NACE Journal, November 2017
This article is the companion to “Starting and Maintaining a Successful Internship Office.”
Relationships are the key to—and the foundation for—a successful office, but there is a lot of “heavy lifting” involved in actually setting up a new internship office.
All in all, it took four months to make the office operational, to get my first intern out the door and into an experience. I used that time to conduct research; meet with constituents; and develop procedures and processes, relevant documents, and a paperwork protocol. Here is an approach that you can model:
- Lay out a mission and vision for the office: This was my first plan of action; everything flows from and is measured against these. It is important to note that my office’s mission and vision align with the school’s mission and vision.
- Understand the parameters: I consulted with the vice president of academic affairs, vice president of student affairs, director of career services, director of online courses, and my school’s legal counsel. All of these individuals were instrumental in providing guidelines and suggestions related to the development and implementation of policies and procedures that coincide with the scope of my work and with my school’s strategic focus on community engagement.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel: I arranged to meet with my counterpart at another local community college, and found her advice and guidance extremely helpful. I consulted with several colleagues at my school who coordinate internships for students in specific academic/content areas. I also did research via the web to gain insight into experiential learning and internship offices, and looked for best practices that I could apply. And, I looked at my own experience in prior roles to develop a process that would be practical for students and employers.
- Get the word out to students: This is the biggest challenge I face, and requires ongoing effort. As a start, I met with our marketing and communications department to develop a series of web pages devoted strictly to the office. The pages include a list of available internships that is updated daily, an employer application, a student application, our “Intern of the Month” feature (a great way to give recognition to the student and employer alike), student testimonials, and more. Periodically, the link to our available internships page is included in the college’s daily announcement e-mail, which goes to faculty and staff. In addition, I sometimes e-mail specific internship opportunities directly to faculty.
I also conduct classroom presentations for students about the value of internships and the procedures related to the office, and create and post informational flyers on our college’s two campuses.
Finally, word-of-mouth referrals from my former student interns also help push the message about the office to students.
- Get the word out to employers: Fortunately, I do very little soliciting of employers; the need for and interest in interns in our geographic location is great, and I receive e-mails and phone calls from employers on a daily basis. Much of the office’s success comes down to the fact that we enjoy a lot of “repeat” business; feedback shows that employers that work with our office value the structure and the thought and care we put into the relationship. An added benefit to that: Our employers also make referrals for us, sharing their experience with other employers that then reach out to our office. Faculty members also refer employers on occasion.
Of course, we do not rely solely on repeats and referrals. I also meet with employers at the career fairs that our career services office hosts twice a year, and serve on various advisory boards, where I connect with local employers. Finally, for some of the highly specialized programs of study, I “cold call” relevant employers.