Building the Stairway to Internship Success

by Susan Brennan

Creating a successful internship program goes beyond posting internships and hoping that students apply and get hired. It is rooted in a comprehensive career development program with institutional buy-in from faculty and administration. It requires an ability to get students to the door, through the door and up the stairs—interested in internships, prepared for the role, and successful once they’re on the job.

Exploring each step will demonstrate careful collaboration on the part of the career services team, faculty and administration, and employers to create a “wow” customer service experience for all constituents. The goal: corporate partners will continue to provide meaningful internships, and students will continue to get hands-on experience and opportunities for career development.

To the Door

Students understand the value of internships by becoming more self-aware through tools such as StrengthsFinder, which my university offers through career development introduction courses for both first- and second-year students. (Although not required, the first-year course averages 98 percent enrollment).

Once they determine their strengths and interests, students learn how hands-on experience will help further develop their talents and provide opportunities to test out their strengths and discover what they like (and don’t like). At my university, each major has a designated career adviser who is an industry expert and understands different roles. They work closely with employers to determine market needs and tie those back into career programs and curriculum (by collaborating with faculty). We offer first-year students the opportunity to connect with a peer career colleague – these are fellow students who are trained to be a resource during and after the CDI courses. They can support the career development message and ease younger students into the process.

Through the Door

Most schools have a recruiting program to post internships. The key is working with employers to secure meaningful internships that work for your student body. Bentley posts an average of 3,000 internships per year; each one is vetted by a member of the career services recruiting team to determine relevance for our students. This includes on-site visits to better understand roles and observe students on the job. This kind of groundwork helps students secure positions (with top companies in high demand) because their skills are aligned with employer needs. Bentley students also have an advantage because they have developed a useful internship search toolbox in the CDI course including: self-awareness through StrengthsFinder; résumé and cover letter writing; elevator pitch and LinkedIn profile development for networking; research and interviewing skills; and customized career action plan development.

Up the Stairs

Once students land internships, they want to be successful. In order to do that, they need to strengthen the eight Career Readiness Competencies, as defined by NACE. It’s our job to develop those in each student so by the time they arrive at work, they have the competence that comes from education; the confidence to know that they’re prepared; a community of mentors and other support; and the curiosity to take on new projects and try new things. Developing these comes not only from career workshops and programs, but through the curriculum. At Bentley, for example, their confidence is built through hands-on projects and consulting through corporate immersion programs and resources such as the Center for Marketing Technology and Trading Room. Career advisers build career communities that bring students together with faculty, alumni, parents, and friends into learning communities that provide mentorship and connection around similar career interests.

Princeton Review named Bentley No. 1 for internship opportunities, but the ranking is really founded on a robust career services program that is all-encompassing. Career development has to be built into a university’s DNA, with a campus-wide commitment to experiential learning. That is what will help students know which internships to apply for, get hired and perform well.

Done right, an internship program has the power to boost a school’s overall career placement rate (Bentley is at 99 percent). According to a 2015 NACE survey, an employer is far more likely to offer a job to a student prior to graduation if he or she had an internship or co-op. A 2016 NACE survey reported that a primary goal for most internship programs, according to responding employers, is converting students who have taken part in an internship or co-op program into full-time employees, with an average offer rate of 72.7 percent.

Beyond rankings and numbers, however, a strong internship program will help provide jobs—and contribute to the lifelong career success and satisfaction—our graduates deserve.

 Susan BrennanSusan Brennan, Associate Vice President of University Career Services at Bentley University
Director–College on the 2016-17 NACE Board of Directors
Twitter: Twitter.com/bentleycareerSB
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susansandlerbrennan

Career Research Series: Incivility in the Job Search

by Desalina (Alina) Guarise and James W. Kostenblatt

This post is part of a series of interviews that will explore career-related research. As recipients of a NACE Research Grant, we are partnering with nearly 40 institutions to explore the long-term impact unpaid internships have on career success and are looking for more partners to join. Contact us if interested!

Through our research project, we have had the pleasure of working closely with Abdifatah A. Ali, a doctoral candidate in organizational psychology at Michigan State University graduating in May 2017 who has closely studied motivation in the job search.  In an interview, Abdifatah shared details about his research paper, “The long road to employment: Incivility experienced by job seekers,” published in October in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Tell us a little bit about your professional background. How did you become interested in career-related research?
I graduated with my undergraduate degree from San Diego State studying psychology with a minor in statistics. Here, I started doing research with an industrial-organizational psychology professor who encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. My research interests early on dealt with motivation—in particular how individuals self-regulate their emotions, behavior, or actions in order to achieve their goals when looking for work. For example, when people are unemployed or college students are looking for work, how do they motivate themselves and what are the factors that influence their level of motivation and persistence so they can get a job?

At Michigan State University, I collaborated with Dr. Ann Marie Ryan to examine how people’s emotional reactions impacted their job search success (defined as whether the candidate received interview call backs, job offers, etc.). We were able to show that BOTH positive and negative emotions that people experience when they are looking for work motivate them. So, for example, if you just get a call back from a company that makes you feel excited or happy, that will motivate you and encourage you to continue to put effort into the job search. On the other hand, if you are experiencing challenges or anxiety, these negative emotions can actually also motivate effort, which is contrary to what we thought.

I’ve more recently made a switch and begun to look at factors that undermine job search efforts, which relates to my current research.

Your current research focuses on incivility experienced by job seekers—how did you come up with this research topic?
Before this paper there was very little research looking at which contextual factors undermine motivation—they were only looking at things that facilitate it. When you talk to individuals that are job searching, they constantly talk about experiencing incivility, which got us wondering what effects these incidents have on the job search process.

How do you define incivility? Can you give some examples?
Incivility is defined as generally rude or discourteous behaviors that are ambiguous in terms of intent. For example, a snide comment or a funny look from a recruiter or interviewer. They are perceived as behaving in a rude way but you don’t necessarily know if they are doing it intentionally.  

Tell us more about the research design and findings.
A majority of the research on incivility has been conducted about incivility experienced by professionals once they actually work at an organization; we were instead focusing on the job search. We began with a qualitative study to understand the nature of incivility during the job search. In the first stage of our research, we interviewed 100 job seekers and asked them whether they had experienced incivility and collected details about the incident. We’d then ask them what they thought the cause of that behavior was. We were interested in how people interpreted the ambiguous nature of these incidents. In one example, the interviewer is abrupt and doesn’t give the candidate a lot of time. Some candidates may view that experience by simply thinking that the interviewer was busy (i.e., externalizing the cause), while others may think that the interviewer was rude to them because of their incompetence (i.e., internalizing the cause).

The second and third study were more empirical. We wondered if there was a way we could predict who will externalize or internalize these incidents. We found that, for those who internalize the cause of these incidents, incivility undermines one of the best predictors of job-search motivation which is job-search self-efficacy or self-confidence.  Conversely, job-search motivation was not impacted for those who externalized the cause of these incidents.

What implications do you think this has for career services practitioners and employers?
Our findings support the need for resilience training and other tactics that would help job seekers re-frame the cause of these incidents.  If we can help them by not attributing the cause to themselves we can ensure their job search motivation doesn’t suffer.

I think it also has implications for those who are recruiting, as they are seeking ways to ensure candidates have a great experience and ultimately accept an offer.  Incidents of incivility can have a real influence on the talent pipeline.  

What are you working on now with your research?
A project really relevant to the NACE audience is one I’m working on with Dr. Phil Gardner related to internships. We are examining the role employees have on student interns including both employees who are assigned as formal supervisors and those that act as informal mentors. We are studying how these individuals impact whether or not interns accept full-time offers at the end of their internship experience. Results should be out in the near future.   

Alina GuariseDesalina (Alina) Guarise, Associate Director of Career Advancement Center at Lake Forest College
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

 

 

 

James W. KostenblattJames W. Kostenblatt, Associate Director, New York University’s Wasserman Center for Career Development
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jameskostenblatt

Supporting Students in the Race for Talent

by Heather Tranen
It’s  no secret among college campuses that recruiters are investing in talent earlier and earlier every year. I half expect the big banks will soon reach out to my two-year-old for a milk chat to discuss his advanced color identification skills. As the arms race for talent becomes more competitive and the talent pools become younger, how do career services professionals support their students?

1) Help them with their FOMO (fear of missing out). Niche industries have the capacity to recruit en mass early in the recruiting season. Many students may feel they should forego valuable life experiences such as studying abroad to avoid fear of missing out at home during on-campus recruitment. I meet with a lot of students reconsidering their decision to study abroad. Once I do some digging, beneath the surface of their fears I find only a lukewarm interest in the fields recruiting during their time away. I explain to them that they can still have informational interviews with alumni, do research on potential career interests and organizations, and even participate in some sort of experiential learning opportunity in between classes and traipsing the globe during their semester abroad. Once they become educated on the recruitment process and discover ways to remain productive in their career development while away they feel much more empowered and confident in their decisions.

2) Provide support resources. As students get recruited earlier in the process, it’s important that we adjust our services to meet their needs and to ensure they are prepared for the professional world. To be competitive, it will be crucial that students develop their interviewing and professional skills. This means tailoring programs earlier in their college experiences to cover these topics, create awareness among students of resources, and shed light on different internship opportunities available to them. Networking with alumni can be a valuable experience so offering venues for students to meet alumni in a less intimidating, non-recruiting environment can give them the insight they need to make good decisions during the recruitment process. Sometimes just hearing another person’s story can put students’ minds at ease.

3) Offer up offer advice. Students are making big decisions about their careers early in their college experiences. This can lead to rash decision making without the necessary strategic thinking. It’s important for us as career services professionals to ensure students are making good decisions for themselves. We want to avoid the dreaded reneging, which harms the reputations of both the individual student and the university at large, and foster mature and thoughtful career decisions. Brainstorming the right questions students can ask to get the most information about the potential internship experience helps them to consider which is the right opportunity for them. Additionally, working collaboratively with recruiters to create fair and firm offer guidelines helps us protect our students and  ensure a positive experience for the employers.

Many of us will venture into uncharted territory as we during campus recruitment next semester (conveniently, I will be on maternity leave so…..let me know how that all goes). As with all the changes we experience in higher education, it’s important to be flexible, open-minded, and share best practices with each other.

Heather Tranen
Heather Tranen,
Associate Director, University of Pennsylvania Career ServicesLinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heathertranen
Twitter: @htranen

Developing Career Goals Holistically

Melanie BufordMelanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mebuford/
Website: www.melaniebuford.org

Dan Blank, a career coach who works primarily with creative professionals, offers the following advice in his webinar “Take Back Your Creative Life.”

“Career goals should not be formed in isolation. You must take into account all of your responsibilities (personal and professional), and be sure to account for your own well-being. This includes physical and mental health.” Blank encourages his clients to integrate their career and personal goals in order to set themselves up for success.

Many undergraduate students start their career decision-making process by selecting a major based on the subjects they enjoyed in high school. Students interested in majoring in one of the applied sciences tend to follow this pattern. Several students I’ve worked with tell me they’ve chosen to major in engineering because they were “smart” in high school or strong in math and science, but they don’t know much about the field itself. Time and again, these students arrive at the career development center wondering why they’re not more interested in the engineering coursework and field experiences.

The problem isn’t engineering. The problem is that these students formed career goals in isolation. They didn’t consider the environment they’d be working in, the physical location of their organization, the skills they enjoy developing and want to build on, or the ways they hope to grow as people and as professionals. Fortunately, the University of Cincinnati provides a co-op program that allows engineering students to get full-time work experience before graduation.

Career goals, increasingly, need to be formed holistically. Gone are the days when choosing a career was simply a matter of matching your best school subject to an industry. The market is volatile; new opportunities are being created and other avenues are becoming less viable. A law career isn’t the safe choice it once was, and the nonprofit world has expanded to include diverse organizations tackling new social issues. It’s more common that professionals will relocate to a new city for a job opportunity, and more workers than ever are changing jobs and moving to new sectors over the course of their careers.

We are facing the so-called “paradox of choice.” Research has demonstrated that if we are presented with more opportunities, decision-making becomes more difficult and satisfaction less likely.

When a student steps into a career development office today, they’re faced with a much broader set of options than they would have been 30 years ago. They could go to medical school in their hometown or they could spend two years in the Peace Corps and teach grade school students in Lithuania. They could go to graduate school for computer science or launch a start-up with friends based on their ideas for a new app.

In order to make these decisions, students have to consider not only what talents they have, but what kind of life they want to lead.

It is critical, therefore, that students take a holistic approach to developing their career goals. We encourage them to apply this lens both to themselves and to the field they’re considering. Here are a few questions students should consider during the career exploration process:

What skills do I have and want to develop?

What type of work environment might best fit my temperament?

What type of diversity do I hope to have in my work environment?

How is the industry I’m considering expected to evolve in the next few decades?

What city, state, or country might I want to live in?

What have my career goals been and how have they changed?

What role would I like technology to play in my career?

How important is stability to me and how willing am I to take risks?

Each of these questions will take time to answer as students develop more clarity on their identities and values. Is it any wonder career goals formed at age 18 often feel premature? These are questions we wrestle with throughout our lives.

To me, this only underscores the importance of committing to a continuous career development process, not just for students, but for graduates. Attempting to build your life looking only through a narrow lens of career is bound to work against your happiness. We must support students around this process by acknowledging its complexity and encouraging them to consider the multiple implications of a potential career path.

NACE members can pick up a student-directed version of this blog, Develop Your Career Goals Holistically, in Grab & Go.

Sources:

Blank, Dan. (2015). Take Back Your Creative Life Webinar. We Grow Media.

Cole, Marine. (2014). U.S. Job Market Has Changed Dramatically in 15 Year. The Fiscal Times. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/05/15/How-US-Job-Market-Has-Changed-Dramatically-15-Years

Hedges, Kristi. (2012). The Surprising Poverty of Too Many Choices. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/11/26/the-surprising-poverty-of-too-many-choices/.

 

Redefining Professional Development for Career Advisers

Ross WadeRoss Wade, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

Does professional development for career services staff need an update? Is the model of “go to a conference or do an assessment training” still as relevant as career services is changing so much and so quickly? What can we do to grow as professionals, connect more with employers and alumni, and gain credibility with our students and other stakeholders? I think it is time to consider redefining what professional development for career services staff means, and how it is done. I’m not talking about ditching annual conferences, they are of great value, what I’m saying is I think it is time to add a few more options.

In July of 2014, Farouk Dey and Christine Y. Cruzvergara, co-authored an article called “10 Future Trends in College Career Services.” Number 10 in their inspiring and thought provoking piece, “New Breed of Professionals,” resonated with me—especially the statement, “To be successful, career center staff must become agile content experts and network catalysts who will lead communities and develop meaningful connections among their constituents.” In my experience, in order to gain credibility with students, having experience in the field in which I advise (media, arts, and entertainment) is very important. When I tell students that I’ve worked in documentary and digital media, and know of some great companies that could be a good fit for them (based on my personal experience) I get student buy-in very quickly.

My ideas for tweaking career services staff professional development options involve creating opportunities for gaining industry experience; generating and growing relationships with employers, alumni, faculty, and staff; and serve as a means for staff to gain some “street cred” (with students, employers, and faculty).

The concept of career staff having the option to do some form of industry internship during the summer is very exciting to me. The internship doesn’t have to be full-time; it could be eight to 10 hours a week over four to six weeks. The internship could be hands-on, or more observational and include informational interviews. Regardless of the specifics, this experience would give staff a chance to understand industry skills and trends as well as positions and roles within specific industries and companies, and the chance to connect with experts and HR professionals.

For example, there is a wonderful art start-up in my area connecting artists to consumers via social media and storytelling—I’d love to intern there, creating content, connecting with artists, and growing the art scene in my community. Think of all the connections I’d make and skills I’d learn. My improved knowledge of this industry and number of contacts in art I’d make would generate credibility with faculty and students.

Approaching employers with the idea of hiring an “adult”/career staff intern may at first raise some eyebrows, but just as we tell our students, if one creates a pitch and plan (with a timeline, tasks, and goals), that is brand new or a modified version of an existing internship program, what could we lose? Don’t want to intern at company? Try an internship at another office at your institution.

For example, it would be a great opportunity to intern with the communications office at my home institution, or in the multicultural center. Think of the new connections to be made and opportunities to find points for future collaboration! Is research your thing? Approach a faculty member focused on an industry or topic of relevance to career development, and pitch a research idea. Spend 10 or so hours a week during the summer researching and writing. Career staff doing research with faculty – whaaaat?! It may sound crazy, but I think it is a wonderful idea, and I bet it is already happening at institutions across the country.

Other benefits include staff cross training opportunities after the internship or research is completed, heightened staff engagement and excitement, and great content (e.g. photos, blog posts, interviews with professionals) to share across campus via social media to generate interest in career services. What ideas do you have? I’d love to get employer thoughts on this. How would you redefine professional development for career services staff?

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.

Once More a Student: Will an Ed.D. Make Me a Better Counselor?

Janet LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search
Career Liaison to College of Arts & Sciences, Widener University
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.

When I made the transition from executive search to higher-ed career counseling a year ago, I felt pretty sure that my mid-life master’s degree in higher-ed student services completed my formal education. Gaining a foundation in a dozen counseling theories and learning about challenges such as lack of access for underrepresented groups provided important context for my role at an institution that serves many first-generation students. Graduate internships at very different types of institutions—one a religiously affiliated private university, the other of a large regional community college— offered invaluable opportunities for applied learning.

As I continued to apply this learning in my first formal higher-ed role, I realized there was still more to learn and integrate. In a moment of suspended sanity, I applied and was accepted to the higher ed doctoral program at my own institution, a continuation of the master’s degree I earned two years earlier. No one pressured me to do this or suggested that it might make me a better counselor, especially since the program’s focus is on leadership and administration. And yet, here I am a student once again, steeping in the literature, relearning APA-ese, and regaining my appreciation for nighttime caffeine. I can compare notes with my students on writing end-of-term papers, mastering SPSS, and keeping a complicated life in balance.

The past year, I feel like I won the lottery. As my institution’s career liaison to undergraduate liberal arts majors—from history to astronomy to anthropology— I’ve melded pure exploration with hands-on skills development and pulled out my back-in-the-day undergraduate English major when it underscored a point. I’ve also been humbled by how truly difficult it is to be a student today, how different it is from my previous experience when internships were a “nice-to-have” and a decent entry-level job for a hardworking English major was reasonably assured.

Most of my students compete for multiple internships—nearly always unpaid—while juggling at least one “gritty” part-time job, student research, significant community service, half a dozen extracurriculars, and full course loads.  As a group, they are inspiring, appreciative, exhausted—and fearful about the future. In short, they are like so many of the students that we support at our NACE member institutions. As their counselor, I celebrate every milestone with them—a sought-after interview, an offer, a grad program acceptance—and empathize with every disappointment.

In my alternative universe as a student, while two years away from formally starting my dissertation, I have begun to shape a research agenda around the career applications—and implications—of earning a liberal arts degree outside of a small liberal arts college. In this light, the dreaded advanced statistics courses become an avenue to discovering knowledge with the potential to make a difference for both my students and the organizations that might employ them. Will this make me a better counselor?  I certainly hope so.