Ensuring a successful summer internship

July 30, 2012 at 9:17 am | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment
Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

Your students who are doing summer internships have heard your wise advice over and over again about how to succeed. They might “hear” a fresh voice from a reputable business source. Consider forwarding the following tips by writer Trudy Steinfeld at Forbes to your students to remind them how to succeed in their internships while there is still time:

  1. Learn everything you can about your employer and the business sector in which they operate. Focus on topics such as the organization’s strategic direction, emerging growth areas, new products or clients as well as issues and trends affecting the broader industry.
  2. Always do more.  Since many organizations hire new employees from among their college interns, fight against the tendency to just do what you’ve been asked and let your employer see how much you are capable of.
  3. Find a mentor.  Even if you have been assigned a formal mentor for the summer, identify other key people who can shed light on the organization, share their career story, give you tips for how to excel in your own career, provide honest feedback and help you navigate workplace challenges.
  4. Play nice with others.  Even though you might be used to competing on a variety of levels with your peers, this summer needs to be about being viewed as a valued team member.  That means getting along well with your colleagues – at all levels in the organization. By all means, show initiative. Volunteer for assignments and work independently when the situation calls for it. Remember to always be respectful and thank others for their help. Share credit with your team members as appropriate.
  5. Be genuinely engaged with your work and show it.  Organizations want to hire staff that are interested and excited about their work and projects.  They know through both research and experience that enthusiasm is contagious and can greatly add to productivity.
  6. Deliver, deliver, deliver.  When you are given an assignment, make sure you exceed expectations and meet or beat the deadline for the project.  If you do this consistently you will demonstrate the  “wow factor” hiring managers are looking for.
  7. Ask for feedback.  Many formal internship programs have a review cycle. However if they don’t, or if it’s only scheduled to occur at the conclusion of the internship, ask for feedback along the way. Always make appropriate adjustments based on what is shared with you or the opportunity and value of the feedback is lost.
  8. Use social media for good.  Check with your supervisor to see if the company actively engages in the use of social media and what their policies are for interns and other employees. Ask if you could blog or tweet about your experience.  Make sure your posts are positive and creative and always consistent with the organization’s policies and practices.

Advising students to start looking for fall internships

July 23, 2012 at 11:09 am | Posted in Advising interns, Intern Advice, Intern Support | Leave a comment

Your students may be on vacation, but Internships. com works 24/7, offering 56,472 internship opportunities in nearly 23,000 companies in over 8,500 cities. Why not send email reminders to your students to study the Web site and start to put together a list of potential fall internships?  If a student is unsure about what area to pursue, you might suggest the Internship Predictor as a helpful tool to zero in on an industry. You could encourage your students to look now by sharing the following tips from Doug Stites in the Lansing State Journal on how to search for a fall internship:

Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg,500 cities. Why not send email reminders to your students to study the Web site and start to put together a list of potential fall internships?  If a student is unsure about what area to pursue, you might suggest the Internship Predictor as a helpful tool to zero in on an industry. You could encourage your students to look now by sharing the following tips from Doug Stites in the Lansing State Journal on how to search for a fall internship:

  • If this is your first internship, be open to an unpaid experience: After getting one internship under your belt, you’ll be a more desirable candidate for a more competitive, paid internship that often includes more responsibility. Look into the option of earning college credit through an internship as well.
  •  Use your network, on and offline: Utilize your network of personal, professional and academic circles as an internship resource. They may know something that might be a good fit and if you don’t ask, you might not hear about it.
  • Customize your resume and cover letter for each company: Companies expect the same level of professionalism from internship candidates as they do for any other position.
  • Attend events to network with employers: Job and internship fairs through your local college offer ideal opportunities to make a positive first impression. Attend networking events and take the initiative to meet new employers and connect with professionals in your field of interest. Dress to impress, regardless if the event requires professional dress or not and bring extra copies of your resume. Students should also consider printing their own business cards, which is an affordable way to easily share contact information with recruiters if they aren’t accepting resumes at events.

As a career services professional, you could add a few of your own suggestions, including the following:

  • Consider time and place:  Decide how many hours you want to put into your fall internship and where you want to do your internship. If you have transportation issues, you could consider taking an internship on campus in a department that is relevant to your career interests. A virtual internship may be a good choice, allowing you to stay on campus but “work” anywhere in the country.
  • Visit your campus career center either online or in person:  A career center is always adding new internships to its growing list of companies. Make an appointment and find out the latest opportunities and how to apply for them. Before you come, update your resume with summer activities and cover letter to demonstrate your professionalism. Talking to other students who have taken internships could also be helpful because they might be able to recommend an internship to you.

Turning summer internships into jobs

July 17, 2012 at 8:00 am | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released disheartening employment statistics for June. Only 90,000 new jobs were added to the economy, which causes concern for new graduates or for those looking to change careers. On average, it takes about six months for college graduates to land their first job, according to a study released last month by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey. However, the following suggestions might help your summer interns to turn their internships into jobs:

  • Los Angeles Times:  Think long-term. “Don’t think of your internship as short-term but imagine that you are a full-time employee at the company,” recommended Peter Handal, chief executive of Dale Carnegie Training. “Demonstrate that you really see yourself fitting in with the corporate culture and also that you are capable of handling the workload.”
  • Volunteer. “If you work at a company that puts on a lot of events or after-hour benefits, volunteer to work at them,” Handal said. “They might cut into your free time, but volunteering demonstrates you are interested and eager to learn.”
  • Share ideas. “If you have an idea or input, think it through, and then speak up,” said Matthew Proman, founder of the National Association of Professional Women. “You never know: You could have a valuable idea no one else has thought of, but at the very least, you will seem involved and a good critical thinker.”
  • Dress right. Wear clothes that fit with your work environment. “Dressing unprofessionally is one of the biggest blunders that interns make,” Proman observed. “If you’re in doubt, err on the more conservative side.”
  • Exceed expectations. “You have a brief amount of time to show what you’re made of,” Proman said. “Come early, stay late and take on extra projects. The objective is to blow them away.”
  • Huffington Post:  Whether they tell you or not, employers are monitoring their employees’ behavior on the job by weeding through emails, checking phone logs, and even perusing Facebook pages. An employee who handles interns at the Boston branch of the Drug Enforcement Administration says that DEA interns aren’t treated any differently than employees, and that means they’re subject to the same background and reference checks before they even start at work. He says there’s a disclaimer on DEA computers informing interns, just like all employees, that their behavior on the machines can be monitored. Boston Globe High School Sports Editor Bob Holmes, on the other hand, says the Globe doesn’t really monitor interns or employees. Holmes suggests his interns practice common sense when it comes to engaging in personal activity on the job. And when it’s busy in the office, he says, interns should focus on the assignment at hand, rather than getting distracted by g-chat, emails, or the like.

Working with students who don’t like their summer internships

July 10, 2012 at 8:00 am | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

Educators cringe when they read articles about Diana Wang, a graduate student from Ohio, who is suing Harper’s Bazaar after her dream internship with the fashion magazine turned into a nightmare.  Other students around the country are threatening similar actions because they’re unhappy with their internships. As a career professional, you might be able to prevent such actions, which can hurt your career center’s reputation, by finding out if you have any dissatisfied students and resolving the issues before they escalate to the level of media fodder.  The following red flags indicate remedial work is necessary on your part:

  • Bored with internship:  If a student complains of boredom with his internship, contact the supervisor to find out how the student is doing. If he/she is failing to perform the assignments, “bored” may mean that the work is too difficult, and you may have to arrange additional help for your intern. Or ‘bored” may mean the work is too easy, and you might have to suggest that your student ask for more challenging assignments.  “Bored” may also mean that the internship is agreeable, but the co-workers aren’t. If that’s the case, you might have to counsel your intern on how to adjust to working with different kinds of people.
  • Difficult supervisor:  Talk with your student to find out what the problems are in order to determine if they are personal issues, such as the boss isn’t friendly (or too friendly) or are they related to assignments, including unrealistic deadlines or lack of guidance in performing the job. To improve the work relationship, your student may have to be proactive, asking the boss for feedback on completed assignments, thanking the boss for guidance, asking for more projects. The student could also volunteer to stay late to work on time-sensitive projects or come in for an extra day on a rush job, which may result in a better work relationship.
  • Menial work:  This is a tough category unless the internship description and duties have been thoroughly outlined ahead of time, which will save everyone confusion and grief. Both you and the intern have grounds to complain if the supervisor is not following the pre-ordained script. But if the intern and supervisor didn’t discuss the assignments and schedule on the first day, they should sit down—and you might have to join them to save the internship—and come up with a detailed plan of activities.  However, if the intern is a freshman or sophomore, he/she might not be able to perform skilled duties and might be asked to go for coffee. If the company is small, everyone might “pitch in” to do menial jobs, and your intern should, too.
  • Bad company:  When your intern complains that it’s a “bad company,” you’ll have to do some detective work to find out what that means. Your student may find the corporate culture is not compatible with his/her personality.  Talk at the lunch table may be about children, families, stock options, or a sports team, which may hold no interest to a student intern. The company politics may be creating a bad feeling in your intern if the company supports Obama over Romney or vice versa. Or the student may find that the other employees are miserable with the hiring practices, such as raises, benefits, hours, etc. and feel the company is a terrible place to work. Your intern may have every reason to leave the internship.
  • Change internships:  After a few weeks in an internship, some students feel they have made a mistake and want to change internships.  They’ve heard from a friend about a better internship in a different company. It’s your job to help sort out their feelings not only to help them, but also to protect yourself from gaining the reputation of someone whose interns quit.  However,  if you’re convinced that the internship will not work, you might want to recommend that your student still take a summer internship by researching options on Internships.com, which has nearly 63,000 internship listings in over 22,000 companies in 9,000 cities. Instead of telling the intern supervisor that your intern didn’t like the company, you simply say it wasn’t a good fit.

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