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.

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. 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.

Q. How can I help students prepare for the technology challenges that are prevalent in most offices?

May 27, 2010 at 9:58 am | Posted in Intern Support, Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Most internship descriptions list the technology skills that are needed. Review those lists with each intern to ensure that your student is proficient in the required technology. If the internship doesn’t indicate any technology skills, ask your student to find out what, if any, skills will be expected. If your student feels unprepared for the technology challenges, the following suggestions may be helpful: 

  • Utilize a resource, such as a computer lab, technology class, or even your Career Center, at the university or college to help your student develop new technology skills before the internship starts. A technology tutor may be useful, too.
  • Arrange pre-internship training at the internship site on how to use the appropriate technology. The intern supervisor at the company will respect an intern willing to dedicate additional time to be up-to-date by the start of the internship. As a result, the intern will feel much more confident by Day One. If necessary, your student may have to put in extra time even after the internship starts in order to master the technology.
  • Recommend books or manuals, either online or in stores, about the various forms of technology as resources to help your students understand the technical aspects of the equipment they’ll use at their internships.
  • Invite Computer Science majors at your school to act as mentors for your students while they’re on their internships. Establish a hotline or email address for your interns, giving them immediate access to a mentor who can direct them in using technology.
  • Ask the intern supervisor to provide a company “techie” who is willing to answer any questions or help your intern figure out the technology. Such an arrangement will improve efficiency at work and be a good support system for your student. Emphasize to your student that the quality of work is what really counts; technology is simply a tool.
  • Facilitate a change of assignment if the intern still feels totally incapable of meeting the technology challenges in the company. Discuss the situation with the intern supervisor and ask for a different position for your student. Both the student and the intern supervisor will be grateful for your help in resolving the issue early on before it becomes a major problem.

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