Q. Students are lining up for fall internships. Any hot industries to suggest?

August 3, 2010 at 11:35 am | Posted in Finding internships | 1 Comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Hot is the operative word after a summer of record-breaking heat in much of the country as well as the world.  Some fields of special interest are Global Warming, Sustainability, and on a lighter (and cooler) note, Scuba Diving. Internships.com has recently added thousands of new internships for your students, so please browse the new offerings after you check out the following: 

  • Global Warming:  Greenpeace, the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions, is seeking unpaid interns for research, general administrative support, assistance with various projects, including organizational skills trainings, events or activities in the field, logistics, and other duties. Must be open to working with multiple campaigns and departments as needed: Global Warming, Forests, Oceans, Nukes, Research, Development, Communications, and Actions. Greenpeace has over 80 internships around the country listed on internships.com for positions ranging from Global Warming to Grassroots Organizing.
  • Sustainability:  Fairfood International is a non-profit campaign and lobby organization, which encourages the food and beverage industry to increase the level of sustainability of its products. Fairfood has divided the world into nine regions. Each of these has a small lobby office that actively approaches all food companies that have their international head office located in that region. The Lobby Department of Fairfood is currently recruiting interns for the position of Assistant Lobbyist Sustainability Food Companies. These interns help the lobbyist in stimulating food and beverage brand owners to increase the levels of sustainability and transparency associated with their companies. The deadline for these unpaid internships is Aug. 19. At least one internship is a virtual one, which may work well for a student during the fall term.
  • Scuba Diving:  The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the world leader in diver training education, is running a nationwide college Marketing internship program to promote scuba diving and the adventurous lifestyle of divers. Responsibilities include creating strategic marketing plans to attract college students to try scuba diving and become PADI Open Water Diver certified. Interns create their own marketing campaigns and test them in their local university markets. PADI provides resources and guidance. There are 26 locations in the country offering the internship, ranging from New York City to Denver, Colorado to Seattle, Washington. The application deadline for these unpaid with credit available internships is Aug. 18.

Q. We keep getting calls from internship supervisors that our students are under dressing in this record hot weather. What should we do?

July 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Advising interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You’re not alone.  A recent article in The Baltimore Sun pointed out that many other career centers are experiencing the same problem. “It’s something we deal with all the time,” says the director of the University of Baltimore’s Career Center. “One staff member received a call from an employer who had to speak to an intern about wearing booty shorts to the office.”  Here are a few tips from The Sun article on how to deal with these issues:

  • The University of Baltimore has just launched a one-credit elective called Personal and Professional Skills for Business. Anyone can take it, but it’s required for business majors. The content includes how to network, write a resume, manage an interview—and what to wear. The basic course includes “all the things that you’d think you wouldn’t have to say, but we say them anyway.” You might consider initiating such a course in your school if you don’t already have one.
  • At Towson University, the College of Business and Economics invites students to an event called Dress Smart. Part fashion show, part networking opportunity, the event is designed to show students in a visual way what isn’t right for the office. Students wear outfits that range from professional to a bit wrong to wildly inappropriate. Students model and mingle while real company recruiters talk to them and tell them why their outfits work or don’t.
  • To prevent students from wearing scanty clothing to work during the heat wave, send out an email to all your interns, reminding them that they should dress conservatively in business professional mode regardless of the weather. If they want outstanding recommendations, they’ll have to keep the booty shorts, thigh-grazing dresses, flip-flops, ripped jeans, see-through skirts, and cleavage-baring tops in the closet.
  • Rather than wait to hear from intern supervisors, you may want to contact them about the state of dress of your interns in case any supervisors are experiencing issues. If there are any concerns, you can offer to run interference and solve the problem, relieving the intern supervisor from facing a potentially awkward situation.

Q. Is it acceptable etiquette for my students to buy gifts for their internship supervisors?

July 20, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Posted in career center | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Your question is controversial, and the answer is debatable. Some schools may have strict rules forbidding students to give supervisors any gifts that cost money. Other schools may help students select and pay for an appropriate gift. A few career centers may waver on the question, depending on the circumstances in each internship. Here are a few points to ponder: 

  • Make sure that your school has a clearly defined policy that applies equally to all internship supervisors and companies. Inform all internship supervisors of the policy, so they know what is acceptable and what is not. You and the internship supervisors need to act as partners on this policy and refrain from making any exceptions to the rule—whatever that may be. Emphasize the career center policy in the student internship materials, so no student can say that he/she didn’t know the rule.
  • Suggest alternate ways for your students to express thanks to internship supervisors. Hand-made crafts or home-made food items are appropriate gifts. Even a hand-written thank-note on good paper is an acceptable way to show appreciation. Another effective technique for your students to thank their internship supervisors is to write the internship supervisor’s boss a glowing thank-you, enumerating the ways that the supervisor helped the intern.
  • Take the burden of gift-giving away from the student intern and shoulder it yourself through the career center. Your staff may have a policy of giving each internship supervisor a framed certificate of appreciation or a coffee mug engraved with the school’s name. Such gifts will reflect well on the student and the school, leading to more internships with the company. The internship supervisor will be grateful to the school and be relieved that the intern is not spending his/her limited money on the supervisor.
  • Consider creating a policy of no gifts in order to save any interns from embarrassment, especially if your student body is suffering in the weak economy. Many interns do not have the money and will be upset or humiliated if other interns are handing out expensive gifts. Remind your students that such gifts reek of a form of bribery in hopes of getting hired by the company. Try to keep an even playing field in the very competitive field of internships. A student should be evaluated solely on performance, not gift-giving.

Q. How can I make sure that the internship supervisor provides my students with proper documentation of their internships?

July 1, 2010 at 11:27 am | Posted in Internship portfolios | 2 Comments
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by the Intern Coach

A. Your interns are most fortunate to have a Career Center staff that wants to make sure they receive proper documentation for their hard work at their internships. Such tangible proof of performance will strengthen their resumes and provide additional material for their portfolios. Here’s how to ensure that internship supervisors provide your students with proper documentation:

  • Make sure that the intern supervisor fills out the final evaluation form. If you feel that the form is not detailed enough or structured properly to provide positive feedback, you might want to revise the form. Each student intern should receive a copy of that final evaluation form. If the intern supervisor has written weekly evaluations that are positive, you could also make copies of those evaluations and present them to your student intern as tools to get future internships or jobs.
  • If the intern has performed well, the intern supervisor should also write a letter of recommendation on company letterhead, complimenting the student on his/her work. You might consider writing a letter of recommendation on Career Center letterhead, too, stating that he/she brought honor to the school etc. Some schools present Certificates of Achievement to students after they finish internships.
  • Find out if your intern has been part of a team and explore the option of having the team leader (unless he/she is also the intern supervisor) write a recommendation for your student intern. There may be other company employees that could also write a recommendation. For example, if your student intern volunteered to work on a company-sponsored community project, the coordinator might write a letter of recommendation for outstanding service.
  • Ask your interns if they have copies of everything on which they have worked. In some cases, they might have contributed to reports or documents that won’t appear until after the internship, so advise them to request that finished samples be forwarded to them. Your student interns might want to collect copies of the company annual report or official documents that demonstrate the status of the company if it is not well known.   
  • Offer to help your student interns collate their internship materials into a professional presentation. You might provide a handsome school binder and have someone in the Career Center help organize the binder for your student intern. Then, your student interns will be well prepared to impress future internship supervisors or employers with proper documentation of past successes.

Q. How much responsibility should I take in ensuring the success of our college interns?

June 22, 2010 at 10:52 am | Posted in career center, Intern Support | 1 Comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. When making a decision about taking responsibility for individual students and their internship success  you should consider your school’s overall philosophy regarding how much responsibility students should take for their activities and how much responsibility the school should assume.

Consider these factors:

  • Individual professional style: Your own philosophy comes into play here, too, since you serve as a role model and mentor for your students. If you’re an independent person and take ownership of your decisions, then your students may model their behaviors after you. If you approach your work as a collaborative effort and your decisions are team-based, your interns may become more comfortable working within that style.
  • Individual intern style: Aside from the school philosophy and your own professional style, you need to evaluate each individual intern. 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.
  • Parental involvement: Parents also come into the equation. They realize that an internship is very important to their child’s future, so if parents get involved they will bring their own set of expectations and possibly even issues.
  • Intern supervisor’s involvement: 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 probably appreciate your active interest in your intern’s success.
  • Balancing act: 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. You have to balance the school, yourself, the intern, the parents, and the intern supervisor and come up with the right formula. If in doubt, it would be wise to take charge, especially if any problems would reflect badly on your school and consequently yourself.  
  • Written document defining roles: A written document, defining the roles and responsibility in an internship, could clarify the above issues. Then, make sure your student intern reads the document before starting an internship and also signs it as an acknowledgement of understanding who takes responsibility. You may want to sign it, too, as an affirmation of the agreement and as a protection against misplaced blame.

Q. What is my role in checking up on our college interns? Is it appropriate for me to call the supervisors or visit the site?

June 17, 2010 at 10:40 am | Posted in Assessing student performance | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Your role continues to expand as an increasing number of students sign up for internships. Also, you’re probably working with more companies than ever before as you try to help students find new internships. Most career centers combine a focus on internships and counseling services. And the intern, especially if he/she is a freshman attempting a first internship, often needs to have counseling in order to be successful at the internship. Here are tips on how to handle your evolving role: 

  • Internship supervisors usually appreciate phone calls from their intern’s career center. However, it’s a sign of respect to find out ahead the most convenient time for the supervisor to take calls. You could even schedule a weekly phone call for a 10-minute update on your student’s performance. If the supervisor feels that he/she has your support, the company is more likely to be responsive to your requests to take on more interns in the future.
  • Be available to your intern and the intern supervisor. Let them both know your hours of availability, phone numbers, and email address, so either one can contact you immediately if a problem arises. You could also send inspirational cards or notes to your intern at work. If your student is struggling with personal issues that are impacting the internship, you’ll be able to connect him/her to counselors at your career center.  
  • You probably have the dual responsibility to check up on your college interns and your internship companies. You may be able to do both at the same time by making on-site visits. Some schools provide travel money for school personnel to go to a city, especially if there are multiple internship sites. Then you can schedule visits with both the intern and the supervisor at each location.
  • An on-site visit is desirable because you can talk face-to-face with the intern and supervisor, interpreting body language in order to accurately evaluate the success of the internship. You may have to run interference or mediate between the intern and the supervisor, so it’s important to understand the logistics. For example, if the supervisor complains that the intern is always late for work, you may be able to point out that public transportation is unreliable and perhaps the company could help the student carpool with other employees.

Q. How can I assess a student’s performance in order to offer tips on improvement?

June 15, 2010 at 11:32 am | Posted in Assessing student performance | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. You have several options. 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 initiate an email tracking system to ensure that you are able to assess a student’s performance and offer tips on improvement in a timely manner. Here are a few other ways in which career centers assess performance: 

  • Compare the student’s reports, whether online or in a journal, with the written 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 the problems or find out if the company expectations have changed.
  • Set up a phone appointment with the internship manager at your student’s intern site and ask him/her to rate your student’s performance. Inquire as to how your student could add more value to the company. Then, communicate your findings to your student.
  • 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 manager, 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.
  • 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.

Q. Any tips on how a student can improve his/her relationship with a difficult boss?

June 11, 2010 at 11:21 am | Posted in Intern Support | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Getting along with one’s boss is key to a successful internship. Be grateful that your student has confided in you that he/she is having issues with their boss because then you can take steps to fix the problem before it spirals out of control. Here are some tips: 

  • 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 is too friendly) or constantly finds fault with your student, or if the complaints are related to assignments, such as not enough information, unrealistic deadline expectations etc. Make sure that your student isn’t leaving early or taking long breaks, which may irritate the boss.
  • Next, if you know the so-called “difficult” boss, consider how accurate your student’s claims are about that person. If you don’t know the boss, see what you can find out from former interns or from your contacts at the company. Now you can sort out the root of the problem and come up with solutions.
  • If the student is being overly sensitive about how the boss treats him/her, you could do some role playing with the student to help him/her react appropriately to challenging situations. Let the student play the “difficult” boss, and you can demonstrate how best to deal with each issue. You can do this online or by phone.
  • If you’ve discovered that the “difficult” boss is having a hard time for either personal or work-related issues, such as going through a divorce, being short staffed, or intimidated by company layoffs, ask your student not take the behavior of the boss personally.
  • To improve the work relationship, your student may have to be proactive. He/she can ask the boss for feedback on a completed assignment, thank the boss for guidance, and ask the boss for more projects. The intern may even ask the boss how he/she can improve performance at the internship, illustrating commitment.
  • The student could also volunteer to stay late at work or come in for an extra day if there’s a rush job or deadline. The “difficult” boss may turn into an appreciative mentor who will gladly write a glowing recommendation for your student.

Q. What should I do about a student who says he/she is bored and wants to change internships?

June 9, 2010 at 10:15 am | Posted in Intern Support | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. First, you need to find out why your student is “bored.” It may be as simple as “having a bad day.” Then explore the following options to resolve the problem:

  • Contact the student’s intern supervisor to find out how the student is doing at the internship. If he/she is failing to perform the assignments, “bored” may mean the student finds the assignments too difficult and is using boredom as an excuse for feeling inadequate. You may be able to arrange additional help for your intern.
  • If the student is breezing through with high praise at the internship, “bored” may mean that the internship is too easy. You could suggest that the intern ask for more challenging assignments to eliminate the boredom.
  • Explore the possibility with your “bored” student that he/she may enjoy the internship duties but may not like the co-workers or the department. If that’s the case, you may have to counsel your intern on how to adjust to working with different kinds of people and resolve his/her negative feelings. If that doesn’t work, you could intercede and ask the intern supervisor if your intern could be transferred to a different department.
  • If you discover that your intern actually is “bored” because he/she strongly dislikes the company itself, which could be due to policies, products, or philosophies, then you might have to help your student find another internship.
  • It would be wise not to share with the company that your intern was “bored” or in reality disliked the company. Instead, you may be able to diplomatically say it wasn’t a good fit. You’ll probably find the company will be relieved since it probably sensed the intern was unhappy.

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