If your students were fans of The Office, the award-winning TV comedy that recently finished its seventh season, they may have the wrong impression of workplace etiquette. And Representative Anthony Weiner of New York has certainly not been a good example of proper behavior for career success. The following tips will help your summer interns build and maintain professional reputations:
- 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 until the internship is over. Recommend that your student interns develop best friends away from the internship site. Acting overly friendly at the office can be misinterpreted by co-workers as aggressive behavior. And dressing in a provocative manner can send out the wrong message, too.
- Emphasize to your interns that they refrain from gossiping either in the office or at a company social event. Instead of drinking alcohol at an office event, they could practice being good listeners without giving away their own opinions. 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, sex, 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.
- Arrive early. Getting to work about 15 minutes before everyone else creates an excellent first impression. When employees walk in and see interns hard at work, they immediately conclude that they have a strong work ethic and can’t wait to get to the office. Recommend that your interns complete projects ahead of time and do more than what is required. For example, if the assignment is a 3-page report, do a 5-page report or survey 15 customers rather than the requested 10.
- Talk about work. A good way to “fit in” to the office environment is to ask work-related questions, avoiding office gossip. Students will be perceived as real team members rather than temporary interns. Offer to help wherever needed. When students finish the day’s assignment, they should ask their office mates if they need any help. “Is there anything I can help you with?” is a good mantra to develop. Even if the answer is “No,” an intern will have created an image as a helpful person willing to take on extra duties to lighten the office workload.
The Journal Sentinel recently reported on a UW-Madison graduate with a degree in biomedical engineering, who has moved back home and is working as a prep cook in a café. She did not do an internship. Her story is all too common. Here’s how the employment picture looks, according to the article, and what you can do to help your students:
- Few signs of improvement: While there have been some modest signs of improvement over the past few months, statistics show the employment situation for college graduates and other young adults remains difficult in the aftermath of the recession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among 20- to 24-year-olds rose steadily from 8.2% in 2007 to 15.5% in 2010. It has improved slightly over the last few months, to 14.5% in June.
- Lack of jobs: “We’re suffering from this complete lack of job creation in the country,” said Andrew Sum, a professor and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Employers haven’t been searching out new employees because they don’t need them, Sum said. “A lot of older workers have stayed on, and quit rates are down,” he said. While 74% of new college graduates say they have jobs, only 65% of those employed say their job requires a college degree, Sum said.
- The right major and top grades: The type of degree makes a difference. Experts say students who majored in engineering, health, business, and computer science are tending to fare better in the job search. Carolyn Heinrich, director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison, said government agencies have been tentative, and while her top students are still getting hired, the second tier of well-qualified students is having trouble finding work.
- Internships: One move that enhances a college student’s chance of finding a job after graduation is getting an internship – particularly a paid internship, said Edwin Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers. In 2011, Koc said, 60% of paid interns working with for-profit companies received job offers compared with 38% of people with unpaid internships, according to the organization’s 2011 Student Survey. Students should start looking for fall internships now. Internships.com has nearly 48,000 internships listed in over 21,000 companies in more than 1,800 U.S. cities.
- Recommendation letters / professional portfolio: Remind your students who are interning this summer to obtain letters of recommendation from their supervisors as well as from any other staff members with whom they worked. These letters should be on company letterhead. Also, students should collect materials from every project on which they worked to build a professional portfolio. If students wait until after their internships are over, they might find it difficult to get the proper documentation that will help them secure future internships and jobs.
Tags: entrepreneur, New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman’s recent column in The New York Times, “The Start-Up of You,” notes the rise in the unemployment rate last month to 9.2 percent, but sees a different solution to the unemployment problem than the cure-alls proposed by Democrats or Republicans. Friedman says that “something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today’s job market more than people realize.” The following points may help your students to restructure their career strategy:
- The dynamic companies that are hiring, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Zynga, and LinkedIn, don’t employ many people relative to their valuations and are largely looking for talented engineers, which leaves out many jobseekers. Also, these fast-growing Internet-social networking companies tend to steal the best employees from one another before going to the open market.
- Employers today are more productive because they deploy more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, and robotics, resulting in reduced head count, health care, and pension liabilities. Friedman emphasizes that is not going to change. The companies that are hiring want people “who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.”
- He says today’s college grads need to be aware that the rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalization and the I.T. revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job.
- Employers are applying new criteria: Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets?
- Friedman recommends a new book coming out around the end of the year called “The Start-Up of You” co-authored by Reid Garrett Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, and Ben Casnocha. Hoffman says, “No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.”
- The new career strategy means using your network to pull in information and intelligence about where the growth opportunities are — and then investing in yourself to build skills that will allow you to take advantage of those opportunities. Hoffman adds: “You can’t just say, ‘I have a college degree, I have a right to a job, now someone else should figure out how to hire and train me.’ ” You have to know which industries are working and what is happening inside them and then “find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs it’s differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us.” He urges perseverance, too, citing the fact that the founder of Pandora pitched his idea more than 300 times to V.Cs with no luck.