliable and perhaps the company could help the student carpool with other employees.

Q. How can I assess a student’s performance in order to offer tips on improvement?

June 15, 2010 at 11:32 am | Posted in Assessing student performance | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You have several options. If you’re already receiving a daily or weekly journal report from the intern, you can assess your student’s performance by reviewing that document. However, if your center, like many others, only requires an end-of-internship report, then you might want to initiate an email tracking system to ensure that you are able to assess a student’s performance and offer tips on improvement in a timely manner. Here are a few other ways in which career centers assess performance: 

  • Compare the student’s reports, whether online or in a journal, with the written description of the internship provided by the company. The two should be fairly close matches. If you note discrepancies, you might have to sort out the problems or find out if the company expectations have changed.
  • Set up a phone appointment with the internship manager at your student’s intern site and ask him/her to rate your student’s performance. Inquire as to how your student could add more value to the company. Then, communicate your findings to your student.
  • Plan an on-site visit if geographically possible. Your visit demonstrates your sincere interest in your student’s success and in the company’s satisfaction with the intern. Arrange a meeting with the student and manager, so you can evaluate their interactions. If you find dissatisfaction on either side, you may be able to decide if it is based on personal conflict rather than professional issues.
  • Develop a brief survey based on performance questions and send appropriate versions to both the student and the intern supervisor. Review the answers to discover any performance issues and follow up with helpful tips to the respondents. A survey can be a comfortable, non-threatening way to reveal problems, avoiding face-to-face confrontation.

Q. Any tips on how a student can improve his/her relationship with a difficult boss?

June 11, 2010 at 11:21 am | Posted in Intern Support | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Getting along with one’s boss is key to a successful internship. Be grateful that your student has confided in you that he/she is having issues with their boss because then you can take steps to fix the problem before it spirals out of control. Here are some tips: 

  • Talk with your student to find out what the problems are in order to determine if they are personal issues, such as the boss isn’t friendly (or is too friendly) or constantly finds fault with your student, or if the complaints are related to assignments, such as not enough information, unrealistic deadline expectations etc. Make sure that your student isn’t leaving early or taking long breaks, which may irritate the boss.
  • Next, if you know the so-called “difficult” boss, consider how accurate your student’s claims are about that person. If you don’t know the boss, see what you can find out from former interns or from your contacts at the company. Now you can sort out the root of the problem and come up with solutions.
  • If the student is being overly sensitive about how the boss treats him/her, you could do some role playing with the student to help him/her react appropriately to challenging situations. Let the student play the “difficult” boss, and you can demonstrate how best to deal with each issue. You can do this online or by phone.
  • If you’ve discovered that the “difficult” boss is having a hard time for either personal or work-related issues, such as going through a divorce, being short staffed, or intimidated by company layoffs, ask your student not take the behavior of the boss personally.
  • To improve the work relationship, your student may have to be proactive. He/she can ask the boss for feedback on a completed assignment, thank the boss for guidance, and ask the boss for more projects. The intern may even ask the boss how he/she can improve performance at the internship, illustrating commitment.
  • The student could also volunteer to stay late at work or come in for an extra day if there’s a rush job or deadline. The “difficult” boss may turn into an appreciative mentor who will gladly write a glowing recommendation for your student.

Q. What should I do about a student who says he/she is bored and wants to change internships?

June 9, 2010 at 10:15 am | Posted in Intern Support | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. First, you need to find out why your student is “bored.” It may be as simple as “having a bad day.” Then explore the following options to resolve the problem:

  • Contact the student’s intern supervisor to find out how the student is doing at the internship. If he/she is failing to perform the assignments, “bored” may mean the student finds the assignments too difficult and is using boredom as an excuse for feeling inadequate. You may be able to arrange additional help for your intern.
  • If the student is breezing through with high praise at the internship, “bored” may mean that the internship is too easy. You could suggest that the intern ask for more challenging assignments to eliminate the boredom.
  • Explore the possibility with your “bored” student that he/she may enjoy the internship duties but may not like the co-workers or the department. If that’s the case, you may have to counsel your intern on how to adjust to working with different kinds of people and resolve his/her negative feelings. If that doesn’t work, you could intercede and ask the intern supervisor if your intern could be transferred to a different department.
  • If you discover that your intern actually is “bored” because he/she strongly dislikes the company itself, which could be due to policies, products, or philosophies, then you might have to help your student find another internship.
  • It would be wise not to share with the company that your intern was “bored” or in reality disliked the company. Instead, you may be able to diplomatically say it wasn’t a good fit. You’ll probably find the company will be relieved since it probably sensed the intern was unhappy.

Internships.com at NACE 2010

June 8, 2010 at 11:00 am | Posted in NACE Conference | Leave a comment
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Internships.com made a splash at NACE 2010. To kickoff the conference, Robin Richards, Chairman and CEO of internships.com, introduced Keynote Speaker, Keith Ferrazzi, author, Never Eat Alone, and founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight. Keith gave an inspiring speech about the power of relationships and networks.

Spring 2010 Survey of Career Center Professionals” Released

The following morning, the results from the “Spring 2010 Survey of Career Center Professionals” were released during the Data and Danish breakfast. A spirited discussion by attendees followed the presentation of the results by Kenneth C. Green, Ph.D. Download a summary of the survey here.

Survey Sweepstakes Winner Announced

Participants of the “Spring 2010 Survey” were entered into a drawing to support the activities of their career center. The winner of the $1000 grant for their career center is Mark Brostoff, the Associate Dean and Director, Weston Career Center, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Pictured here from left to right are Shari Kern, Weston Career Center Associate Director for Technology; Sarah Decker, Weston Career Center Business Development Specialist; Mark Brostoff, our survey winner;  and Mason Gates of internships.com.

The entire team at internships.com would like to express how welcome we felt by everyone attending NACE and are happy to have been a part of it. It was exciting to meet the many faces that move this industry, catch up with old friends and develop new relationships.

The internships.com booth at NACE 2010.

Q. What’s the best way to emphasize the importance of professional behavior for student interns, especially in social settings with co-workers?

June 3, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Posted in Intern Support, Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You have several options to offer your student interns. Internships.com has an Intern Certification Program that teaches students how to conduct conversations at work and how to behave appropriately among co-workers. Since student interns may have adjustment problems to the working world, you may want to guide them in the following ways: 

  • Conduct role-playing sessions with you acting as the co-worker and your student as the new intern. Encourage your student to start a conversation and then ask him/her some questions, such as “What did you do this weekend?”  If the answer is “Partied all weekend,” you can suggest a more conservative answer, such as “Wrote a paper for my Political Science class.” You could also throw out a few comments, such as “Isn’t the boss a jerk?” to evaluate your student intern’s response, which should be noncommittal.  These role-playing sessions could also be conducted among student interns, each taking different roles.
  • Describe specific social settings, including picnics, retirement parties, and company celebrations (anniversaries, holiday parties, general meetings, etc.) and review drinking policies with your student interns. Remind the student intern to dress modestly even if it’s a picnic or casual event.
  • Advise your student interns that office romances can create problems. Flirting is fine on campus, but not at work. If someone at work flirts with them, they would be well advised to keep the relationship strictly professional. Acting overly friendly at the office can be misinterpreted by co-workers as aggressive behavior. Recommend that your student interns develop best friends away from the internship site.
  • Emphasize to your interns that they refrain from gossiping either in the office or at a company social event. They could practice being good listeners without giving away their own opinions. Besides, people enjoy being around someone who listens rather than talks only about himself/herself. A good conversation technique is to ask impersonal questions about sports, weather, company history, cafeteria food etc., but caution them not to discuss money, religion, or politics.
  • Alert them to the dangers of office politics. If departments are at odds or a co-worker is upset about corporate policies, they can act sympathetic but shouldn’t take sides on any issues. You never know which side will win, so don’t play the game. They should keep personal opinions to themselves as well as personal histories.
  • Remind your student interns that not only are they being evaluated for their own professional behavior, but also the school’s reputation is at stake. Your intern is your representative and will pave the way for future interns. Prepare your intern to act responsibly and professionally by making sure that he/she has internship guidelines as well as emergency phone numbers and email addresses so they can reach out for support.

Q. How can I explain to students that unpaid internships can be priceless because they are investing in their own futures?

June 1, 2010 at 11:48 am | Posted in Intern Compensation | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. This is a hot topic in the news right now, so it’s important to address it with your students immediately, whether they are currently doing internships or looking for fall internships. Consider sending an informative and reassuring email out to all your students involved in the internship process, explaining why unpaid internships can be priceless. You might want to send them a link to the Wall Street Journal article, May 18, 2010, “Creating Internships Out of Thin Air,” to validate your explanation. Here are several reasons you can give as to why unpaid internships are excellent investments: 

  • You receive letters of recommendation, which will help you get future internships, which may be paid. Count on having multiple internships, each one better than the previous one.
  • You may earn school credit, which will free up space in your academic program to take other courses (or more internships) or to concentrate on those time-intensive classes with long labs.
  • You could follow the advice of Colleen Sabatino, career coach at internships.com, who was quoted in the above Wall Street Journal article. She suggests that you ask the company about any options for pay, such as a stipend or even a part-time job at minimum wage. You may have to cut back your hours if you have to work in another job.
  • You could ask the Career Center if it has any funding available or knows of any government-related monies for internships. New opportunities come up all the time, so check federal and state sites often.
  • You also have career-related experience to strengthen your resume. Remember, it’s your resume that gets you the all-important interview. After a few unpaid internships, you can drop your high-school entries and add impressive professional experience, which will get you the interview.  Investments usually take a while to pay off, so start investing in yourself now.
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