August 01, 2016 | By Jeanine Dames
NACE Journal, August 2016
There is a concerning trend emerging in the area of undergraduate recruiting for internships and post-graduate employment. Years ago, organizations hired students for full-time opportunities a few months before their graduation. In the past two decades, there has been a shift among large, private-sector organizations to use summer internship experiences as potential feeder programs into full-time opportunities. Those internship programs primarily targeted undergraduate juniors and recruited students in the spring of their junior year for summer positions to start a few months later. In preparation for those interviews, organizations would start approaching students to educate them about the positions in the fall of the junior year.
Fast forward to fall 2015, when we started to see recruiting for summer internship programs creep back from the spring of junior year into the fall of junior year. This may seem like a small modification, but when we consider the student’s point of view, it is a significant change.
Students interested in these opportunities now must start to prepare in their sophomore year or even earlier. Many of the introductory, educational meetings about these opportunities will now be hosted in the spring of a student’s sophomore year, more than 12 months before the actual summer internship and more than two years before the student would be available to undertake a full-time position with the employer. In spring 2016, we started to see freshmen being targeted for these positions. At many schools, such students have not even declared their major yet. Is this change in the timeline in the best interest of our students?
The question needs to be answered by each school individually based on their student population; however, in my opinion, I believe this shift is wrought with problems. Of primary concern is that sophomores are still learning about themselves and their academic interests. There are certainly some career-focused students who know the area they hope to pursue after graduation, but the majority are still exploring, and this is a critical time for career exploration. Is it in the best interest of our students to eliminate this exploration phase?
At my university, approximately 30 percent of the undergraduates start their careers with a nonprofit organization, NGO, or government or other public agency; I worry that our students will not have time to learn about these options before having to apply for early deadlines in the private sector. The public sector will continue to have a longer and later hiring process, and with the pressure to interview and accept positions earlier, many students may not even apply for opportunities with the government or nonprofit organizations. Is this in the best interest of our students?
The role of a career office is to educate students about all their career options and enable them to pursue any opportunity. I believe the ultimate road they choose is entirely up to the students, without our judgment. As recruiting timelines in the private sector move earlier, students interested in those opportunities will be disadvantaged if they do not apply early. As a career office, we should help them along that process. However, we also have an obligation to preserve a student’s opportunity to explore careers in the public sector and public interest.
For many years, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has maintained a very successful public service/public interest exception used by law schools and the legal industry. (See NALP Principles & Standards, Part V.B.2 & C.2.) In the late spring of 2016, Yale’s Office of Career Strategy adopted a similar policy stating:
The Office of Career Strategy has implemented a policy in which Yale students may request that a for-profit employer extend the deadline to accept the employer's offer until as late as April 1 if the candidate is actively pursuing positions with public interest, government organizations, or a national fellowship award. Candidates may hold open only one offer in such circumstances.
In the first few weeks of this new policy, 79 percent of the employers posting a job agreed to grant this extension if requested by a student. The Office of Career Strategy has shared with our students a list of employers that grant this extension.
Yale is proud to take a stand to protect the rights of our students to take the time to learn about their options. As we witness earlier recruiting, I encourage other career offices to consider something similar. Let us preserve the educational opportunity for these young adults to explore.
That is in the best interest of our students.
NACE welcomes comments and opinions. Contact Mimi Collins, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeanine Dames is the director of the Office of Career Strategy at Yale University and is an associate dean in Yale College. Dames joined the Office of Career Strategy in the fall of 2011 after serving as a director in the Career Development Office at Yale Law School, and as a senior associate director in the Career Development Office at the Yale School of Management. Prior to joining Yale, she worked in career services at both Fordham University School of Law and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Before transitioning to career services, Dames was an attorney, practicing in real estate and environmental law in New York and Connecticut. She also served as pro bono legal counsel for South Brooklyn Legal Services. Dames has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law.
Median number of career center staff
Median number of students to professional staff
Percent of career centers that provide internship assistance
# of organizations participating in career fairs (median)
Median operating budget for career center
2016-17 Career Services Benchmark Survey