Professor Jane Denning, the Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach for the MS in Publishing program, recently wrote a piece for BIGMPG Marketing & Design, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin based company (http://www.bigmpg.com/), entitled The Value of the Internship Experience for Both Students and Employers. This piece was written for the BIGMPG Index: A monthly examination of the human experience.
Professor Jane Kinney-Denning has been the Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach for the MS in Publishing program at Pace University in New York for the past 12 years. Each year she places over 50 students in prestigious internships throughout the book, magazine and digital publishing industries.
Her students are required to take her internship course and complete one “for credit” internship to fulfill the requirements of their graduate degree. The internship experience is solidly grounded in the academic experience: from securing the position – i.e., preparing resumes and cover letters and interviewing – to the writing of a graduate thesis paper in the second part of the course. Pace students have interned at such powerhouse companies and publications as: HarperCollins, Simon&Schuster, Random House, Penguin, Pearson Education, Tor Books, Writer’s House Literary Agency, Vogue, Details, Martha Stewart Living, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, GOOD Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, as well as new and innovative companies and organizations like Open Road Media, Diesel eBooks, and as bloggers for the Women’s National Book Association, to name a few.
In this piece, Professor Denning talks about the value of internships for students and the value of interns for employers. Recently Professor Denning was interviewed for an article published in the Village Voice entitled: Unpaid Internships Aid Schools’ Bottom Lines, But Do They Flout the Law? According to Professor Denning, “The work experience is now expected by employers, leading some of my students to accept multiple internships without credit simply to build up their résumés. It’s incredibly valuable. In today’s competitive marketplace, you need a résumé that shows some experience already in the industry to even get an interview for an entry-level position.”
For this month’s BIGMPG Index, Professor Denning will discuss the value of the internship experience for both students and employers, offering up a bit of advice to both parties, for making sure they are the unique, career launching experiences that they should be.
The Value of the Internship Experience for Both Students and Employers
In a perfect world all internships would be paid and lead to employment. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While some employers do offer minimum wage or stipends to their interns, employers can legally “hire” interns without paying them as long as the experience meets the criteria laid out by the US Department of Labor.
When I first started my position at Pace over 10 years ago, internships as we know them today were not as common, and if there were these types of opportunities, they usually included a modest stipend. Today both employers and academic institutions across the country realize the incredible value of the intern and the internship experience. The expectations of employers are that students fresh out of college come equipped with resumes that include relevant work experience in the form or one or two (or three) internships.
For employers, it is a wonderful way to tap into potential employees who come with an outstanding skill set; something that is invaluable in this age of rapid technological change. Today’s college students have remarkable computer and social networking abilities, as well as strong writing and analytical skills. Due to the huge amount of applications that employers often receive for internship positions, they can cherry pick from the most prestigious universities’ best and brightest, in both the US and abroad.
For students, working as an intern can open the door for potential employment, provide excellent networking opportunities, allow them to develop a specific skill set for and knowledge about their intended career and provide them with an excellent academic experience—something that I personally think is important and essential. Building one’s resume while an undergraduate or graduate student is a very smart thing to do and a lot of companies out there are looking for qualified interns.
My time working with both students and employers has shown me just how rewarding and valuable the experience can be for all parties. As a Professor, I love to see my students embarking upon their internships as novices and emerging at the end of the semester with the wisdom that can only come from applying all of that textbook knowledge they have worked so hard at, in the real world. From employers, I am often pleased to hear about the wonderful contributions an intern has made to an organization and how much they enjoyed mentoring and working with them. I always tell my students to look around the office at the people they are working with as many of them just might be colleagues of theirs in the not too distant future.
In order to make the internship experience a valuable one, I have some advice to offer up to both students and employers. I hope you find it helpful!
1.) Make sure your internship (or at least one of them) is tied to an academic experience and that you receive credit for the experience. Most departments have a course in the curriculum that allow students to intern for credit and if they don’t, see if you can work with a Professor you admire to act as your advisor in an independent study course. Working with a Professor will allow you to maximize the experience and provide you with someone to turn to if you need help with any aspect of your internship (for instance, you spend most of your time getting coffee for your boss—not acceptable). In addition, your Professor will most likely require you to write some kind of paper about the experience or some aspect of the field you are interning in. If you want to keep building your resume and gain even more experience, you can always do more than one internship —they don’t all have to be tied to an academic course.
2.) Have a great resume and write an excellent cover letter. Read internship descriptions and postings carefully and prepare your resume and cover letter accordingly. Use key words and phrases from the description—tell employers that you have what they are looking for. Be sure to take advantage of any advice and assistance you can get from your university. Go to workshops offered by your career services office, ask professors with whom you have good relationships to review your resume and cover letter and ask your friends to proof your resume. You should also have more than one version of your resume—one size does not fit all. You can have all of the basic information organized in a standard format but if you are applying for a design position for example, you might want to showcase your design skills in your actual resume (be careful to not go too overboard with this however). In addition, employers are starting to ask for more than just a resume, so look for tools and services that your university might provide (Pace provides ePortfolios for all students and faculty).
3.) Once you secure an internship, give it your absolute best. Remember that you are an intern and there to learn—not to run the company. What this means is that your internship might start out a little slow—your employer might want to familiarize you with the office, the job, procedure and forms, your boss. Filing, photo-copying, and answering phones are all part of internships (and all entry level jobs) so do your best to maximize the experience. Take a look at the documents you are filing, take note of who is calling and act professionally at all times. While you absolutely should not be getting coffee or picking up your employers dry cleaning, don’t act like packing boxes for shipment is beneath you—it’s not. That said, you need to communicate with your employer, and they with you, throughout the experience. In your interview and initial meetings once you are hired, ask what type of projects you can expect to be working on and be proactive. If you have finished all the work they have assigned you, let them know you are available. It is also important to find out (during your interview) if they offer any “lunch and learn” type meetings for interns or any other kind of mentoring or networking opportunities.
4.) Understand that not all, in fact very few, internships are paid. That said, it never hurts to ask in your initial interview if there might be the possibility of an hourly wage, a travel and lunch stipend or some kind of honorarium at the end of the experience. If the answer is no, be sure to focus on the internship’s benefits: a great experience to put on your resume, a chance to network and meet key industry professionals, possibly some writing samples that are credited to you, a chance to learn about your future career from the inside and possibly entry into the company. Towards the middle of your internship, ask to meet with your supervisor to get some feedback on the work you are doing. It is also important to discuss your departure from the position (you want to do that professionally) or the possibility of staying on longer. You should also schedule a meeting with HR (if the company is big enough) to discuss possible future employment and to share your experience with them. Take full advantage of the opportunity!
1.) While the internship does not have to be tied directly to an academic experience, it is a great idea to seek out students from universities that offer programs and degrees that relate to your specific business. Students look for internships all year long – fall, spring and summer. Universities can be great feeders for you and serve as a filter in terms of the quality of the candidates you consider. Go to university webpages and look to see if they have a career services office – typically they serve the needs of the entire student population in terms of resume writing, interviewing and job boards. If you are interested in posting a position, this is a great place to start. Another way to reach out is to look at the webpage of a specific degree and see if they offer an internship course, have someone who directs an internship program or to get the name of the Chair of the department. Send out an email and inquire if they would like to place students with your company.
2.) Write and post excellent descriptions of the positions you are looking to fill. This will help you filter candidates even before you receive any applications—for example if you need your candidate to be proficient with In-Design or Excel Spreadsheets, list that as one of your hiring criteria. Look for well written resumes and cover letters. These documents are your initial introduction to your intern and can tell you a lot about the candidate you are considering interviewing. Is it well-organized? Well written? Well designed? Does is showcase the skills and accomplishments of the candidate and does his or her skill set match your needs? Is the cover letter good? This is especially important if part of your intern’s responsibilities include writing letters and company documents.
3.) Treat your internship with respect and remember that this is a learning opportunity (see link above to government guidelines) for the student. If possible, meet with your intern(s) on a regular basis, invite them to sit in on important meetings, talk to them about specific projects and answer questions they might have. Be a good mentor and try to fully utilize the talents that the intern has to offer. Have them assist other employees with key tasks so that they are exposed to the talents of your other employees—this is the best way to learn. Let them work independently once they develop an understanding of the procedures and goals of your company. While they are not to be used in positions that would displace regular employees, they can absolutely be of assistance on important work. Just remember that it requires you to supervise them closely and that they might make mistakes.
4.) Most students understand that internships these days are typically unpaid. If that is the case with your company, make that clear but be sure to let the student know what they will be getting from the experience: an opportunity to network with key industry professionals, to learn a new computer program, to get their name on some piece of writing, to assist in a project that is directly related to their career goals, an opportunity to attend meetings, conferences, lunches, and direct guidance from their supervisor. If their internship is tied to an academic experience, find out if they have to write a paper about some aspect of the business and offer to serve as a source for them. If you can offer some sort of stipend for lunch or travel expenses, that is always a nice thing to do. Also be up front with them about potential employment opportunities—if that is a possibility, let them know, if you are not planning on or are not in a position to expand your staff in the near future, let them know that too. Lastly, be sure to communicate with your intern on a regular basis—they might want to stay on for a second semester or might be able to recommend one of their classmates. Lastly, embrace the chance to impact these young lives as others have yours, it is very rewarding to guide and mentor bright, aspiring students.
In closing, I am a big believer that an internship can be a rewarding experience for both students and employers. My final words of advice would be for employers to take their role in training interns and as mentors seriously and for students to give their absolute best to their employers. The benefits for all are far reaching and rewarding.
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