Feedback from the Frontlines

October 28, 2010 at 7:35 am | Posted in Educator Updates Newsletter, Feedback from the Frontlines | Leave a comment
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In response to last month’s article about the growing trend of people using internships to make a career change, Jean A. Spahr from the College of DuPage weighs in on why she isn’t seeing this taking off.

“Employers I’ve spoken with aren’t interested in experienced or unemployed folks doing internships. I agree with them because, even if the internships are non-credit bearing, they are work-integrated learning experiences that are appropriately connected to an academic program of study. I’ve heard the term “returnship” connected to experienced and unemployed people trying to build skills on the job in order to return to the workforce. The experienced and unemployed can re-career at non-profits legally, however it’s simply volunteer work…while for-profits can’t utilize volunteers. How is a “returnship” viewed under the FLSA if it’s an unpaid experience?”

Are you seeing a similar trend on your campus? What does this mean for alumni re-entering the work force or making career changes? Throw your feedback into the mix at

N + 1 or N – 1 …where do you fit in?

October 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Educator Updates Newsletter, Practice What We Preach | Leave a comment
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N + 1 represents the idea that we always have the ability to add one more thing to our list. N – 1, then is that we can always take one thing off our lists.

You know what N + 1 looks like, right? You start the day with a to-do list and even when you’re really productive, your list always ends up longer at the end of the day. The way our lives work, N + 1 is usually the default:  there’s always one more thing to do.

But what if you switch things around:  each morning, take one thing off of your to-do list. What would happen if you eliminated one thing on your list? What if eliminating one task allowed you to perform above and beyond on everything else?

As career center folks – and parents and spouses and best friends and pet owners and… — you always have an infinite list of things to do. Look at your list for today:  pick one thing to cross off. Really. Try it. It may not be much…but you may notice a shift as you move from the default N + 1 to a more deliberate N – 1.

Email us at and let us know what you deleted from your to-do list.

Make flexibility an internship mantra in the down economy

March 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Posted in Finding internships, Job market | Leave a comment
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by Kathryn Jordan, Ph.D.

There is a new economic reality facing college graduates in spring 2010.  Last year students entered the job market in the worst recruiting season in over twenty years according to statistics cited by the National Association of College and Employers.  More candidates are available for the fewer employment options and salary offers are down.  The new reality is evidence of the rapid changes that have occurred in work environments.  Adapting to change is related to a person’s ability to embrace other options, and flexibility will be a key to success. 

The importance of securing internships has only increased as the economy has changed.  The latest statistics show that employers are anticipating hiring more interns this season. Students and others in career transition this year will want to leverage their internship experiences to enhance chances for full time permanent employment. Following a few key points will lead to success even in a difficult market:

  • Pursue a variety of organizational internship targets
  • Seek opportunities to gain new and different skills or certifications
  • Consider unpaid internships and supplement income with part-time jobs
  • Open the geographic target zone.

We know that internships are now arguably a necessity for students, and many are considering post graduate internships as a way to launch into a permanent employment option. So when setting internship goals this season consider how important it is to complete multiple internship experiences. Employers like to see not just one internship experience but several paraprofessional experiences. Experience is a gold standard in the workplace. 

Explore a variety of internship targets and expand interests beyond those big well known businesses and widen options to consider government, non-profit organizations, and entrepreneurial options.  This is critical in an environment when old reputations are being dashed.   Consider a wider variety of organizations by size.  More opportunities will exist in small and mid-size organizations than at some of the larger businesses that are waiting for market improvement before adding staff.  Also, in smaller organizations you can find richer and broader experiences than in some big formalized internship programs.

If an internship opportunity presents itself where it is possible to learn a new skill, grab it.  In a work environment where job titles and the methods of doing jobs change with the speed of technology, it is advisable to add new skills each year and to embrace these changes.  An internship that can expand skills and provide accomplishments for a portfolio is invaluable.  New skill development may be one of the biggest benefits from any good internship–even more important than the pay scale.

Be flexible when evaluating internships and do not rely on the hourly pay as the single determining criteria for the internship.  While being paid is important, it may be that significant experience, responsibilities, skills, and accomplishments can be found in organizations that are not in a position to pay an intern.  Many interns supplement their incomes by working a part-time job.

Expand the geographic target zone for an internship. Consider local, regional, national, and international options and how a variety of cultural experiences could broaden expertise.  Markets in China, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East are now just a mouse click away.  The ability to work effectively within different social, economic, and cultural milieus is becoming more important each year.  In fact the worldwide recession is evidence of how quickly the world has become closely interrelated.  Interns should look for experiences that stretch their normal boundaries and comfort zones.  

This changing economy is an opportunity for students to push their professional life forward with internship experience. Embracing change with flexibility will allow students to find a silver lining while they grow as professionals.

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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