Posts tagged ‘internship opportunities’

Virtual internships: tapping student talent from a distance

by the Intern Coach

Erin T., a Journalism major at the University of Pittsburgh, wants to work in New York City, after graduation—for a magazine like Cosmopolitan. She knew she needed to have internship experience to achieve her goal. But an internship in the Big Apple was out of the question—housing would be too expensive and she’d have to give up her part-time job that helped pay her college tuition.

Then, she discovered the perfect solution—a virtual internship with the online edition of a startup lifestyle publication located in New York City. She earned 3 credits for writing 10 articles of 1,000 words each over a 10-week period.  “The company encouraged me to find my own topics and even gave me a byline,” says Erin.  “I worked from a computer in my dorm at my convenience and still held down a part-time job.

Erin is part of the growing group of interns taking advantage of virtual internships that remove geographical barriers, allowing students to sample different fields or concentrate on a niche industry while still going to classes and working. More and more employers—especially small to midsize ones—offer virtual internships because they have a larger pool of talented candidates, and they save money on office overhead.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

The most common virtual internships are in information technology, software development, research, sales, marketing, blogging, and social media. Companies are looking for self-reliant, self-starters who are comfortable with web conferences, emails, and phone calls. 

Companies should expect students to follow the traditional process to apply for a virtual internship—resume, cover letter and a phone interview. Students applying for virtual internships may have the following questions:

  1. How much mentoring and feedback will I receive?
  2. Who is my key point of contact and how often do we make contact?
  3. What is the type of work and what are the expectations?
  4. Will I receive payment or college credit?
  5. How many hours a week are involved and for how long a period?
  6. Will I get a letter of reference if I do a good job?
  7. Could I view the work of former virtual interns?

The downside of virtual internships is that intern managers may not meet the students working for them.  However, Lee H., a science major who researched projects for a non-profit in a virtual internship, liked developing his own way of doing things.  “I learned how to work independently and more efficiently.”  He pointed out that millions of people already work virtually across the US.

It’s also possible that virtual internships are a way to extend a traditional internship. Keisha P. enjoyed her traditional 3-month summer internship in marketing so much that she didn’t want it to end. She asked her supervisor if she could continue with the company in a virtual internship during the school year. Now she’s preparing PowerPoint presentations and emailing clients from the comfort of her home.

The exploding number of online organizations indicates the future increase in virtual internships.  For example, online schooling is expanding rapidly.  In response, the University of Florida offers virtual internships to prepare student teachers for the new world of the virtual school. The advent of virtual internships in all fields gives students multiple opportunities for both traditional and virtual career-related experiences—adding considerable value to the academic degree.

May 7, 2010 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

Internship opportunities that become full-time positions

by Paul Sevcik

Many questions swirl about when considering moving an intern to a full-time hire.  After looking at your budget and seeing that there is room to grow the team, you might still have questions.  For example:

1.       Will the intern make a positive contribution to our team if we hire them? (think ‘ROI’)

2.       Do we have the room to fit them into our current processes? (think ‘team’)

3.       Are they actually interested in working for us? (think ‘interest’)

None of these questions are easy to answer because they’re multi-faceted and probably involve more than one person’s input.  Here is a real-life example from our office:  

After we had an intern candidate go through our screening process, we invited her for an interview and learned that she was interested in international work and that she was fantastic at keeping things organized.  We started by having her attend our in-house training on Role-Based Assessment and becoming officially certified in it. 

We then started her on work in translations we desperately needed (she was strong in a particular language we were looking to grow support in).  Over her three months in the internship, we eventually transitioned her to communicate directly with our clients in that market.  Additionally, she attended all our company meetings and built strong relationships with each person at the office.

As a result of her escalating responsibility and commitment, we gave her more tasks involving keeping the employees at our rapidly-developing startup organized.  We soon saw her as indispensible and every employee was benefiting from her contributions.  The value she brought to the company was clear and losing her was not in our best interest.  Over several conversations, we made her an offer and were happy to see her accept.

Today, this intern is employed full-time at The Gabriel Institute doing work she enjoys.  The transition was pretty simple and just involved official paperwork because she already had a strong foundation in what we do.

Jenny is not the only example of a successful connection through TGI.  We do not close relationships with our interns just because their calendar time with us has ended.  They remain in contact with us as developments happen.  They may not receive our top-secret day-to-day insider news, but are included on all ‘partner’ communications that create excitement about the company.  This may lead them to return to us later as other full-time hires.  After all, if they were good enough to hire once and made positive contributions during their time with us, why not invite them back?

Each organization is unique and their particular situation is different, but ROI, teaming, and interest from the intern are all important to consider!

May 4, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Q. How can our company successfully manage interns?

by the Intern Coach

A.  You’ve timed your question perfectly. Inc. magazine just published an excellent piece, “How to Manage Interns.” (April 22, 2010). The article is loaded with great tips to help you structure your program to everyone’s advantage. The author writes that companies should first consider what internships can do for them, such as evaluate an intern as a potential employee. Also, the company can use internships as marketing tools to develop and promote its brand among potential employees, consumers, and the local community. Among the many helpful suggestions are the following:

  • Offer interns practical work experience that matches their academic interests. Supplement their assignments with a speakers’ series or introduce them to colleagues in your industry, who might provide a continuing network after their internships.
  • Select a company mentor or point person who can answer intern questions and resolve any issues. Encourage interns to move around the company, meeting various professionals, learning about the corporate culture, and developing new skill sets from numerous “teachers.”
  • Estimate how much time the company will spend on training and advising the intern. Before the intern begins, ensure that he/she is willing to commit a certain number of hours a week to the internship, whether onsite or remotely.
  • Be aware of generational conflict that could arise if most of your employees are of middle age. Having young people in the office may create tension, especially in use of social media and technology, and in terms of appropriate dress and behavior.
  • Avoid legal snafus is one of the best pieces of advice in the Inc. article. Unpaid internships must meet several criteria, including focusing on the value to the intern and offering relevant educational training.

April 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

Mario: sixteen years after graduation

by Miguel Corona

One of the most gratifying jobs I’ve had over the course of my career was my time working at the career center at the University of Texas at El Paso. Being responsible for the University’s cooperative education and internship programs and helping college students gain their first professional experiences provided me with a lot of personal satisfaction. During the almost five years of working in that setting, I had the pleasure of seeing many of these same students return to campus as company representatives to recruit the next generation of UTEP graduates. Along the way, I was able to make lifelong friendships with many of these students, first as interns and later as professionals. One friend in particular is Mario, who is now a successful leader at an aviation company.

Sixteen years ago, Mario’s first major in college was marketing. In fact, his first internship experience as a sophomore was working in the marketing department for a large insurance company. When Mario returned, I realized his internship experience had not met his expectations. The root of Mario’s unhappiness wasn’t due to the work he did, but more so due to the work he didn’t do. Mario realized his passion wasn’t in marketing but in information systems. Luckily for Mario, his supervisor during the internship was also technically inclined so he introduced Mario to areas in the organization where he could begin to learn about his newly discovered passion. Needless to say, Mario switched his major to information systems, went on to complete another two internships in his new major, and today is still very passionate about his work.  

One appealing aspect of an internship program is its ability to serve as a bridge between the world of theory and practicality. However, the bridge that connects both worlds also needs to have a support structure. Within an internship program, “the glue” that holds together this support is an intern’s supervisor. And while a supervisor’s role is to offer an intern guidance and direction in a work environment, another role should be one of an advisor. Mario often points to that one supervisor, from 16 years ago, as having made a significant impact on his career. From a Hispanic perspective, being an advisor or consejero is an important element of the supervisor/intern relationship. Hispanics are a determined people and are culturally wired to complete one task before starting another. Hence, changing his major after two years of college was not something that came naturally to Mario. Whether Mario’s supervisor at the time knew it or not, his timely advice made the difference between a successful professional and someone that might still be searching for his passion.

April 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

Giving back to your community through an internship program

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.

March 31, 2010 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

Grow an internship program focused on teaching

By writer

It makes sense that interns, with little office experience, have yet to figure out their own work limitations or the best way to ask for assistance. But this is what an internship is for—experience, learning new skills, finding independence in the work setting, and understanding when to ask for help.

Once, I had an intern submit Excel spreadsheets with a ton of mistakes. My first reaction (luckily, I hid this first reaction with a smile) was annoyance; I had counted on using the data prepared by the intern in the report I was working on. I knew I had two choices in this situation: I could reply to the intern with the ubiquitous “good job” and remember not to give him any more Excel projects, or I could take the time to figure out why the work wasn’t what I had expected. I didn’t think it was laziness. This particular intern did not seem the type to slack off. I had a sneaking suspicion he just didn’t know how to use Excel, and had been too nervous to speak up when I handed him the task.

I knew this was the time for a teaching moment. I reviewed Excel with the intern and showed him simple ways he could take his work to the next level.  Sure enough, no one had bothered to teach him simple Excel functions.  I made sure to emphasize that in his original document, he had all the numbers I needed, but the organization and level of functionality required for me to utilize his work was not present.  We talked about simple formatting tricks, and I explained more advanced functions that might be useful later.  By making it clear to him I was going to do a lot more with his spreadsheet than just print it and look at the numbers, I hoped to give him a better sense of the importance of his work. I also hoped that through this experience, he would see me as someone he could approach with work questions, rather than fumbling around trying to learn new skills without assistance.

In all, this training took about one hour.  While I had other projects I needed to work on during that time, I knew the Excel training was a gift that would keep on giving – for both my company and the intern.  The student’s subsequent work was improved and I was able to use his spreadsheets in my own work.  In the end, the company got more productivity, and the student learned Excel skills that he will utilize and build on well into his career.

February 13, 2010 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

Guidelines for internships: managing interns well

By writer

Sometimes the work assigned to interns is less than glamorous–data entry, research, scheduling appointments, copying and collating, etc.  As any manager of interns knows, these tasks are the building blocks of critical business projects.  Interns, however, may not understand this yet.  There is a term that these interns, some of them just out of high school, are probably all too familiar with: busy-work.

A common complaint among students is that their teachers give them “busy-work” – work with no other purpose than to keep them busy.  When interns are assigned tasks like photocopying, they might assume it’s busy-work and therefore, unimportant, and this attitude is sure to negatively impact their enthusiasm, commitment, and ultimately, their entire experience. 

That’s why it’s important to explain to your interns that these types of tasks are actually essential steps to accomplishing the critical work objectives of your company.  For instance, when I ask an intern to collect data and enter it into an Excel spreadsheet, I always explain before they begin the project what the data will be used for and why it’s important.  I tell the student how the data will be analyzed and what decisions will be made based on the data.  Whenever possible, I invite the intern to participate in those meetings or conversations, so they can observe the life of their work after completion.

It’s important to explain the larger impact of a task before an intern starts  a project.  This will help them to understand why it’s important to finish the task efficiently and with integrity.  In my experience I have found this always leads to a better product and a happier, more engaged intern.

Everyone wants to know they are contributing to the larger business objectives or bottom line of a company, including interns.  For an intern, this is probably their first foray into the business world and they probably have high expectations.  By teaching the interns that tasks such as data entry and appointment scheduling are a vital step to accomplishing company-wide goals, they will feel invested and important.  The intern will also learn a lot more about how business gets done, not just data entry!

February 11, 2010 at 8:23 pm Leave a comment

About this blog

This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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