Notes from the Field: 5 Tips for Conducting Site Visits

November 2, 2010 at 7:45 am | Posted in Educator Updates Newsletter, Notes from the Field | Leave a comment
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Maintaining a strong internship program involves several components including employer partnerships, committed interns, and meticulous organization. Having great employers often creates great quality internships. One of the best ways we maintain and strengthen employer relationships is by conducting site visits. These visits demonstrate that your career service office values and invests in the employers, as well as ensures that certain criteria are met. Here are five things to consider when conducting site visits:

1.       Timing and scheduling
Depending on the distance from the campus, site visits can be time intensive. Consider down times in your academic calendar to conduct these visits. Also consider scheduling multiple site visits with employers in close proximity. This is often my strategy as I conduct site visits in the summer and cluster my visits within a certain geographic area on each day.

2.       Selecting sites to visit
Visiting all sites within one academic year may be an unattainable goal, but consider sites with areas of student-interest as well as those with potential for improvement. Review past interns’ evaluations for red flags where interns have voiced specific concerns. For example, my colleague visited a site where a past intern had expressed discontent with her experience. She brought up that conversation tactfully and allowed an opportunity to discuss how interns can take initiative and get outside their comfort zones. This feedback was invaluable in communicating to future interns how to troubleshoot and tackle common challenges.

3.       Thinking creatively about site visits
My visits are often individual meetings with site supervisors. However one particular site visit occurred because I needed to take some marketing photos, so I visited on a day a particular company was holding a special event. I took advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the site through the event and met the site supervisor afterwards, which led to a lively discussion about internships.

4.       Reminding sites of important program dates
Being there in person reinforces the importance of deadlines such as a mid-semester meetings between supervisors and interns. Discussion about participation in future program cycles and updating position descriptions is also relevant. On my visits, I bring a one-page handout with important program dates to leave with them.

5.       Being a valuable resource
I am always surprised when site supervisors with years of experience in their field will ask for advice about internships. Sites often look to the internship coordinator as an expert and resource in understanding how to best work with interns. I have been asked about how to better recruit interns, how to communicate appropriate workplace behavior, and other best practices. In my experience, good site supervisors will want to work with you in order to maintain the quality of the internship experience for both the interns and the employer.

Final tip: I have four things I always bring when I go on the road:

  • Camera for taking photos of events and sites
  • One-page handout with important school program dates to leave with them
  • A list of site-specific concerns, questions, and stories from campus students and colleagues
  • Resources for employers from our career office on internships and intern programs

 Sarah Yoo is the Internship Coordinator at Pomona College, a selective liberal arts college located in the greater Los Angeles area. She obtained her graduate degree at California State University, Long Beach in Counseling with an emphasis on Student Development in Higher Education and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego in Sociology. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, spending time with friends and family, and cooking.

Freshmen looking for career advice now

September 21, 2010 at 10:23 am | Posted in Educator Updates Newsletter, Views on the News | Leave a comment
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As college freshmen nationwide are exploring their campuses — finding dining halls, laundry rooms, bookstores and gyms — officials at many schools say the newbies are increasingly finding their way to career centers. Once considered the place for panicked seniors to look for jobs ahead of graduation, college career offices are reporting dramatic hikes in use by first-year students looking for the earliest possible jump on the employment market.

Career centers are starting to hold events specifically for first year students with creative attendance incentives such as food and raffles that are designed to get freshmen in the habit of using their career center as a resource. Businesses are also interested in establishing relationships with freshmen to help identify top job and internship candidates as early as possible. Reaching out to freshmen builds a company’s name recognition and familiarizes them with the variety of jobs available. Along with career centers’ and business’ increased focus on freshmen, freshmen are becoming more actively engaged in the process, perhaps concerned by the 9.6% unemployment rate and stories of recent graduates.

About internships: it’s all about the employer this summer

January 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Summer internships | 1 Comment
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by Colleen Sabatino

As career counselors, we always have our students’ best interest in mind. We work on behalf of the student first and support employers only as a means for getting our students connected to them. That is why this blog post is a tough reality check that we need to get clear on. This week’s blog is about an important message that we need to send to all students seeking a summer internship. The message?

“This summer, it is about the employer not the student.”

In the past year, the role of the intern has shifted dramatically. The employer mindset has gone from viewing the internship as a form of corporate community service to a method for accessing free labor. In a thriving economy, employers want to invest in the future workforce by providing opportunities for young emerging professionals to learn about their industry and professions. However, when times get tough, employers want to simply stay alive long enough to get through the recession.

As an intern, your student needs to adjust to this new mindset and approach internships differently than in the past. Instead of approaching their summer internship as an opportunity to learn about a profession or industry, they will need focus on pursuing an internship that helps them contribute their skills in a way that generates value and substance for the employer. As a result of that contribution, they will no doubt learn about the profession and industry but the goal should be contributing not learning. Employers in this tough economy are trying to make their dollars go farther and their people produce more. Internships help them accomplish both. A student that is committed to helping them get more for their money and do more with less is the one who gets the offer. The one who is looking to learn about the profession or industry will be sitting at home. It won’t matter how smart or good they might be, this summer, the winners will be the ones who recognize the needs of employers and embrace them. It is our responsibility as career counselors to help them shift their mindset and prepare appropriately for interviews. 

So what does this mean for your students? Well for starters, we can coach them on what to say when asked in an interview, “Why do you want this internship?” We can help them understand that the focus needs to on what they can do for the employer. Do not talk about how this is a great opportunity for them to learn about the industry and profession. While that might also be true, it is not the most important reason to highlight in the interview. What’s important to the employer is their ability to take initiative and produce quality work as a member of their team.

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