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.

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