Keeping in touch with busy students

October 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The semester is half over, so it’s time to take inventory of your interns, who have probably been so busy that you rarely hear from them. Even if students have been sending in their weekly reports, you still can’t tell if their internships are really working for them or if they’ve been too overwhelmed to contact you. And please don’t assume that all is well since you haven’t heard otherwise from internship supervisors, who may also be too busy to contact you.  It’s not too late to correct any problems, leading to a successful conclusion and rave references.

First, set up an appointment for a phone or onsite visit with each intern. You can find out much more about a situation by talking “live” to a person rather than communicating by email or text messages. Keep the appointment short and prepare a few direct questions, such as “What do you like/dislike about your internship? What problems are you having with the assignments or supervisor? What can I or the school do to help you be more successful in your internship?” Their answers should reveal specific issues and initiate resolution.

Second, create a more detailed reporting form for the second half of the internship. Initial forms often use boxes for check marks to save busy interns time, but by now your interns should be involved in projects. Request samples of projects or abstracts of meetings, so you’ll be more knowledgeable about the internship. If busy students show resentment towards more detailed forms, remind them that you need to keep a good file to help them get their next internships.

Third, keep in touch in positive ways that include fun and fellowship. Along with your colleagues, plan a mid-semester party for your student interns. If some student interns are on distant sites, explore ways to bring them back for the special day or to include them via long-distance technology. Celebrate your students for making it half-way through busy internships and cheer then on to a fine finish. They’ll appreciate your efforts and renew their own.

 

Feedback from the Frontlines

October 28, 2010 at 7:35 am | Posted in Educator Updates Newsletter, Feedback from the Frontlines | Leave a comment
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In response to last month’s article about the growing trend of people using internships to make a career change, Jean A. Spahr from the College of DuPage weighs in on why she isn’t seeing this taking off.

“Employers I’ve spoken with aren’t interested in experienced or unemployed folks doing internships. I agree with them because, even if the internships are non-credit bearing, they are work-integrated learning experiences that are appropriately connected to an academic program of study. I’ve heard the term “returnship” connected to experienced and unemployed people trying to build skills on the job in order to return to the workforce. The experienced and unemployed can re-career at non-profits legally, however it’s simply volunteer work…while for-profits can’t utilize volunteers. How is a “returnship” viewed under the FLSA if it’s an unpaid experience?”

Are you seeing a similar trend on your campus? What does this mean for alumni re-entering the work force or making career changes? Throw your feedback into the mix at educatorcare@internships.com.

Setting up January internships for your students

October 27, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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You probably have a line of students outside your door, wanting to talk about spring and summer internships. You might find that some students would be happy to have January internships, especially if they have heavy class loads next semester. And late Fall is the perfect time to line up those internships for students who have the month off.  January internships are growing in popularity because students aren’t under stress from classes. They can enjoy working full-time and earning credits in a condensed period. However, some students may need to have placements in specific geographic locations, depending on their January living arrangements.

Since many companies aren’t familiar with January internships, it’s your role to introduce them to the benefits. A student can give full concentration and complete a project in one month. Also, budget-conscious companies may appreciate the extra help without having to hire a new employee. Since the internship is on a short timeline, the internship supervisor will not be burdened with several months of overseeing an intern.  To set up January internships, you can work with an established internship site or you can approach new ones. A company with which you already work may be more open to January internships. However, it’s also a good way to get your foot in the door with a desirable company because the short internship is less likely to be as intimidating as a longer one.

Next, review the skills of students who want a January internship. You’ll have a smaller group than during the rest of the year since many students want that month off for recreation or relaxing. Understand the skills that your January interns have and match those skills to the prospective company. Then, design a month-long program that works for both your intern and the company, present it to both parties, and have an agreement in place before Thanksgiving.

 

Feeling lucky?

September 21, 2010 at 10:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Ever feel overwhelmed with choices?  Whether it’s in the cereal aisle in the grocery store, the War and Peace-length menus at restaurants, or the seemingly infinite cable TV stations, there is never a shortage of options. Luckily, the makers of Dice for Change recognize that more options isn’t always better.  They’ve created a wonderfully simple way to decide what step you’ll take to be healthier, kinder, or more environmentally aware each day.  While these “Dice for Change” aren’t available in stores yet, they are great reminders of how focusing on just one thing each day can be much more effective than getting bogged down in all of the options.  No word on whether they’ll have a “Cereal Aisle” version in the future, though.

Internships Aren’t Just for the Young

September 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Educator Updates Newsletter, Views on the News | 1 Comment
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Internships are no longer being used simply as an experience-builder for college students. This article in Money Talks News references a new survey of 2500 employers showing 23 percent of them are seeing more applications from “experienced workers” (those with 10-plus years experience) and “mature workers” (those over 50 years old) that have been laid off, or are seeking mid-life career changes applying for internships and entry-level positions.

The difficult job market has reshaped internships into a way for experienced workers to explore new opportunities. With doubt about an economic recovery employers are apprehensive to add to their payrolls and are planning to hire more interns than in previous years. Internships can serve as job interviews and often lead to full time positions. Of the companies surveyed 52 percent of them said they are more likely to hire interns as full-time employees.

As the age group applying for internships skews older, we are hearing more comments back from campus career advisors that an increasing number of alumni are seeking internships to help them transition to new careers. Anne Orange at the University of South Carolina noted “Alumni who are out of work or even students about to graduate who think they will have a hard time finding full-time employment come to the Career Center to ask if they can obtain an internship post-graduation.”

Are you seeing similar trends in your career center? Let us know what’s going on at your campus: send an email to educatorcare@internships.com.

Q. Our career center is overwhelmed with students wanting internships. Any suggestions on how to streamline the process?

August 5, 2010 at 10:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Many career centers around the country are experiencing the same overload as more and more students want multiple internship experiences. Historically, career centers have been able to spend individual time with each student, but many centers are now developing more efficient ways to deal with their larger numbers and still maintain quality service. Here are a few tips that might work for you: 

  • Group orientation sessions:  Utilizing the same format for freshmen orientation sessions, invite all students who intend to apply for internships to attend an orientation meeting early in the semester. Supply each student with an internship handbook, outlining the procedure. Introduce your staff and ask a former intern or two to discuss his/her experience. Also, provide a timetable with deadlines, so your office isn’t swamped at the last minute with students who want internships.

You may even want to distribute a list of companies with whom you work and the individual requirements, so students can evaluate their own readiness for each internship. If you’re planning an Internship Fair on campus, you could alert  students to be aware of the date, so they can put it on their calendars. 

  • Online applications:  Develop an online application with all the details that you need in order to enroll a student as a potential intern. Use your career center Web site to structure the internship process. You might want to include a sample resume, and then ask the student to customize the resume for himself/herself. You could also suggest that the student access the QuickBuild Resume on internships.com. for more help. Consider adding a Q & A section about internships on your Web site or start an Intern Coach blog.
  • Mentoring programs:  Students really appreciate connecting with other students who have had internship experiences already. Using the list of former and current interns, set up a mentoring system, matching potential interns with experienced ones. You might also find that current interns could benefit from linking up with former interns, especially if both share internship experience at the same company.
  • Career Center interns:  Increase the number of interns that you use in your own career center to help reduce your own workload. Many students are more comfortable taking their first internships on campus than in a strange environment, which means you should have an excellent pool of candidates. They also value the opportunity to have an “insider’s view” of available internships for future opportunities.  A well-trained intern can serve as the initial point of contact for students who are applying for internships.

Q. Do I really have to remind my students to thank everyone who helped them during their internships?

July 15, 2010 at 10:23 am | Posted in Advising interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Yes, please do remind all of your students to thank everyone who helped them during their internships. It’s to your benefit, too, if you want to keep all the company doors open when it’s time to place new interns. The competition for those coveted spaces has really grown. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2008 found that 50% of graduating students had held internships compared to 17% in 1992. So those thank-you letters are important for both your students and your career center. Here’s how to make sure the students follow through:

  • Remember that students are very busy, especially at the end of the summer and may forget about thank-you notes as they prepare for the coming semester. To help them complete their thank-you messages on time, set a deadline a week or two before the internship ends. And remind your students that you’ll be sending your own thank-you letters to the appropriate intern supervisors, too.
  • Enclose sample thank-you letters in each student intern’s package of informative materials. Include various versions, ranging from formal letters for internship supervisors to informal notes or even verbal thank-you scripts for other employees who have been helpful during the internship. Encourage your students to customize their messages based on the samples.
  • Consider providing your student interns with note cards or letterhead engraved with the school’s name. Then, you can be assured that the student is using appropriate stationery for the thank-you messages. Having the school name in front of the company personnel is also a tangible reminder of the professional relationship that exists between your career center and the company.
  • Collaborate with your student interns on the list of people who deserve thank-you messages. Prepare a form for them with three columns—one for names, a second for type of thank-you, and third for dates. Review the list with each student, dividing the names into formal letters, informal notes, and verbal thanks. Then, add due dates beside each name and ask your student to check off each date upon completion.
  • Impress upon your students that these seemingly simple courtesies are an important way of networking. For example, the secretary who has been helpful and deserves a thank-you note may have a brother who works in a company where your student intern may want to apply for a job and needs an employee to put in a good word for him/her. If the student perceives a thank-you as a way to continue a relationship that could lead to new opportunities rather than a closure to a former experience, he/she will need few reminders about thanking everyone.

Q. Is there any way to guarantee that all my students get reference letters?

July 8, 2010 at 10:36 am | Posted in Reference letters | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Reference letters mean a lot to students, and you’re wise to follow up that they all receive them. Although most companies understand the importance of such documents and readily provide them, sometimes you might need to nudge the internship supervisors along, so your students receive appropriate letters in a timely manner. Here are a few tips:

  • Create sample reference letters: Supply sample reference letters to internship supervisors, including positive statements. You could create a number of letters, depending on how many different types of internships your students have. For example, one for business majors, another for English majors, and a third for art majors etc. Then, you could give instructions on how to customize each letter for individual students. Be sure to say that the reference letters should be on company letterhead with the supervisor’s original signature.
  • Provide an internship calendar: Create a calendar for the internship supervisors before the internships begin. List the dates for starting and ending the internship, for weekly reports, for final evaluation, and for reference letters. During the course of the internships, email or call the internship supervisor, alerting him/her to each approaching due date. A busy internship supervisor will appreciate your helpful reminders.
  • Hand out self addressed stamped envelopes: Send a thank you to your students’ internship supervisors before the reference letter is due and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the reference letter. By thanking the internship supervisor in advance for the student reference letter, you improve your chances of getting it. Address the stamped, self-addressed envelope either to the student or to your Career Center, depending on your policy.
  • Suggest that students ask about letter early on: Ensure that the internship supervisors write the letter in a timely manner by suggesting to your students that they also ask for the reference letter before their internship ends. If your school has an internship contract with a company, make sure that the contract stipulates a reference letter. In some cases, such as a poorly performing intern or a personality conflict, the internship supervisor might need extra help in crafting the reference letter. Don’t hesitate to offer your assistance, so you can deliver a reference letter that’s a strong document to enhance the career future of your student interns.

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.
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