Getting calls already from overwhelmed summer interns?

June 23, 2011 at 8:00 am | Posted in Intern Support, Summer internships | Leave a comment

Susan Sandberg

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 to explore options and connect with other employers offering internships. More than 12,675 University of South Florida students are registered with, more than any other school. Your students may benefit, too.

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