Building a Strong Foundation Through Comprehensive Training

Sarah SteenrodSarah Steenrod, Director, Undergraduate Career Consultation and Programs, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
Twitter: @SarahSteenrod
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahsteenrod

“I really want to build a strong foundation for my students much in the same way you all did for me.”

Recently, I was contacted by a former graduate assistant (GA) who is now a career services professional at another university. She asked if I would be willing to talk with her about our training process since she will be developing a training program for her office’s peer advisers. After my head shrank back to its original size, I spent some time thinking about our training process and why I think it’s so effective in setting a strong foundation for our GAs.

Build a Team

A significant amount of our seven-day training is dedicated to getting to know each other, which helps build relationships and trust. Don’t cringe when I tell you we do at least one icebreaker a day. I must be a genius, right? Here’s the kicker, I think the main reason people dread icebreakers is because they feel put “on the spot.” To avoid this, I let everyone know in advance what the icebreakers will be throughout training, with some even requiring a little advanced preparation. For example, on the first day of training, everyone shares “What I did this summer,” so people share pictures from vacations or talk about their internships. They can think about what they want to say and feel more comfortable when getting to know strangers.

Feed Them

There’s something to be said for sharing a good meal together, and our office definitely appreciates a fine potluck. While we have a very minimal food budget for training, such as a continental breakfast on the first day, we plan lunch outings to places like Chipotle and everyone pays for themselves. On the walk to Chipotle, we give the GAs a campus tour.

Set Expectations

I am a firm believer that setting clear expectations makes life much easier. Whether we are talking about the scheduling process and work-hour requirements or the importance of keeping the recruiter breakroom tidy, I am confident that our GAs know what is expected of them from the very start.

Involve People

I try to involve as many of my colleagues as possible in training because the least effective thing I think I can do is talk too much. I’m not trying to bore these people to death and I have no interest in looking around the room and seeing everyone trying to be polite by not letting out a huge “yaaaaaaawn.” So, for example, when we talk about on-campus recruiting, I bring in our recruiting coordinator to talk about how she works with employers. In addition, my fellow undergraduate full-time staff members are heavily involved with and attend most of the training, so they take the lead on various training topics. Also, our second year GAs play a huge role in serving as mentors for our incoming GAs and they gain a lot of credibility by leading various parts of training and participating in discussions.

Flip the Classroom

A few years ago, I learned about the concept of “flipping the classroom.” According to Wikipedia, “Flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional educational arrangement by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom and moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom. In a flipped classroom model, students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, or carry out research at home and engage in concepts in the classroom with the guidance of the instructor.”

I now use Carmen, our course management system, to deliver training materials that I would like the GAs to read in advance (e.g., PowerPoint presentation about resume writing) so we can do more hands-on activities during training, (e.g., more resume critiques and discussions about resumes).

Our GAs begin meeting with students on the first day of school. In order for them to feel confident and get enough experience, we do a lot of hands-on activities during training. One example is preparing them to conduct mock interviews for our Qualified Undergraduate Interview Candidate (QUIC) program. We have developed a training model where we first educate the GAs about the QUIC program and process, and then we give them the opportunity to shadow, co-facilitate, and conduct the mock interviews on their own while being observed by a staff member. This process enables them to build their skills in evaluating students in mock interviews and delivering constructive feedback and they gain confidence in their abilities.

Hands-on activities are also beneficial when training GAs on student appointments. Rather than just talking about the types of student appointments they might encounter, we developed about 20 student appointment scenarios that we use in an activity where we go around the room and each draw a scenario from a hat and discuss how we would handle it. This gives us the opportunity to have open discussion and makes the GAs feel more comfortable going into a situation where “you never know what you’re going to get.”

Develop a Support System

Although we finish training before the start of the semester, we conduct on-going training throughout the academic year in our weekly team meetings and bi-weekly one-on-one meetings. This enables us to discuss questions and concerns and further explore additional topic areas that are introduced in training.

In addition to on-going training, the day-to-day support of our GAs is extremely important. We have an “open door” policy where we encourage GAs to stop by and chat with us if they have any questions or concerns. Fortunately, our GAs all work in the same space, which we affectionately call “cubeland,” so they can often times pop over the wall and bounce an idea off of their teammates.

Developing a comprehensive training program can be a daunting task, but I guarantee the time and attention spent in preparation of and during training will pay off exponentially. We couldn’t do what we do without our GAs and we love watching them grow and develop as professionals in our office.

 

25 Short, Sweet Tips for Summer Interns

Sarah SteenrodSarah Steenrod, Director, Undergraduate Career Consultation and Programs, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
Twitter: @SarahSteenrod
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahsteenrod

While it seems like just yesterday (OK, more like 13 years ago) since I was an intern at Neiman Marcus in Las Vegas, the lessons I learned and experiences I had during that pivotal time in my college and professional career are crystal clear. My personal experience, coupled with nearly 10 years of experience supporting college students in pursuit of their careers, reminds me that it never hurts to offer some tips on how to make the most of the summer internship. So, here are tips you can give your students (in no particular order)…

  1. Set goals. Both personal and professional goals can help you make the most of your summer, help you stay on track, and know if you have achieved what you set out to do.
  2. Ask questions. An internship is a learning process and you may need to seek clarification along the way.
  3. Participate in all intern and company activities that you are invited to. It’s a great way to meet fellow interns and people at the company who are investing their time in your experience.
  4. Share your ideas. People want to know what you think, so speak up!
  5. If you finish your work, ask for more. By taking initiative, you may end up with an awesome project or learning experience.
  6. Pack your lunch. You’ll save money and calories. It’s absolutely fine to join your colleagues and treat yourself to lunch every once in a while, but you will thank yourself at the end of the summer if you didn’t blow your paychecks on takeout sushi.
  7. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Always be sure to follow the dress code and make sure your clothes are clean, neat, and pressed.
  8. Get a good night’s rest. If you’re used to going to bed at 2 a.m., the sound of the alarm at 6 a.m. is going to be a rude awakening (literally and figuratively). No one at your workplace will care if you’re tired, so don’t look or act tired.
  9. Consider your internship a three-month interview. This is your opportunity to make the most of each day with the potential of getting a job offer at the end.
  10. Ask people if you can be of help to them. You might think you don’t have a lot to offer, but perhaps one of your colleagues has a child that is considering your university and would love to hear your perspective.
  11. Explore the city…and the food. If you’re in Cleveland, don’t miss the West Side Market and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. St. Louis is famous for fried ravioli. In Houston, be sure to try the BBQ.
  12. Exercise. Take a brisk walk, ride a bike, run, do yoga! Do whatever you like, just get moving!
  13. Drink water. That’s what the water coolers are for! Eight 8-ounce glasses day is what’s recommended, but if that sounds like a lot, just start with a couple glasses a day. It also helps to get a water bottle that you really like.
  14. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, find a way to fix it, and move on. Don’t make excuses.
  15. Connect with alumni from your school. Use your university’s alumni club. Tap into the LinkedIn Find Alumni tool.
  16. Check in regularly with your parents, family members, and friends and let them know how your internship is going—they will appreciate it.
  17. Say please. It’s amazing how many people will be willing to help you if you ask nicely.
  18. Follow all computer rules and lock your computer when you step away from your desk. Also, if your company has a social media policy, refrain from posting on Facebook during work hours.
  19. Ask for feedback. Some supervisors will be good at giving you positive and constructive feedback, while others may be less forthcoming. If they know it’s important to you, they may be more likely to give it.
  20. Avoid office gossip. If someone talks about others to you, they are probably talking about you to others.
  21. Pay attention to your experiences, reflect on them, and jot down a few notes. Your worst on-the-job experience may someday be your best interview story. The trick is remembering all the details.
  22. Wear sunscreen. Seriously.
  23. Be present and enjoy the experience!
  24. Keep in touch. Don’t wait until you need something to e-mail your former supervisor. Send an e-mail every once in a while to check in and let them know how you’re doing.
  25. Thank people and let them know how they impacted your life and career. A handwritten note is a very nice touch.

Look for a student-directed article on internship success you can share with your students in Grab & Go on NACEWeb.