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.

Alumni: a rich and natural resource for students seeking internships

April 1, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Posted in alumni, career center, networking | 3 Comments
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by Jane Finkle

We all know that building a network is one of the key ways professionals discover work opportunities. Networking is a skill that students can develop and master as they seek out internships. Most college Career Offices maintain an online alumni career network. This dynamic resource helps students to explore their personal career interests with the guidance of alums. Students can also connect with alums who participate in college panels and programs. 

I have had many positive experiences working with students who take the initiative to contact alums and find this action often leads them to an exciting internship opportunity. Here are three cases that illustrate the power of alumni in supporting student career development. In each instance the relationship bloomed into internship possibilities. Please note that all three cases are women because of my career counseling experience at a women’s college!

First Case Study – Meeting alumni at career conferences

Susan attended a career conference in New York City, sponsored by her career office and featuring alums in a variety of professions. The alums were volunteers who were intent upon sharing their work experience and answering student questions. Susan was especially impressed by the work of one of the alumna in financial services. She engaged this alum in conversation asking her question about her career. The alumna was so impressed with Susan’s approach and personality, she arranged for Susan to interview for an internship at her firm.

Second Case Study – Alumni networking through college career center

Through her career office, Linda secured an externship (one week job shadowing program) with an alumna working at a high profile women’s magazine. Even though Linda followed this alumna for a week only, she volunteered to help on a project and conducted an informational interview to find out more about the alumna’s career background and accomplishments. The alumna was impressed by Linda’s initiative and genuine interest that she created a summer internship at the magazine for Linda.

Third Case Study – Online alumni career network

Joan was specifically interested in finding a summer internship related to City Planning. I suggested she use our online alumnae career network to see if she could find an alumna in the field to talk with about her summer goals. Joan located an alumna in the city planning field in California. Emailing this alum, Linda included a brief introduction and asked the alumna if she would be willing to talk with her via phone about her career. Joan also invited the alum to offer any suggestions for summer internships. The alumna agreed and provided Joan with substantial information on the best way to find a summer internship related to City Planning and also volunteered to circulate Linda’s resume at her organization.

It has been my experience that many students shy away from approaching or contacting alums. They worry about imposing upon alums or are not sure about the best way to take advantage of alum’s expertise. When they express their angst about connecting with alum, I see it as counseling moment; an opportunity to not only alleviate their fears but also teach and provide guidance. Suggestions such as how to write an appropriate email or make a phone call to the alum are usually helpful, along with aiding them in forming questions that would engage the alum and also provide the student with valuable information.

Alumni are indeed a rich and natural resource for students. They remember their own college experience, both the triumphs and failures and these memories inspire them to reach out and support students from their alma mater. When we teach students to connect with alums during their internship search they experience firsthand the power of networking and sometimes end up with a great summer internship.

Getting the perfect internship

March 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Internship offers, Job market | Leave a comment
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by Troy D. Nunamaker

It’s no surprise that competition for internships, full-time jobs, and even part-time summer jobs is at an all time high right now. We’re working with our Clemson students, edging them to ramp up their internship application efforts—apply early and use superior materials.  

This year, there are a number of seniors and recent graduates who are applying for the same internship positions that a sophomore or junior would typically go after. At my institution, we have even seen some seniors extending graduation dates by applying to do an internship at the end of their academic career. This gives them more resume-building material and provides additional time before entering the full-time job market. On the other side of this influx in internship applicants, we have seen companies require those traditional training and skill sets at a higher caliber. Just having the basic knowledge, skills, and attitude is no longer enough to get the internship offer. Students we are working with now need to show that they can exceed the knowledge, skills, and attitude requirements of the position.

Thus, our younger students looking for an internship have to distinguish themselves from their peers and from older students and recent grads–showing the recruiter on resumes and in interviews that they have the skills, training and an overall good attitude about the position and their professional career. These things seem to go a long way towards getting an internship offer even in a rough economy.

Lastly, we have been telling students not to stop the search process after the resume has been submitted, or the interview has occurred. We coach and re-coach our students to: follow up. . . find a phone number to call to make sure the company has their complete application on file . . . go to an information session . . . ask for a shadowing experience. . . consider volunteering/interning for free.  In short, we want our students to get a name or face in front of potential employers as much as possible. The better an applicant can position themselves to market their skills, the more successful they will be in securing that perfect opportunity!

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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