Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Your internship – when it’s all said and done…or nearly so

Information abounds from our office about how to find potential internship sites and opportunities, how to apply for internships by constructing targeted resumes and crafting convincing cover letters, how to thoughtfully prepare for interviews, and what to do when you get an offer or receive a rejection. If you haven’t found it yet, look around.  There are TIP sheets and webshops and a host of other resources on both the Career Services webpage and within JobCenter.  Need help?  Come in and ask.

But today, I want to spend some time on another best practice for student interns – finishing well.

What did you learn?

… about your work habits and attitudes and those of others?

… about company culture?

… about skills you need to acquire and/or hone?

… about the connection of your studies to work, industries, jobs, etc.?

Along the way you likely have been reflecting on questions like these in your internship journal. As you near the end of your internship assignment, you are encouraged to review that journal and put together a summary of your reflections. This summary will be particularly helpful in isolating key items you might wish to later share in résumés, cover letters, personal statements, and interviews for jobs and/or graduate school.

Your summary could include:

  • Comments on the progress of the goals you set for yourself prior to your internship.
  • The personal or professional challenges you have encountered while interning that you may not have been anticipated.
  • A description of any new behaviors, interests or changes that you have adopted as a result of working in a professional setting.
  • “Light bulb” moments. You know what I’m talking about… those moments of inspiration, revelation, or recognition when you made a connection between what you are studying and what you are now doing.  Or the whack to the head “V-8 juice response” you give yourself when suddenly it all becomes crystal clear and your way of thinking/behaving personally or professionally changes forever.

Finishing Well

More than likely your supervisor will conduct an evaluation of your performance and discuss it with you as you near the end of your internship assignment.  If not, ask for this feedback.  You also will want to secure a letter of recommendation and/or a willingness to act as a reference for you.  You may even want to discuss at the time what might be some key aspects of the recommendation.

Express appreciation to everyone that assisted you in this learning experience.  Such thoughtfulness rarely goes unnoticed. Meaningful expressions of thanks, whether hand-written or otherwise, for the time and energy someone invested in you says speaks volumes. Don’t delay in doing this!

Keep in touch with those who have now become part of your network. Keep them posted on new developments with respect to your continuing education and /or job search. Let them know of your success and don’t forget to inquire about and/or recognize theirs. Share interesting articles or insights on work-related topics. Invite their input into your professional development.

~Sharon Givler, director of career services

Jocelyn Says: Get Your Foot in the Door by Job Shadowing

You may remember from my last blog entry the importance of researching companies you are interested in as one of the first steps to finding an internship. But, what do you do once you have an idea of where you want to go? How do you get an “in” with a potential internship site?

For me, the first step was to send a letter of introduction to the organization. I searched the company’s website for contact information and sent my letter via email. Of course, this was not a five page essay about my goals and interests, but rather a short paragraph. I explained that I was emailing because I wanted to learn more about existing careers in the organization. I gave a brief description of my relevant experiences and included details from their website that emphasized why their particular company stood out to me. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I concluded the letter by requesting a day of job shadowing.

When I pushed the send button I was nervous. I knew the organization did not have to accept my request and could just as easily deny it. However, three days later the president of the organization replied explaining that they would be happy to help. He provided me with a list of days to choose from and highly recommended that I spend an entire day. He also requested that I provide him with a list of what I hoped to gain from the experience so that he could plan the day accordingly to ensure that I found it worthwhile.

My day of shadowing can be broken into three parts: an informational interview, tour/meet and greet, and assisting an employee with a project.

  • During the interview I had the chance to speak with the president of the organization who answered many of my questions regarding management and responsibilities.
  • While on the tour I was able to meet each employee in the office and speak with them. This opportunity introduced me to the array of jobs existing in the organization and allowed me to seek advice as to how to better prepare myself for a similar career.
  • The final hour of my job shadowing experience allowed me to assist with a project. I was able to actually see myself fitting into the organization; this was a huge confidence boost!

The best part came at the end of my day when the president talked to me briefly about my experience there. He prompted me to consider what I had learned, what I enjoyed, and what I did not like. Before I left, he encouraged me to send a copy of my resume to his office that he would keep on file to consider when they began accepting internship applications.

I left my day of shadowing feeling more confident about the career path I am pursuing. I had gained a better understanding of what I would be faced with as well as the overall work environment. The experience has helped me more confidently articulate what I am looking for in a job, what I want to do as a career, and what type of organizations may be a good “fit.” I made sure to send a thank you note and a copy of my resume the next day and have since kept in touch with the contacts I made.

Although introducing yourself to a brand new person and making a request to job shadow may be out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend taking the risk. After all, how do you know if you will actually enjoy a certain career if you’ve never set foot in the building?

J

Jocelyn Davis ’15, Career Services Student Assistant

Exploration, Part 2: Focusing your Efforts

Last week, I introduced the career planning model geared toward freshmen and sophomore students in Exploration, Part 1: Drawing Connections.  In the early stages of career planning, you often find yourself exploring a broad array of interests and corresponding careers.  You hopefully begin to see patterns, enabling you to hone in more specifically on a few possible career paths.  But you still may be unsure of how to actually get yourself from point A –> having identified possibilities…to point B -> transitioning to your first post-graduate opportunity.

Now it’s time to dig deeper in your exploration.  Investigate these paths more fully and be intentional about gaining experience that will set you up for more promising employment or graduate school leads.  In the second phase of our office’s career planning model, students are encouraged to utilize resources & activities to help you:

Career Planning Model 2

As you work through the resources and exercises, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding what employers and graduate schools are looking for.  When constructing your documents (resumes, cover letters, graduate school essays, LinkedIn profiles, etc) and preparing to talk with hiring or admissions professionals (informational interviews, networking events, interviews, etc), you’ll be expected to articulate what you can contribute to their organization/program.  The only way to do that successfully is to know what they value and how you fit into their bigger picture!

First, gain a broad understanding of the world of work by researching the expectations of employers.  Use this information as motivation to begin developing certain skills, or as affirmation that you are on the right track.  Then, delve into what specific industries look for and expect; read industry journals and explore professional associations of potential career fields.  This will give you greater knowledge of expectations while also helping to clarify further whether or not it is a field you want to continue pursuing.  From there, begin identifying specific companies or programs and research their criteria and preferred qualifications of successful candidates.  By working through these tiers of exploration and investigation, you’ll be more fully prepared and confident as you make your transition into employment or grad school.

You may be overwhelmed with all of the information in these career planning models, and that’s ok!  The key is to break things down into manageable pieces so that you can fully explore your options and feel confident in the decisions you make regarding your career planning.  For a real-life example of a student who has put many of these suggestions into practice, tune in next week to read Jocelyn Davis’ post on exploring careers through job shadowing.

Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

Exploration, Part 1: Drawing Connections

Whether an underclassman meets with us to begin a dialogue about their future, or a junior starts to articulate interests while embarking upon an internship search, or a senior is looking for advice to really target a job or graduate school, exploration is often at the heart of students’ meeting requests with Career Services.  We love to engage students in conversations to help you draw out skills, interests, values, and goals, all while hoping to spark excitement toward investigating what’s out there in the world of work.

This week and next, I’d like to discuss the idea of exploration from two angles:

  • drawing connections between interests and potential careers or majors;
  • delving deeper into more specific professions/industries to help transition to the workplace.

Our office uses a model to help guide students through many elements of career planning.  The first half encourages students to utilize electronic, printed, and human sources of information to begin exploring how ones interests and strengths might relate to college majors and future career fields.  Although it’s geared toward freshmen and sophomores, the resources suggested can be applicable to anyone’s stage of career development.

Career Planning Model 1

One key component that is absolutely necessary to anyone’s exploration is talking to other people!  Whether you’re questioning what major is right for you, or wondering what you could possibly do with a degree in ______, or you’re interested in learning how certain occupations function within different industries, asking individuals who know about the topic is one of the most effective means of gaining valuable information.

So, go through the suggested resources for exploring your options and investigating potential careers…and then talk to someone about what you’re discovering!  And when I say talk to someone, I don’t mean go ask someone else what you should do.  Instead, arm yourself with knowledge, draw connections between what you’re learning and your own interests and goals, and ask others to clarify, offer perspective, or discuss ideas with you that you haven’t thought of.  The discoveries along the way will be worth the effort.

Next week’s blog will look at the next components of the career planning model to offer suggestions and advice on delving deeper into more specific professions/industries as you begin to engage in a job or internship search.  Stay tuned!

~Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

What about Graduate School?

This week’s post is in response to a few common questions surrounding the decision to pursue graduate school and the application process that students will want to consider.

Should I attend? Now or later?

That depends. If you are thinking of attending graduate school because you don’t know what else to do, because you are avoiding the job search, or you are generally unsure of your career goals, then you probably are not pursuing an advanced degree for the right reasons.

In college, the major you pursue offers a broad introduction to a field of study.  In graduate school you will specialize and narrow your focus for study and research.  Thus, the study of biology becomes the study of plant sciences, neurobiology, bioethics, physiology, animal science, etc; the study of psychology becomes the study of child & human development; clinical psychology, organizational psychology, applied behavior analysis, or psychoanalysis; the study of English becomes the study of writing, linguistics, literature, or humanities.  Not knowing the specialization you are seeking may be a good indication you are not ready to begin graduate study.

While many LVC graduates express appreciation for the way in which their undergraduate education prepared them for the rigors of graduate school, make no mistake. The level of academic commitment, not to mention the expense, is considerable. Whether you begin graduate school immediately after college or wait several years is a personal decision. Research indicates that up to half of grad students are over age 30, so taking time off is not unusual. The important thing is to be ready for the challenges and commitments a graduate program brings.

Can I switch fields and go to graduate school in a different area?

Absolutely!  But be prepared to demonstrate how your interests, preparation, career goals, experiences, and skills make you a good candidate. Graduate schools, just like employers, are looking for candidates that are the right fit, so spend some time getting to know the programs and schools that interest you.  In your application, essay, and interview make the connections between your experiences and the goals of the program/school.

What do graduate schools want?

Graduate schools want to enhance the reputation of their school and program. Therefore, they want students that will finish the program, excel in their studies, and have the capacity to become important researchers and leaders in their field.

I won’t pretend to know what every admissions committee wants. But I can say that GPA, scores on graduate entrance exams, recommendation letters, and your personal statement are universally important.  Tara Kuther, Ph.D. does an excellent job of sharing how and why these criteria play such an important part in admission decisions. Read about it in the Graduate School section of About.com.

What do I need to know about letters of recommendation?

An effective recommendation letter is written by persons who can discuss your skills and abilities, personal characteristics, and leadership strengths. These individuals also will need to evaluate your present academic performance and potential to succeed in the field and in the program to which you are applying.

First, be sure the persons you ask to write these letters are willing to write a positive letter that supports your candidacy. And, when I say “ask” I mean “ask in person.” This is not the time to send a quick e-mail!  Rather, make an appointment to discuss your graduate school plans; don’t wait to the last minute, and be certain to provide them with materials that will enable them to write an informed letter. This includes items such as your transcript, essay, resume, and research abstracts.  You also might want to include honors or awards you’ve received, relevant work and/or volunteer experience, and a description of your professional goals.

Finally…

…a word about graduate school entrance exams. Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions does an excellent job preparing students for exams such as the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, etc.  Find out about the FREE online practice test dates/times and register for them HERE.

More information on graduate school planning can be found on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website. Also, the articles written by Tara Kuther, Ph.D., found in the About.com Guide to Graduate School are worth perusing and reading.

Sharon Givler, director, career services

Jocelyn Says: The Worst Thing You Can Do is Nothing

As promised, the Blog will feature a monthly topic written by Jocelyn Davis ’15, one of our fabulous student staff members.  Jocelyn is pursuing her degree in English Communications with a minor in Business Administration here at LVC.  This is her second year working in our office and it’s been a joy to watch as she enthusiastically pursues her goals and takes on any challenges that come her way.  For her first post, Jocelyn is sharing how she pursued her summer internship.

When I was 14 I started working at a Hallmark store in my hometown. Yes, it was a job (and more importantly) yes, it was money, but at the start of my sophomore year I decided it was time for a change. I wanted to spend the following summer at a job that actually applied to my major; somewhere I could utilize and further develop the skills I was learning in my classes. So, I made it my goal to secure an internship for the summer of 2013.

But how would I go about getting an internship? What would I need? Where would I apply? Was I even qualified? After the initial moment of panic and trying to talk myself out of taking the next step, I started with the basics: research local companies of interest, write a resume, and create a portfolio.

First, I needed to identify possible internships. This was important because I had no idea where to send my resume or portfolio and I knew that my documents would need to be adjusted for each organization.  I started checking my JobCenter account regularly for updated postings and also researched local companies that fit my interests to see if they offered internships. By having an idea of where I wanted to get involved, I was able to make my goal more concrete.

Next, the resume, which I will admit was a little overwhelming. I sat in front of my laptop with a list of accomplishments, classes that I have taken, and the two semi-relevant experiences I have had in the past—but wrote nothing. I was stuck. My advice? Do not waste your time. Once you have your ideas together schedule an appointment with Career Services or meet with your internship advisor (both wouldn’t hurt!). They have been in your shoes and know the in’s and out’s of writing a resume.

Then, the portfolio; basically a collection of everything you have ever done that you want to show to a potential employer. The main issue I ran into with this is that most of my work was digital: blogs, digital stories, online news articles. My solution? If everything else is digital, why not make the portfolio digital? I used weebly.com, a free website creator. You can link buttons on your personal website directly to the source where your work is posted so your potential employer does not have to search for each individual entry. If you need an example you can visit my site http://www.jocelyndavis.weebly.com

These are just a few of the steps I took at the beginning of my sophomore year to meet my goal and I hope you find them helpful as you begin taking your first steps toward an internship. Remember, the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Good luck!

J

Jocelyn Davis, ’15

CareerServices- Student Assistant

225 million professionals…One site

If you’ve walked past the Center for Student Engagement in Mund College Center recently, you’ve hopefully noticed the large bulletin board that asks “Are you…LinkedIn”?  Perhaps you’ve dismissed it, thinking that you don’t need one more thing to manage; or, perhaps you’ve wandered by thinking “I’ll definitely create an account once I graduate and have information to include.”  In both instances, I’d encourage you to take another look.

Students can, and should, become active on LinkedIn, the well-known professional networking site that is 225 million strong.  According to What Every College Student Should Post on LinkedIn, students should include information about their coursework and extra-curriculars, as well as their schoolwork and projects.  Asking professors to write brief recommendations for you can also be a great way to highlight your accomplishments in the classroom.

There are plenty of resources available for students interested in expanding their network, including:

We would certainly encourage you to review these resources and seriously consider creating an account.  However, once you do, commit yourself to keeping it up-to date, using it as a research tool of companies, industries, and professionals, and becoming engaged through groups and discussions.  By the way, once you have an account, you can also join groups that you’re interested in, including the Lebanon Valley College Professional Network that connects over 1500 alumni, students, and employees of the College!

Lastly, SimplyHired offers a recent Blog post that encourages taking your use of LinkedIn one step further: Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn in Your Job Search, which includes tips on discovering career paths, researching people and following companies, and using it to develop skills and read the latest industry news.

Still not convinced to create a LinkedIn account?  According to the article above, What Every College Student Should Post on LinkedIn, “social professional networks are the fastest growing source of quality hires.”

So…Are you LinkedIn?  If not, why not?!

~Gwen Miller, associate director of career services

Make the Choice to Read Job Choices

Among many traits that employers look for in ideal candidates, resourcefulness and an inquisitive approach to problem-solving are right up there.  Learning about the latest trends and resources, as well as staying current on the competition, are important to many organizations for success.  Students should take a similar approach to career planning and the internship/job search!

Each month, the Career Services Blog will spotlight a few of the tools and tips that we believe are valuable.  This month, I’m encouraging you to get acquainted with the digital Job Choices magazine, accessible on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website.

Why? Because you can be assured that these online magazines, compiled and distributed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, contain oodles of relevant articles and information for your job or internship search.  Published annually, each magazine – Job Choices and Job Choices, Diversity Edition – covers information from rights and responsibilities of job seekers, to social media, to graduate school or first years on the job.  Take a look at the contents page of the Job Choices edition:

Job Choices picture

 

If that doesn’t inspire you to take a look, maybe the opportunity to win $500 by taking a Reader Poll will (details on page 5 of the magazine).  Two LVC students have won within the past several years…maybe your resourcefulness will also be rewarded!

*Note: Even if you don’t win the $500, can we agree that resourcefulness for resourcefulness’s sake is generally a reward in and of itself?  I think so!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Experience Counts

Internships are a vital part of the collegiate experience, intended to help develop the work habits, attitudes, and skills needed to begin your career. They enable you to build your network of professional contacts, explore career options, apply classroom theory/concepts, become acquainted with company culture, and make a contribution to the organization that mentors you.  Sound a tad daunting?  Read on!

It’s never too early to start thinking about internships. In fact, lack of planning may prevent you from getting the experience you want. All students (including freshmen!) would be wise to acquaint themselves with the steps to find, secure, and make the most of an internship experience.  The Career TIP Sheet – Best Practices for Student Interns – or our weekly internship tutorials, where you will be given a workbook offering practical advice on topics of importance surrounding the full internship experience, would be great places to start.

Before, during, and following:

It can easily seem as though the most difficult stage of being an intern takes place long before your first day – as you search and apply to, interview for, and ultimately are selected for a position!  Career Services has oodles of resources to help you uncover leads, compose your resume and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.  Consider watching the Creating a Resume webshop and reading the Telling Your Story (interviewing) TIP Sheet.  These, along with other resources can help you make a professional first impression at events like the Capital Region Internship Fair (an annual fall event – held this year on October 1st).

Landing the position, however, is only a fraction of what it takes to create a quality experience.  Setting goals as part of your pre-internship planning will help you identify opportunities that match your interests and needs.  Thoughtful goal setting will also help you articulate what you hope to learn to your supervisors; maintaining regular communication about expectations and assignments is vital too.  Ask for feedback frequently and keep a journal to track and reflect upon your activities.  Nearing the end of your experience, make plans for maintaining your new network and practice telling others about your internship.

Making the unobtainable, obtainable!

Perhaps you’ve been thinking an internship at the Smithsonian would give your resume the boost it needs.  Or, maybe interning in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, NYC, Nashville, London, or Rome would surround you with professionals in the industry you hope to enter upon graduation.  “Sounds great,” you say, “but how will I afford it?”

The Edward H. Arnold and Jean Donlevy Arnold Internship Grants were created to remove financial impediments and help students pursue previously inconsiderable internships. Examples may include underpaid internship experiences within the United States or assistance with an international opportunity. Preference is given to proposals that show cost-intensive, unique, transformative experiences, and provide students the opportunity to have internships out of the local area.  Learn more HERE.

So, how about it?  Will you hone your strengths, make a contribution, build your network, and improve your chances for a bright future with an internship?

~Sharon Givler, director of career services

Ready or not…Fall is here!

WELCOME TO (or back to) LVC!

I love the beginning of the semester.  The energy and excitement of having students back on campus is a welcome change from the summer mode of planning and preparing for the upcoming year.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Fall is my favorite season… :)

Before I go any further, it occurs to me that you may not know who I am, or who makes up the Career Services staff.  I’m Gwen Miller, associate director of the office, joined by Sharon Givler, director, and Sue Donmoyer, assistant.  Plus our fabulous student staff – Mel Modrick ’14 and Jocelyn Davis ’15.  Want to know more about us? http://www.lvc.edu/career-services/about.aspx.

Now that that’s out of the way…. we understand how busy students are these first few weeks.  This first posting is to encourage you to start the year out with intentional foresight and thought for your exploration, or planning for career or graduate school pursuits.  Put things on your calendar and set reminders on your phone for events that are coming soon.  (The Reminders and Notes apps are my FAVORITES – but you may find that the student handbook becomes your best friend for its calendar/planner.)  This isn’t advice meant only for first year students, even upperclassmen sometimes need a gentle reminder that advanced planning is key if you don’t want to miss out!

To give you an idea of how the Blog is intended to help you – we’ll be offering new posts each Wednesday, with a weekly focus on:

  • Career/Internships/Grad School planning – 1st Wednesday
  • Resources we’d like to highlight – 2nd Wednesday
  • Advice on preparing for the job search – 3rd Wednesday
  • Reflections from one of our student staff members, Jocelyn Davis – 4th Wednesday

Hopefully you’ll add the Blog to your regularly visited websites!  By the way, if you’ve been a reader for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that the Blog has an updated look this year!

That’s probably enough for the opening post, right?  Please stop in and see us to share your summer successes, make an appointment to meet with us about your future plans, or, if nothing else, avail yourself of our many, many, many online resources – it’s like having your own personal career coach, 24/7!

~Gwen Miller, associate director of career services