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. We keep getting calls from internship supervisors that our students are under dressing in this record hot weather. What should we do?

July 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Advising interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You’re not alone.  A recent article in The Baltimore Sun pointed out that many other career centers are experiencing the same problem. “It’s something we deal with all the time,” says the director of the University of Baltimore’s Career Center. “One staff member received a call from an employer who had to speak to an intern about wearing booty shorts to the office.”  Here are a few tips from The Sun article on how to deal with these issues:

  • The University of Baltimore has just launched a one-credit elective called Personal and Professional Skills for Business. Anyone can take it, but it’s required for business majors. The content includes how to network, write a resume, manage an interview—and what to wear. The basic course includes “all the things that you’d think you wouldn’t have to say, but we say them anyway.” You might consider initiating such a course in your school if you don’t already have one.
  • At Towson University, the College of Business and Economics invites students to an event called Dress Smart. Part fashion show, part networking opportunity, the event is designed to show students in a visual way what isn’t right for the office. Students wear outfits that range from professional to a bit wrong to wildly inappropriate. Students model and mingle while real company recruiters talk to them and tell them why their outfits work or don’t.
  • To prevent students from wearing scanty clothing to work during the heat wave, send out an email to all your interns, reminding them that they should dress conservatively in business professional mode regardless of the weather. If they want outstanding recommendations, they’ll have to keep the booty shorts, thigh-grazing dresses, flip-flops, ripped jeans, see-through skirts, and cleavage-baring tops in the closet.
  • Rather than wait to hear from intern supervisors, you may want to contact them about the state of dress of your interns in case any supervisors are experiencing issues. If there are any concerns, you can offer to run interference and solve the problem, relieving the intern supervisor from facing a potentially awkward situation.

Q. How will I ever find enough internships for all our college students who realize the value of the experience and want more than one?

July 22, 2010 at 11:31 am | Posted in Creating Internships | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You’ve asked a very legitimate question. Your career center is probably receiving more and more requests for internships. And the competition is fierce as high school students, unemployed or underemployed graduates, undergraduate and graduate students all battle over the same internships. Here are a few ideas on how to stay ahead of the requests:

  • Use interns in your own office to handle some of the basic work, freeing you up to go out and actively pursue new internships. Carefully research all the offices on campus for new internship placements.
  • Develop a marketing plan with career center staff to advertise your internship program, targeting specific markets to cultivate new internships and strengthen existing ones. Be sure to include your alumni as an excellent resource for internships.
  • Utilize your school website to stimulate new internship sites, network with current internship sites, and encourage companies to contact you for interns. You may want to join new professional groups that interact with companies, searching for new internship opportunities.
  • Organize an Internship Fair at least twice a year, inviting lots of companies to attend and meet your students—their potential interns. Offer incentives to companies, such as pre-trained interns to fit specific needs or on-site counseling if necessary.
  • Create virtual internships for your students, permitting them to sample different fields while still going to classes or working. The most common ones are in IT, software development, research, sales, marketing, and social media.
  • Explore international internships, coordinating with your overseas campus or partnering with another college to set up internships that introduce your students to the global market.  

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. Should I give permission to students who want to leave their internships early because they have to return to campus to participate in pre-term activities?

July 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Advising interns, career center | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. The answer to your question depends largely on what arrangements were agreed upon before the internships began. If students had told you ahead of time that they had to leave early, then you should not penalize them for following through with their plans. However, if you had no idea they would leave early, then you’re under no obligation to give permission. Here are a few points to consider when making your decision:

  • Discuss the nature of the pre-term activities with the students who unexpectedly ask to leave early. If it’s a great honor, such as being accepted to participate in an honors program or to study abroad, then you might want to congratulate the students and offer them your best wishes. In other cases, you might want to check with the director of the activities to find out how crucial it is that your student interns attend the pre-term activities.
  • Ensure that the request to leave early is a valid one. For example, students may have medical issues or family problems.  In the case of medical issues, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a copy of the medical report or the name and phone number of the doctor. The students’ advisors or professors may also be good resources if the reason to leave early is a personal one. You may be able to offer assistance in terms of counseling or financial aid to the student to help him/her in a difficult time.
  • Suggest alternate plans that could result in fulfilling the required amount of time for the internship without staying for the same length of time. For example, the student could put in longer days or work at home to complete the internship assignments. Talk with the internship supervisors at the companies to find out the company policies or alternate plans for interns that want to leave internships early. Some companies may be very understanding while others may take offense, which could harm your future relationships with that company. You may have taken years building up a strong internship program and are rightfully concerned about keeping it available for upcoming students.
  • Make sure that the students realize they might be hurting their own futures by leaving their internships early. They may have to balance pre-term activities, which seem important during the school years, with the long-term effects of a less than stellar internship record that could negatively impact their career goals. This is a tough decision for a student to make, and you might want to counsel him or her on how to proceed in order to protect his/her future and your career center’s reputation.

Q. Our Career Center still has students who want internships this summer, but we don’t have enough available. What can we do?

May 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Posted in career center, Finding internships | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You’re not alone—many Career Centers nationwide are experiencing increased demand from both undergraduate and graduate students. More students than ever before recognize the importance of multiple internships starting in the summer of their freshmen year, driving up the number of requests. Since summer jobs may be hard to find in this recessionary period, more students are seeking internships as an alternative. Recent graduates who don’t have jobs also want internships. Suggest that your students do some independent research to locate internships:

  • Internships.com was created to fill this growing need. Refer your students to the site to explore the nearly 20,000 internships available. New entries come in every day, so ask your students to check the site daily until they find internships that interest them.
  • The newest tool for finding internships is Internship Seeker, an iPhone app that provides mobile access to thousands of available internship listings on Internships.com. Your students can download this FREE app to search internships while on the go.
  • Students can use their LinkedIn connections to help get internships. Once your students find an internship program that interests them, they can do a “people search” and check if a hiring manager or HR staff members of that company are on LinkedIn. The goal is to have a mutual connection with the “insider” of the company, so students can even ask him/her for an introduction to the intern manager. 
  • If you have time (or have interns working in your office), you may want to hold an informal Internship Mini-Fair for students who have not gotten a summer internship and still want one. You’ll earn points with your students for your efforts and impress potential internship managers, too. Invite local businesses or campus departments to attend, ensuring them that you’ll help them develop an internship program if they don’t have one.
  • Instead of developing internships one by one, try working with a local business group, such as the Chamber of Commerce. For example, the Jones County Junior College and the Laurel Main Street Association partnered to create internships with downtown businesses in Laurel, Mississippi. The college, located 11 miles from downtown, benefits from new internships for its students and downtown businesses expect to enjoy a boost in business.  

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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