As a career services professional, you may be overwhelmed by the increasing volume of student interns who want your help. Since more and more students want internships, consider lining up resource partners to support your mission of a quality internship for every student. Here are a few tips to build alliances and share responsibility:
- Professional alliances: Joyce Lain Kennedy in a recent blog on the Chicago Tribune Web site recommended “finding internship opportunities on a new website, internships.com/group/shrm. The site is an alliance between Internships.com, a large internship marketplace, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the dominant human resource management association.” The alliance works well, too for SHRM, which believes that students embarking on HR careers will want access to SHRM resources to help build a HR knowledge base for success in the first job and throughout their careers. Maximize such partnerships with professional organizations to offer your students assistance and to share responsibility for student success.
- University alliances: Universities world-wide are developing alliances with local entities to build stronger internship and career connections. A recent example is Zayed University and Dubai Airport Freezone, which have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote cooperation in employment, internships and training and research. According to the terms of the MoU, Zayed University students will gain priority access to temporary and permanent positions within Dubai Airport Freezone, provided they meet specific job requirements of the free zone. Available roles will range from internship and summer work opportunities to full time employment. Zayed University students will also be able to participate in recruitment events like job shadowing and mentor programs.
- Intern-Supervisor alliances: Supervisors are your main support during student internship. By now, you should be getting first reports from both your summer interns and their supervisors. If the intern supervisor contacts you or you see something disquieting in your intern’s reports, then you have to sort out the problems. It may be easier to keep track of your intern through the intern supervisor who will appreciate your active interest in your intern’s success. A written document, defining the roles and responsibility in an internship, could clarify the issues. This document should be created during the first week of the internship and signed by the supervisor and the intern. Your role is to make sure each party understands his/her responsibilities and follows through appropriately.
- Student-Parent-Career Center alliances: Your summer interns are busy learning how to adapt to the world of work, which includes taking responsibility for those own actions, too. An insecure student will want your help while a self-confident student may resent your advice. Unless you see a reason to change a student’s behavior, you may want to give your interns space to grow as individuals. Parents also come into the equation, especially if students are living at home while doing summer internships. Parents’ expectations may be unrealistic or they may be concerned that their child is not treated fairly at his/her internship. If your college interns complain to parents—who then complain to you—you’ll be responsible for explaining the situation and resolving it.
- Please keep in mind that there is not a right or wrong way to measure how much responsibility you should take for your college interns. But keep in mind that the more alliances you build, the more support you’ll have for a successful experience for everyone involved.
Your students are busy at their summer internships, and you may hear little from them. However, it’s important to find out if they’re experiencing any difficulties, so you can offer tips for improvement while it’s still fairly early in their internships. Here are several tips to help you track your interns’ performance:
- Social Media: Many students are blogging or posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter about their experiences, which would help you to chart their activities. If your students express interest in blogging, suggest that they study Eye of the Intern blog on internships.com as a model. A recent topic was “Should interns drink at after-work social events?” For other examples, they could read these recent blogs and postings on USA TODAY College: Is your internship turning out to be an epic fail? Here’s how to deal. College Crush: Dating during your internship — should you go there? Opinion: Unpaid internships are a bad investment. Be sure to caution your students not to write anything that would embarrass them later in their careers.
- Weekly reports: If you’re already receiving a daily or weekly journal report from the intern, you can assess your student’s performance by reviewing that document. However, if your center, like many others, only requires an end-of-internship report, then you might want to schedule a weekly email exchange to ensure that you are able to assess a student’s performance and offer tips on improvement in a timely manner. Compare the student’s reports, whether online or in a journal, with the description of the internship provided by the company. The two should be fairly close matches. If you note discrepancies, you might have to sort out a problem or find out if company expectations have changed.
- Performance surveys: Develop a brief survey based on performance questions and send appropriate versions to both the student and the intern supervisor. Review the answers to discover any performance issues and follow up with helpful tips to the respondents. A survey can be a comfortable, non-threatening way to reveal problems, avoiding face-to-face confrontation. If the survey raises questions, follow the survey up with a phone call to the internship supervisor, inquiring as to how your student could add more value to the company. Then, communicate your findings to your student.
- Communication: Plan an on-site visit if geographically possible. Your visit demonstrates your sincere interest in your student’s success and in the company’s satisfaction with the intern. Arrange a meeting with the student and supervisor, so you can evaluate their interactions. If you find dissatisfaction on either side, you may be able to decide if it is based on personal conflict rather than professional issues. If an on-site visit is not practical, you might want to make sure the student intern and the supervisor have your phone number, where they can reach you easily. You may even have a designated email address for your interns and supervisors, emphasizing the importance of their communications and creating a comfort zone for everyone.
Your students headed off to their summer internships full of enthusiasm, but after the first week many feel overwhelmed. How do you convince them not to quit and reassure them that their internships will be rewarding experiences? Here are some ways that you can respond to calls for help:
- Emphasize positive benefits: The internship could lead to a job. The Career Center Director at University of South Florida says hiring interns is an emerging trend among employers and their approach to internships is to treat them as entry-level job positions, whereas previously, “students would have internships and then move on.” According to a NACE survey, 75.8 percent of hires drawn from an employer’s own internship or co-op program were retained, compared to 60.7 percent for hires without internship or co-op experience after one year.
- Identify the problem: First, set aside some phone time to talk with him/her and find out exactly what is overwhelming your intern. Is it the heavy workload or the office technology? Is it the more experienced interns or an uncommunicative supervisor? Or is it such a large company that he/she feels lost and insignificant? Or is it homesickness if the intern is living far from home or a personal problem? Together, you and the intern could compile and rate a list of reasons that are causing this unsatisfactory situation.
- Brainstorm solutions: The resolution may be as simple as getting instruction on an unfamiliar computer system or it might be as complicated as arranging a new assignment. Your assistance is key to getting the intern back on track. Your intern’s parents will also appreciate your successful intervention. Your students may find strength and humor, too, in reading blogs by other interns, such as Eye of the Intern on internships. com in which interns report on the trials and tribulations of internship life.
- Enlist resources: You may need to enlist additional resources to help solve your intern’s crisis. If you deem the situation as dire, arrange for a school mental health counselor to talk to your intern. YourCareerCenter may also have an intern online or phone center with 24-hour assistance. Another avenue of support may be in finding a mentor for your overwhelmed student. An experienced intern who may have interned at that same company would be an excellent choice.
- Consider on-site visits: Depending on your schedule and the internship site location, you could visit the company and your distressed intern to offer support and to talk with the supervisor on how to quickly correct the problems. When you visit, you might want to give your student an inspirational guide for interns or even a care package with some treats.
- Do damage control: If your student is truly unhappy, you might have to accept that the internship is not a good fit. It’s better to do damage control early on rather than end up with a miserable student as well as a disgruntled intern supervisor who may be reluctant to take future interns from you. If you find yourself in this situation just when you’re going on summer vacation, suggest your student go to internships.com to explore options and connect with other employers offering internships. More than 12,675 University of South Florida students are registered with internships.com, more than any other school. Your students may benefit, too.
Tags: entry-level, NACE, networking
Internships often lead to jobs, according to results of a new survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Employers responding to the organization’s 2011 Internship & Co-op Survey reported that an average of 39% of their entry-level hires from the Class of 2010 were harvested from their own internship programs. The respondents reported converting, on average, 58% of their interns into full-time hires, the highest rate since the association started tracking the statistic in 2001. Encourage your student interns to practice the following effective networking tips, so they can be part of that 58%:
- Many interns may be embarrassed to ask how to network and meet people, so you could compile a list of ideas to help out. Advise them to act friendly, smile, and say hello to everyone at work. If people don’t respond to them in an enthusiastic manner, they shouldn’t take it personally. That individual might be in a bad mood because of personal problems. A pleasant greeting might cheer him/her up. Remind your students that networking means interacting with other employees, not sitting at a computer and networking online. Fellow employees are the best sources of new job information. It’s important to create a friendly relationship before asking for an insider’s viewpoint on how to land a full-time position in the company.
- Your intern students may think that they have nothing to talk about and hesitate to start a conversation. Assure your students that the best way to start a conversation is not to talk about themselves, but to ask the other person about himself/herself. Suggest questions such as, “How long have you worked here?” “Where would you recommend as a place to eat lunch?” “Did you see the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics last night?” People feel friendly towards those who show enough interest to ask questions and then listen attentively—cell phones turned off—to the answer.
- Most companies have lots of non-work related activities that help interns meet people and build networks, especially in the summer. When the company has a picnic, outing to a ball game, speakers’ series or in-house sports teams, encourage your interns to get involved. Another source of networking may be in the Human Resources department, where interns can get involved in social service activities or volunteer work.
- Since most student interns are novices at developing networks in professional environments, they might benefit from a few cautionary words. Although going out drinking with co-workers sounds like fun, interns should proceed slowly. A sure way to ruin one’s reputation is to get drunk and become the subject of office gossip. Another red flag is the dating scene. Many companies frown on intra-office dating, so suggest that your interns wait until they finish their internships to pursue romantic interests. Meanwhile, they can make friends who might recommend them for full-time positions.
Tags: entrepreneur, graduates
The above is a headline from a recent New York Times article on the growing number of business school students rejecting traditional postgraduate paths like investment banking, hedge funds and consulting. It’s a trend that is accelerating in the wake of the financial crisis as Wall Street loses its luster and Silicon Valley shines with a new crop of multibillion-dollar start-ups, according to the New York Times. As a career services professional, you might want to encourage your students to explore entrepreneurship as a career path. Here are some trends to share with your students:
- Job growth: Graduates from the class of 2010 at Harvard started 30 to 40 businesses last year, a 50 percent increase from the previous year, said William A. Sahlman, a professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. “The level of entrepreneurship activity here, and I presume at other schools, is up dramatically over the last two years,” said Dr. Sahlman. Since the job market is down, more and more graduates are starting their own businesses rather than settling for unemployment or part-time work in a field unrelated to their majors.
- Campus programs: Last year, budding entrepreneurs at Harvard formed the Startup Tribe, a student group. The organization, which has more than 150 members, persuaded Harvard to start the Minimum Viable Product Fund, a $50,000 fund for new start-ups. The program distributes awards of roughly $5,000 apiece to promising teams, including the nine winners announced in March. The school is also planning to open in the fall the Harvard Innovation Lab, a student center for start-ups, where founders can work with peers and Harvard’s entrepreneurs-in-residence.
- Business plan contests: Many colleges have business plan contests, which help launch entrepreneurs. Kimball Thomas got his start when he was named one of the top three winners for Harvard’s annual Business Plan Contest, which came with a $25,000 cash prize. He won the competition with an online diaper business in Brazil Baby.com.br, which was his second start-up. He and another student had first started PoolTables.com, with about $20,000 scraped together from friends and family. The venture — which taught them the basics, like how to coordinate with vendors in China and how to run an e-commerce site — was profitable in its first year, according to the New York Times report.
- Entrepreneur internships: Students can learn how start-ups work by taking internships with entrepreneurs. Start-ups are usually small operations, enabling a student intern to study all aspects from concept to launch. Students can have a hands-on opportunity to be part of a new venture without worrying about losing their own money if it doesn’t work. An internship at a start-up is also a great way to network and learn about venture capitalists and investors. Good places to search for internships at start-ups are the alumni office and the business school. Alumni who are starting new businesses would be excellent resources as well as business school professors who often act as consultants for start-ups.
Tags: 2011 graduates, the graduate
I recently re-watched the classic movie “The Graduate”. It had been a while since I originally watched it. While this movie is known mostly for its story about a sordid affair between Dustin Hoffman’s (Benjamin Braddock) and Anne Bancroft’s (Mrs. Robinson) characters, as a career counselor I could not help but focus on Benjamin’s current circumstances.
Benjamin had just graduated from college. While the well-intentioned “adults” in his life were congratulating him for this achievement, Benjamin felt lost and confused. Further, he felt worse about his situation every time an adult said or did something that they thought was helpful.
Right now we are in the swing of graduation parties. For many graduates, this will be an exciting time of celebrating their hard work and looking forward to starting their first jobs. Others may be feeling more like Benjamin either because they are unemployed, underemployed, confused, or all of the above.
As the “adult” attending these parties, here are some tips to consider when interacting with these recent graduates.
- “One word: plastics.” In other words avoid giving unsolicited advice or doling out career suggestions that do not take the person’s unique interests and strengths into consideration. If you want to be helpful instead, ask the graduate about some of his/her college experience. For example: “What sorts of activities did you enjoy the most in college? What were some of your most interesting classes? Who were some of your most influential professors?” You can get clues from these answers and give examples of jobs or organizations that may fit the graduate.
- Appropriately self-disclose. As a career counselor, I cannot tell you how many times clients have said that they feel silly because everyone else seems to be clear about their career goals. They usually find it comforting to know that in fact, most people struggle with career decisions. If you struggled to find that first job or just to figure out where you wanted to take your career, talk about that with the graduate. Be sure to mention how you felt and the steps you took to work through that phase in your life.
- Give a sincere compliment. Think about a specific behavior you have observed and tell the graduate what you appreciate about it. For example, “Emily, I remember in my history class that you contributed to the class discussion in a way that elevated the conversation. You are very insightful.” This is a time when that graduate may really need a boost in self-efficacy and a sincere and specific compliment could go a long way.
- Offer to help. If through your conversation with the graduate, you think of people who are in positions that seem to fit the graduate’s interests, offer to connect the graduate with those people. One of the best ways to learn about careers and ultimately land a job is to conduct informational interviews with people who are in positions or organizations that are related to one’s career goals or interests.
College graduation is a milestone and like any other life milestones, even positive ones, most of us feel a certain level of anxiety. I remember feeling anxious myself and can still remember those “adults” who said or did things that were helpful. I eventually found my way and I know it was due to the collective supportive I received from others.