Notes from the Field: Pomona College’s Internship Orientation

September 15, 2010 at 10:02 am | Posted in Educator Updates Newsletter, Notes from the Field, Notes from the Field, Pomona College's Internship Orientation | 2 Comments
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One of the exciting aspects about the start of fall semester is the launch of our internship program. About 80 students per semester commit to a semester-long internship in the industry and employer of their choice across the Greater Los Angeles area. The program kicks-offs with a ‘New Hire Orientation’ required for all students in the program to attend prior to beginning their internships. The one-hour long workshop offers helpful tips on how students can make the most of their internship.

The workshop covers general housekeeping items such as:

  • reporting their internship hours
  • transportation resources
  • important program dates

As necessary as these logistic components are, we place emphasis on helping interns maximize their experience in a professional workplace setting. Specifically:

  • how to prepare for and anticipate the first day
  • the first few weeks
  • some overall tips

In detail, I discuss what interns can do to prepare and anticipate their first day such as planning for their commute, proper attire, and bringing a notebook and pen.  In the first few weeks, I emphasize the importance of gaining familiarity of the internship site by meeting the staff, attending orientation, and receiving direction on projects and assignments. Some overall tips include how interns can show initiative and enthusiasm, two of the most desired qualities by internship supervisors. I had led a game of Family Feud with our interns to have them guess various ways that interns can show initiative and this made them proactive in the learning process. Other tips shared are how to effectively network by using conducting informational interviews and displaying strong communication skills. In the presentation, I make sure to acknowledge that interns may have varying levels of experience in the workplace but that it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of these tips.

Two changes that I’m planning for this year are around more actively engaging students in the class and tapping into the expertise of past interns. 

In previous semesters, the workshops were more of a lecture-style format and I realized that interns need to be engaged rather than talked to. For this reason, I will incorporate some role playing in the workshop, an idea that came from a book, Learning From Experience: A Resource Book By and For Co-Op/Internship Professionals ( by Scott Weighart. One exercise that I am planning is around how to help interns recognize where and how to take initiative. For this, they will get into pairs and role play various scenarios where they need to take initiative. The goal is for interns to practice their ability to communicate, problem-solve, and think on their feet using real situations.

As another way to both engage students and convey information to them in different ways, I also plan to bring in past interns to discuss common pitfalls and struggles as well as to share their experiences. I find that students respond well to what their peers have to share, as it is more relatable.

If you are considering offering this type of course, my advice is to make sure this workshop is engaging, interactive, and meaningful. The content also needs to be relevant to the unique needs and experiences of your students. I hope these tips are helpful for your career center in orienting students to the workplace.

Have you offered a similar program at your school?  If so, what have you learned?  What are you planning for this year?  Send your stories, plans, and take-aways to

By Sarah Yoo

Sarah Yoo is the Internship Coordinator at Pomona College, a selective liberal arts college located in the greater Los Angeles area. She obtained her graduate degree at California State University, Long Beach in Counseling with an emphasis in Student Development in Higher Education and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego in Sociology. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, spending time with friends and family, and cooking.

Q. How can we support and monitor our summer interns?

May 20, 2010 at 11:52 am | Posted in career center, Intern Support, Preparing interns | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Summer interns, especially those who are off campus, need to have safety nets built into their internship programs. Internships serve as great building blocks for future internships, so each internship has to be a successful experience. If you have lots of interns and limited staff capacity, you can use technology to stay in touch. Some ideas are: 

  • Weekly email newsletters: Send a weekly newsletter to each intern with campus news and helpful tips for interns on how to deal with specific situations or problems. A column by an intern would be motivational, too.
  • Daily or weekly reports:  Request daily or weekly email reports, depending on the length of the internship. Give each intern a form to follow when sending the report. The intern may want to keep a diary each day and simply send you a copy of the diary, which will help you monitor the intern’s progress and spot potential problems.
  • Webinars:  Hold a weekly webinar or online conference with your intern audience. You could introduce the Q & A format as well as acting as the speaker, addressing relevant topics.
  • Diversity resources:  Remember that your interns may be of different ethnic backgrounds and could benefit from links to international student groups that deal with work-related problems. Ethnicity is a sensitive area and your interns may be more comfortable discussing uncomfortable work issues with people who may have experienced similar situations.
  • On-site visits:  If possible, try to make an on-site visit at least once during the intern’s program. You can do double duty by visiting with both the internship manager and your intern and getting an accurate reading on how the internship is going.  You can also see first-hand the intern’s assignments and meet your intern’s colleagues. If you don’t like what you see, this is the perfect time to discuss—face-to-face with the internship manager—how to improve the situation. Even if your school doesn’t require on-site internship visits, you might want to schedule them anyway. Your interns will be happy to see you.

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