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. 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.

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