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.

 

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. What can we do when our students complain about unpaid, no-credit internships?

July 29, 2010 at 11:19 am | Posted in Intern Compensation | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Remind your students that internships—even ones that don’t offer pay or credit—are still solid investments in their career futures. Suggest that your students maximize their internship experiences in the following ways: 

  • Networking:  The most effective way to find other opportunities for themselves is networking, which is acknowledged as the primary method to get a job or an internship. A July 19 article in The New York Times says that dozens of young people with connections to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s friends, business associates and government appointees have been awarded internships at City Hall. Your students have probably started a good network for themselves at their internships. Ask each intern to make a list of everyone at the internship and find out if he/she can suggest any other internship possibilities. Your students could use social media to stay in touch with their networking list when the internship is over.
  • Next internship:  Experience at a summer internship is a great building block for the next internship. Now that your students have mastered the art of being a professional in a work setting they’re ready to advance up the ladder. With excellent recommendations in hand, they can apply for more advanced assignments at more prestigious firms. A potential internship supervisor knows that your students are a proven quantity and will “fit in” nicely to other internship programs. Students should also consider that their summer internships may have helped them realize that they don’t really like that industry and would not want to focus their careers on that field. Now they have time to change majors and explore other fields before it’s too late in their academic careers.
  • Course papers or class projects:  Every summer internship provides endless resources for a course paper or class project. And your students have already done the research if they use material from one of their internship assignments. They can incorporate case studies or company reports (unless they’re confidential) to support their papers. Or if they are members of a class team that is instructed to collaborate with a company on a project, they could ask their former internship company to fill that requirement. Another way in which your students can tap back into their internships is to ask someone from the internship site to be a speaker for a campus event. Your students will soon see that unpaid, no-credit internships are a priceless experience.

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. 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. How can I develop more internships for my students within one company when there’s so much competition among schools?

July 7, 2010 at 10:43 am | Posted in career center, Creating Internships | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Good question! You’re right—there’s lots of competition as more and more schools realize the importance of internships. And your students want more and more opportunities in a company, which also puts pressure on you to develop more internships. Here are some tips to help you satisfy everyone’s needs: 

  • Build stronger relationships with the company, so the internship supervisor contacts you first when there’s an internship position. You can develop this relationship in several ways. Visit the site during your student’s internship and spend time talking to the internship supervisor as well as the Human Resources department. Take the internship supervisor to lunch if it is convenient. Present the internship supervisor or appropriate employee with a framed certificate of appreciation or a plaque from your college, which can be hung in his/her office. Such a visible gift raises the status of the recipient with other employees.
  • Make sure the internship process goes smoothly, minimizing work for the internship supervisor. Provide him/her with all the appropriate forms, including assessments, reports, sample reference letters, and an internship calendar. Resolve any issues, such as the intern is experiencing conflict with another employee, as quickly as possible without involving the internship supervisor, who is probably already overwhelmed with work. Write a letter to the internship supervisor’s boss, expressing the school’s appreciation for the excellent mentorship provided by the supervisor.
  • Select the best qualified intern for the company in which you want to develop more internships. Compare the intern’s work ethic and personality style with the corporate culture, ensuring a good match. Research the skills that will be needed in each internship and determine if your intern is adequately prepared. Instruct your intern in professional behavior, so he/she performs to the appropriate standards. You may have to turn down an intern’s request to work in a certain company if you feel that such a placement might damage your relationship with the company.
  • Explore other internship venues. Although you may want to develop more internships in one company, it’s wise to look around for other options, too. You could be the first school to approach a company that has never used interns and would be grateful for your help in establishing an internship program. You would have the ability to set up internships that you know would work well for your school and your students. Creating new internships can open lots of new doors for your students and lead to more networking opportunities for them and for you.

Q. What should I tell students who love their internships and don’t want to see them end? What are their options?

June 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Happy interns are win-win situations for students, companies, and for you. It’s a promising start for a potentially long-term professional relationship for your student. Your role is to research the situation and come up with the best game plan for everyone involved. Here are a few tips not only to assess the current relationship but to also open doors for the future:

  • Find out if your intern has any specific ideas or plans on how to continue the internship. For example, would he/she be interested in working long-distance, utilizing technology and email, to extend the internship? Is there a particular assignment that the intern would like to perform for the company? Or is it even geographically possible to continue the internship or turn it into a part-time job?
  • After you understand your intern’s position and goals, explore the company’s situation with the intern supervisor. First, you’ll want to find out if there’s another intern scheduled to fill your student’s position. Then, you’ll need to discuss the company’s plans for your student intern. Would the supervisor like to retain the intern? If so, in what capacity? Onsite? Online? Paid or unpaid? Part-time employee? Different assignment?
  • If you discover that your intern and the intern supervisor are not on the same page, and your intern needs to refocus his/her sights, you might research other internships that would be similar and appeal to your student. You could point out to your intern that he/she might actually expand his/her career future by moving on and taking another internship with a different company. New contacts will increase networking opportunities for your student.
  • Another consideration is whether or not the student will receive credit for extending the same internship. How you counsel your intern may also depend on departmental policies. For example, does the department or your school honor cooperative education credits? Does your student intern’s academic advisor think it’s wise to extend an internship or continue it as a co-op? Or would the advisor recommend that the student choose a different internship in order to gain new experience? After you thoroughly research all the above questions, you’ll be ready to help your student intern make the right decision for a successful future.

Q. How can I prevent a student from leaving an internship when such an incident would reflect poorly on my school?

June 24, 2010 at 10:15 am | Posted in Intern Support | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. First, take a look at the scenario from various viewpoints before making a decision and taking action.

  • Talk to the intern. Find out why your intern wants to leave his/her internship. If it’s a personal problem that is affecting performance, suggest that the intern see a school counselor to resolve the issue. If it’s a conflict with a co-worker, you may be able to have the intern switched to another department. Evaluate the validity of the intern’s concerns and decide on the next step.
  • Talk to the supervisor. Ask the intern supervisor to weigh in on the situation and offer any insight that could help you understand why your intern is unhappy with the internship. You may find that the intern supervisor is dissatisfied with the intern and would appreciate your help in removing the intern from the position. Or the intern supervisor may suggest a more positive solution to the problem, resulting in keeping the intern.
  • Evaluate the problem. Review both conversations and organize the facts. If you feel that the best solution for all parties involved is to terminate the current intern’s position, then it’s your responsibility to take that action. Make sure to let the intern supervisor know you hope to place future interns with the company.
  • Make an informed decision. Remember that a student leaving an internship is not necessarily a poor reflection on your school. It’s better to terminate a bad situation than let it build into a major conflict area, which could then reflect poorly on your school. Your proactive response and effective solution to the problem will win praise from all parties and reflect well on your school and on you.

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