Archive for March, 2010
There is no question that internships are of great benefit to both employers and students. Students get first-hand practical knowledge in their area of study in a professional setting and employers have a low risk and low cost opportunity to recruit and evaluate prospective employees. And while the potential benefits to both students and organizations are powerful incentives to establish an internship program, there is a major benefit that is often overlooked resulting from this relationship: the positive impact on the community. In many respects, internship programs provide communities with a vehicle to improve their ability to manage and compete in an increasingly global economic environment. Consider the following ways internship programs can potentially give back to the local community:
Decreasing the “Brain Drain”: An internship program can significantly influence an intern’s perspective of a given community or region. Internship programs can help encourage local college graduates to stay within their community or region after graduation; hence, decreasing the chances of valuable talent leaving the area and positively impacting the local economy.
Serving as a Workforce “Sounding Board”: There is sometimes a “disconnect” between education and business. By hiring interns from local colleges and universities, internship programs serve as a channel for educational institutions to assure academic programs are being responsive to the needs of industry. Interns serve as valuable ambassadors of information back to their colleges.
Serving as a Business/Community Link: Internship programs provide a vital bridge between business, education, and the community. Local communities can potentially thrive from an infusion of motivated and skilled workers that also become involved members of society. In addition, communities can possibly benefit from exposure to new ideas that permeate from projects, research, or other internship program activities.
Building College Networks: Given that employers will most likely recruit interns from various colleges in the area, internship programs provide a foundation to build worthwhile college networks or collaboratives. Network opportunities among area colleges anchored by a common employer can strengthen local economic development initiatives.
Creating Partnership and Research Opportunities: Internship programs provide an opportunity for organizations to support an essential local issue or project. By assigning interns to these types of initiatives, organizations provide local communities much needed resources, time, and inventiveness.
Enhancing School Reputations: A high-caliber internship program can help support local college and university recruitment efforts. Internship programs can serve as a major factor in attracting potential college students to the local area, particularly if a college is challenged by dwindling enrollment.
by internships.com writer
Use these tips as you are planning for summer interns:
- Survey your company, asking departments if they want interns, what skill sets, and how many interns they need. Some departments find interns useful and others may not.
- Prepare a description of internship duties and email it to the incoming intern (in advance if you can) for review, answering any questions ahead of time to prevent confusion. Make sure the intern has an Intern Packet with appropriate materials before the start date. The Intern Packet should contain company policy information as well as forms to track intern activity.
- Assign interns to areas that may need a full-time employee in the near future, using the internship to “test the waters” with candidates that you might later hire. Be sure to ask employees in those areas for their evaluations on each intern’s performance.
- Ensure that the intern has a desk and proper supplies so he/she can begin productive work immediately. A more senior intern—if available—may want to have a short meeting with the new intern to talk about office procedures or to explain the computer system or any unfamiliar technology systems. Utilize current interns to train incoming interns, reducing staff time with interns and facilitating employees to fulfill work objectives.
- Consider rotating interns to cover areas left vacant as employees take summer vacations. Suggest that the departing employee give the intern an orientation on what to do to reduce the workload on the remaining staff. Although the intern may only be able to perform basic duties, the department will appreciate the additional help.
- Reward an unpaid intern in various ways. If your company has a cafeteria, give the intern a pass that enables him/her to eat for free on working days. Take the intern to a professional meeting as your guest, paying for his/her lunch and introducing him to other professionals. Give a gift certificate at the end of the internship as well as a written letter of recommendation. Current interns may refer future interns to your organization, and you can be sure students share information about their experiences. Make sure everyone wants to intern at your company, so you have a wide selection of excellent applicants.
One of the most talked and written about generation of Americans are Millennials. While there is some debate on dates, Millennials include people born roughly between 1982 and 2002. While the term “Millennial” is most associated in describing this generation, some have used other descriptors such as “Generation Next,” “Boomer Babies,” “Net Gen,” and other terms. Without a doubt, this generation has gained attention in areas such as education, business, and the workplace. Chances are good your organization currently has or will soon employ an intern from this generation. And like other generations, Millennials are symbolized by their own set of characteristics. Given the diversity of this generation, more attention is being placed on the impact culture might have on how Millennials are characterized. This is particularly true of Hispanic Millennials.
According to the U.S. Census, close to 20% of all Millennials in the United States are Hispanic. This statistic emphasizes the young age of the Hispanic population and the diversity of all Millennials. Hispanic Millennials share many of the same characteristics of mainstream Millennials. Some of these characteristics also closely parallel Hispanic cultural traits: conventional (respectful, not questioning authority); confident (goal-oriented, and confident in themselves); sheltered (highly protected as children); team oriented (team-oriented rather than individualistic); and technically inclined (grew up being familiar with technology). Hispanic Millennials, however, hold a deep respect for their culture’s values, customs, and beliefs. While much attention has already been given to Hispanic Millennials in a marketing and social media context; there is a growing interest about the characteristics of Hispanic Millennials in the workplace.
Results from a recent study share some of these characteristics. What do Hispanic Millennials value most in the workplace? Three factors are most valued by Hispanic Millennials in the workplace: promotion opportunities, supervisors, and co-workers. According to the study, Hispanic Millennials place a much higher value on promotional opportunities than the general Millennial population. Additionally, Hispanic Millennials perceive a higher sense of support from organizations in a work setting. Finally, when compared to previous Hispanic generations, Hispanic Millennials perceive a lower sense of discrimination in the workplace.
What these results show is that Hispanic Millennials are a generation that expects to be provided with organizational opportunities. They very much want to develop and benefit from their hard work. To increase the likelihood that Hispanic Millennial interns flourish, assure that you’re organization is providing them with a solid developmental program that includes exposure to more experienced managers or leaders (mentors). Verify their work assignments are challenging and communicate how their work efforts are adding value to the organization as a whole. Finally, make sure to leverage their partiality toward working in teams, and minimize projects that have them working alone.
Related Study: “Ready or Not: Hispanic Millennials Are Here,” The Business Journal of Hispanic Research, 2008, Vol. 2, No. 1, 50-60.
Traditionally, employers are aware that college students follow a certain road on their way to graduation. The path college students take from school to career can even be described as a “pipeline.” Generally, most students enter college; spend a couple of years adjusting to the campus environment; spend a summer or two working or traveling; and finally graduate and enter the workforce. In most cases, the journey through this pipeline takes somewhere between four to six years. When I think back to my college educational experience, as well as the experiences of the Hispanic college students I’ve talked to over the last fifteen years, the educational pipeline is much different. For me and other Hispanic college students, using the pipeline metaphor might not capture our experiences as accurately as it should. Let me explain by using my journey as an example.
To start, I worked full-time almost five years before setting foot on a college campus. Part of the reason for working full-time was to contribute to the family household, buy a car, and save money in order to go to college. Once enrolled as a full-time college student, I either worked on-campus as a student employee or off-campus to earn extra money to pay for college expenses that my financial aid didn’t cover. And while I did take advantage of school breaks, most of my summers were spent going to school and working in order to graduate within four years (I actually did it in 3 ½). My experience as an undergraduate was not any different than many Hispanic college students today. And while I was fortunate to not have to interrupt my education, many Hispanic college students must do this in order to address many of the same financial factors I described earlier.
So rather than illustrating the Hispanic college student experience as a pipeline, I think it resembles a pattern of on-ramps and off-ramps; school, work and back to school. It’s an important difference for employers to understand, especially if it doesn’t fit the usual college pipeline characteristics. For example, a non-traditional student pattern can extend time-to-graduation timelines or limit involvement in campus activities. On the other hand, what this unique experience does provide you as an employer are highly responsible, committed, and driven interns. It takes a lot of determination and focus to get through this process. The confidence, maturity, and other work skills Hispanic college students obtain resulting from this non-traditional experience should be leveraged and utilized to benefit your organization.
There is no question that summer is the most popular period for internships. Students are able to take advantage of a three month break from school to apply their classroom knowledge in practical settings. Additionally, over that same period, employers are able to leverage a reliable source of skilled employees to accomplish short-term projects as well as shore up teams that might be understaffed due to summer vacation schedules. By and large, participating in a summer internship program is highly beneficial to students and employers. So why should employers only take advantage of these benefits in the summer? There is no reason why employers can’t continue building their professional employee pipeline other than in the summer months. Consider the following arrangements to implement an internship program on a year round basis.
Break the Mold
When I managed the internship and cooperative education programs for the University of Texas at El Paso Career Center, there were often many reasons (e.g. financial, personal, career, etc.) students chose to extend their summer internships. While some colleges might not officially sponsor such arrangements, students might opt to continue working into the fall to meet certain personal obligations or needs. Furthermore, based on these same needs, many students might consider internship opportunities that make use of spring/summer combinations rather than the traditional summer schedule. In a nutshell, consider internships that might not fit the traditional internship “mold” – chances are good there are many students out there who will jump at the opportunity.
Flexibility in Quarter Systems
Both semester and quarter systems furnish college students approximately three months each summer for employment opportunities. However, quarter systems might offer employers additional choices when trying to implement an internship programs on a year round basis. Students attending colleges on quarter systems can provide more flexibility, particularly if projects well-suited for interns present themselves through out the year and not just the summer months. Quarter systems allow students to complete an internship in the middle of the year and still remain on track for graduation. Employers can even consider recruiting at schools using each system in order to meet their year round needs.
Depending on the college, some internship programs allow students to work 10-20 hours per week during the academic year. These types of internship arrangements allow students to work and potentially earn college credit provided that a student’s work experience is directly related to their area of study. These scenarios are a great option for local employers or organizations that offer virtual opportunities. For employers, it provides yet another opportunity to maintain an internship program year round.
A few days ago, I had lunch with a friend who works for a well known Fortune 500 organization here in Cincinnati. He’s been successful as a leader over the course of his career, which has included experiences on the international stage. During our discussion, we talked about a number of topics, including my on-going efforts of working with employers to increase their awareness and understanding of Hispanics in the workplace. I also mentioned the efforts I’ve made in sharing my thoughts through Intern Matters, my blog, and other social media platforms. Since my friend has extensive experience working in multicultural settings, I asked him to share his perspectives on successful management techniques in this regard. Ironically, most of his advice didn’t involve developing policies or guidelines; they focused on basic and personal efforts a manager can follow. Below are some principles he proposed and has employed:
1) Successful Managers Learn about Culture: Successful managers make a concerted effort to understand and learn about their employees’ culture. By understanding their culture, managers can use more effective motivational strategies and supervisory techniques. This process can just range from simply asking the employee questions to doing some basic research on theInternet. From his experience, my friend noted this minor investment of time can provide major returns.
2) Successful Managers Help Build a Culture of Inclusion: My friend described how he organized lunches or dinners, and invited employees of different cultural backgrounds to informally discuss their experiences. While this suggestion might not always be practical, the main idea is that effective managers are proactive in helping employees become more comfortable in their work environments by providing opportunities to have constructive informal dialogues.
3) Successful Managers Support Social Activities: Just showing up to a social event sponsored by an affinity group goes a long way in developing trust and camaraderie with employees. My friend would make every effort to at least drop in to demonstrate his support for a given event. In most cases, he’d stay longer than he thought!
4) Successful Managers Get Involved in the Community: Effective managers show a genuine concern for the Hispanic community by getting involved. Whether it’s getting involved in a reading program or becoming a mentor, managers that demonstrate their willingness to improve the educational and professional efforts of other Hispanics build a stronger bond with their employees.
My first few posts to the Intern Matters blog have attempted to provide employers with a basic understanding of Hispanic culture and how its characteristics can potentially influence the performance of Hispanic interns in an organization. I believe that understanding the nuances of Hispanic culture – and just not comparing it to mainstream culture – is important to helping effectively manage Hispanic interns in any organization. Over the course of my initial posts, we’ve learned that Hispanics are certainly not a heterogeneous group. Hispanics constitute an assortment of countries, races, and experiences. Yet, as I’ve noted in my first few blog posts, Hispanics share many common values and beliefs.
However, creating an awareness of these cultural differences is only the start. We’ve learned that Hispanic cultural values and attitudes can play an interesting role in determining how Hispanic interns might behave, observe, and think as they interact in the work setting. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that some of these introductory concepts are vague – and might even lack clear and concise definitions. And while some of the concepts I’ve introduced such as familiasm, personalismo, or simpatia might not have literal English translations, they’ve hopefully provided a basis for cultural awareness, knowledge, and understanding. My goal was to inspire a sense of cultural empowerment; building a sense that cultural understanding can lead to increased participation, performance, and belonging on the part of your interns.
We’ve learned that Hispanic cultural traits are interdependent and are highly founded on connectedness and relationships. By understanding Hispanic culture, employers, as well as interns, are better able to improve their overall performance and effectiveness. How?
1. By knowing that an employer “gets” their cultural background and experiences, Hispanic interns will be more motivated to perform and contribute;
2. By increasing cultural knowledge and awareness, both supervisors and interns learn more about each other and about themselves;
3. By acknowledging their cultural background, interns’ sense of self-worth and confidence are increased significantly; and
4. By fostering a positive cultural connection, interns’ desire to build more relationships within the organization will also grow.
These are only a few of the lessons I hope to have provided in these first few posts – broadening the perspective of Hispanic culture as well as the Hispanic experience. In future posts, I hope to build on these ideas and concepts to provide more practical illustrations, and discuss how we can continue to increase mutual understanding and learning.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit and present to a Latino student organization down the road from Cincinnati at Northern Kentucky University. Before my presentation, I spent quite a long time talking with many of the students asking them about their backgrounds and experiences, respective majors and classroom work, and expected plans after graduation. I also shared everything about my background, and how it mirrored many of their experiences. By the time I was introduced to speak, I had already established an initial relationship with most of the students in attendance. And even though I didn’t get a chance to meet everyone before the presentation, I could sense that the rapport I had developed with some in the group had already helped me generate credibility before speaking one word. This illustrative process highlights the special emphasis Hispanics put on relationship-building prior to engaging in business or developing professional relationships. It’s based on the cultural idea that individuals are valued more than material belongings and is known as personalismo.
Personalismo can be described as the partiality for close personal relationships. The concept of personalismo is not so much an observed behavior but rather a perception Hispanics have about other individuals. For example, personalismo can be seen in others if they’re perceived to be well-meaning, objective, caring, and respectful. To Hispanics, even a stranger can be seen as having personalismo if he or she exhibits these qualities. In a work environment, supervisors demonstrating high character and moral standards, for example, are able to build stronger levels of trust among Hispanics. A supervisor that is seen as unbiased, fair, and objective with all employees is perceived to possess high levels of personalismo. While Hispanic interns might behave very formal during initial meetings, recognize they’re probably already monitoring for these genuine cultural elements in their supervisors or managers. Once this trust or personalismo is established, it will help Hispanic interns build a strong personal bond with their team or department.
Personalismo essentially serves as a foundation for other cultural values that are important to Hispanics. Without establishing that genuine relationship, a supervisor might find it more challenging to manage or direct a Hispanic intern. So supervisors should take some time to get to know their new interns. Ask about their background, experiences, and future plans. Invite interns to share what they are hoping to accomplish during their internships and what support they’ll need in order to do so. Of course, don’t fail to appreciate the role of culture to the intern’s overall aspirations. A genuine effort to recognize their cultural perspective will go a long way toward showing you have their best interest at heart.
How managers interact and communicate with employees has always been a vital ingredient in the work environment. One aspect of this relationship that has received increased attention in management studies over the last few years is empathy. Empathy can be described as the ability of someone to understand what another person is experiencing. In other words, putting yourself in another person’s shoes. A key characteristic of empathy is the support of others using skills such as active listening, encouragement, and motivation. There’s no denying that increasing one’s empathetic skills in the workplace can improve social skills and workplace relationships.
As I’ve noted previously on this blog, Hispanic culture is very much people-oriented; Hispanics value relationships and often demonstrate behaviors that promote strong and agreeable interactions. Hispanics value a person’s ability to maintain these cordial and positive relationships even in the face of adversity or stress. This cultural concept is known as simpatia.
Simpatia is an intrinsic quality in Hispanics; one that does not have a clear translation. The concept produces a strong sense of connection. Similar to empathy, simpatia highlights a person’s ability to identify with others’ feelings, and therefore, considers others with formality and respect. Minimizing confrontational situations and maintaining agreement is an important element of simpatia. This might translate into an individual encouraging harmonious social relationships and preferring cooperation over competition.
So what might this mean to a manager supervising a Hispanic intern? Some Hispanic interns might not feel comfortable openly criticizing or expressing disagreement, particularly when it relates to their supervisor, department, or team. Therefore, when it comes to asking for or sharing feedback, managers should assure to first develop strong relationships with Hispanic interns. If certain conversations are sensitive in nature or involve constructive criticism, discuss these matters privately to determine what your intern really thinks. Public interactions might not accurately reflect a Hispanic intern’s personal perspective.
Another recommendation would be to be more aware of your intern’s intrinsic motivations – become sensitive to his or her true perceptions. Keep in mind that Hispanics come from a collectivist background. The interests of the group are considered more important than individual. Be aware that in order to maintain group harmony and cohesion, Hispanics might be more diplomatic, supportive, and trusting in work settings. Because of simpatia, keep in mind that an intern’s personal attitude and behavior might deviate slightly from that shown in a public setting.