Category Archives: career exploration

Life’s Reality Check for Students


success-really-looks-likeCharles Sykes lists eleven things you did not learn in school and directed these eleven rules at high school and college grads in the book “Dumbing Down our Kids” by educator Charles Sykes.

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Rule 2: The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters.. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Before you choose a career, Choose to be a Linchpin


Linchpin by Seth GodinSeth Godin published a book in 2010 called Linchpin which quickly became popular. This article is dedicated to his teachings from the book – mostly quotes from the book. I encourage any high school student to buy the book and read it. If you are a parent of a student, read it. If you work in the home or outside the home, read it.

In the book, Godin positions work by first stating “The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.

On the other hand, your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo of your own work, and influencing change in people and processes to achieve goals.

Godin shifts our perspective. He calls the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.  The job is not the work.”

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? Godin states that he doesn’t think it has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo of their work. And an artist takes personal responsibility.

That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artist, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.

Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artist, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artist because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.

The secret to being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.

Here’s the truth you have to wrestle with: the reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can’t tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there would be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map.

The dimension of work that has a map isn’t where your art is applied. Your art is applied where the map stops.

Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.

If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.

At the age of four, you were an artist. And at seven, you were a poet.

The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry. The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.

A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain.

The only correct answer to ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is ‘Because it’s lizard brain told it to.’ Wild animals are wild because the only brain they posses is a lizard brain.

The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.

Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone. When your uncomfortable actions lead to success, the organization rewards you and brings you back for more.

If you need to conceal your true nature to get in the door, understand that you’ll probably have to conceal your true nature to keep that job.

Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.

…Treasure what it means to do a day’s work. It’s our one and only chance to do something productive today, and it’s certainly not available to someone merely because he is the high bidder.

A day’s work is your chance to do art, to create a gift, to do something that matters. As your work gets better and your art becomes more important, competition for your gifts will increase and you’ll discover that you can be choosier about whom you give them to.

The competitive advantages the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected, and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotiating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion. All of these attributes are choices, not talents, and all of them are available to you.

The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.

The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.

As our society gets more complex and our people get more complacent, the role of the jester is more vital than ever before. Please stop sitting around. We need you to make a ruckus.

You cannot create a piece of art merely for money. Doing it as part of commerce so denudes art of wonder that it ceases to be art.

…the greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce. To create solutions and hustle them out the door. To touch the humanity inside and connect to the humans in the marketplace.

Not only must you be an artist, must you be generous, and must you be able to see where you can help but you must also be aware. Aware of where your skills are welcomed.

When you set down the path to create art, whatever sort of art it is, understand that the path is neither short nor easy. That means you must determine if the route is worth the effort. If it’s not, dream bigger.

I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.

The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.

A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.

If you can’t be remarkable, perhaps you should consider doing nothing until you can.

The reason you might choose to embrace the artist within you now is that this is the path to (cue the ironic music) security.


Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving businesses ranging from Fortune 100 multi-national corporations to small family-owned businesses. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that really works. Professional-grade assessments and co-directed career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892 or submit an inquiry here:

Should Career Coaching Be Mandatory Curriculum Like Math and English in High School?


Better Career Planning Better LifeWe receive incredibly positive feedback from clients, those parents AND students, that experience the Career Coaching for Students program. We also consistently hear the same comment: “this needs to be mandatory in high school.”

When we talk to school counselors or administrators, we’re told they are adequately addressing career development.  Using the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Career Development for Career Development as a guidepost,  we find defined requirements for Middle School (7th – 8th grade) and High School (11th – 12th grade).

In middle school, it appears from the TEKS Career Development regulations that the middle school requirements “resemble” the Career Coaching for Students™ program which enables the student to move on to the TEKS high school requirements. Neither are mandatory, only recommended. However, we strongly believe 7th graders are not prepared or capable of gaining enough value from the middle school recommended focus, especially assessments for career matching. Generally speaking, focusing on career exploration in middle school is a great start and appropriate. Assessing students at that age may not be a good idea and will likely create more confusion than value, especially considering the assessments most middle schools may be using. However, providing a portal of high-quality career exploration links for middle students to learn about different careers can energize students. But every high school student we have in our program says the same thing, “I never received anything like this in school” and “I don’t remember anything from what we did in middle school.”

Talking with Career Development Directors in Texas, we hear a consistent statement, “The Career Coaching for Students program is exactly what we need in high school. If I could, I’d leave the Kuder program to middle school level and make Career Coaching for Students™ the standard curriculum for high school students starting in 9th grade.”

We have found the following formula for career development curriculum is very powerful:

Middle School – Use our Student Resource Central web portal of career and education exploration. Create a lesson plan that takes the student through career exploration TEKS requirements using Student Resource Central.

High School – Implement a four-year career development curriculum that starts at the beginning of 9th grade, and uses the Career Coaching for Students program as the foundation. Train all counselors in the use of the program. Train teachers who are passionate about career exploration to deliver the curriculum.

So, here are some pros and cons for implementing a more focused and tangible career coaching program for high school students. Consider these along with your own thoughts and experiences and then answer our poll question below (poll open for one week starting 1/15/2015). Please share on all of your social media so we can get a large sample size for the poll.

Pros of Implementing a Mandatory Career Coaching Curriculum for all High School Students

  • By starting at the incoming 9th grade level (perhaps even the August before school starts) the program helps with 4-year high school course planning that aligns with post-secondary desires
  • Greater self-awareness comes at the right age to leverage the insights gained
  • Increased self-confidence enables the student to pursue a more challenging academic schedule
  • Greater clarity about high-potential career possibilities (a high-quality short list that matches their talents/personality traits) empowers student self-direction.
  • Less missteps towards high school graduation
  • Lower dropout rates
  • Greater student engagement that results in higher average GPA
  • Higher percent of students enrolling in post-secondary education

Cons (based on what I’ve heard or what was implied)

  • Already too many academic demands, no time to add more class time
  • Not needed – time, money and attention need to be allocated to other more important things
  • Already appropriately covered in middle school, don’t see the need to duplicate
  • We’re already doing a good job in this area, don’t need to improve
  • We don’t have the budget for it
  • Better to let families address this rather than handle in school

Are you using the Myers Briggs or MBTI for career exploration, career choice or hiring? I Hope Not


Many high schools and colleges use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI to help students in career exploration and career choices. CPP, Inc, the developer and publisher of the MBTI recently posted an article entitled Just What Is the Myers Briggs Assessment Good For? that makes it very clear this is not appropriate and needs to stop.

MyersBriggs

Some Human Resources professionals use the MBTI for hiring and selection. While it is a less frequent use of the MBTI, the use of the MBTI in hiring and selection is putting those companies at high risk for fines and lawsuits. To explain, employers are held to a high standard when it comes to using assessments in the hiring and selection process. The government actually likes companies to use assessment tools – if they are valid and reliable. But companies must use tools and processes that ensure no biases against protected classes. The company must also be able to show a connection between an assessment and predictive correlation for performance in the job. The article states that employers should note that using the MBTI as a selection tool can have dire legal consequences for them. “If a tool is designed for selection, it should meet a certain standard that is held up in a court of law,” according to Sherrie Haynie, a consultant for CPP who teaches MBTI certification programs . “Whereas with the MBTI, we are very clear, that because it’s not a selection tool, you could be held liable as an employer if you use the tool in such a way.”

“The MBTI does not evaluate candidates. It does not predict performance or cultural fit or any of the other criteria by which employers hire candidates” states Haynei. According to the article, “CPP is unhappy with recruiters and HR departments who use the MBTI as a selection tool.” The article goes on to say “Used as a selection tool, the MBTI can be harmful to individuals.”

So if it doesn’t predict performance or cultural fit, should high schools and college career centers use it to help students choose a career or choose a major that is a “good fit”? Can a school be held liable for misuse of the MBTI as a career guidance tool for students?

Haynie says, “CPP has seen a number of employers improperly use the MBTI as a selection tool. Assessment tools for hiring and selection are the kinds of tools that evaluate particular skills or knowledge or abilities, but the MBTI was not designed to judge or evaluate skills or knowledge or abilities (referred to as job matching). ”

CONNECTING AND RESTATING THE ISSUE
As Haynie says, “the MBTI is a development tool, not a selection tool. Interested employers should use the MBTI to identify employee strengths and blind spots, so that they might help these employees further leverage their strengths and compensate for their blind spots.”

“The MBTI is a development tool, not a selection tool. Interested COUNSELORS AND CAREER CENTERS should use the MBTI to identify STUDENT strengths and blind spots, so that they might help these STUDENTS further leverage their strengths and compensate for their blind spots.”

THE CONUNDRUM

Students certainly need development. Schools and colleges have limited financial resources for things like assessments. In an attempt to stretch the investment value, counselors have tried to use one tool for many uses. CPP is stating this is not their desire. Yet, there are assessment tools that are certified for use by employers for hiring and selection that are excellent for development as well. And those same assessments are used for career counseling and career exploration. In other words, what schools want and need exists but first, the counselors must let go of the MBTI.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

Posted on the social media site VOX, Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless is an excellent article among many. You’ll also find there are many academic articles about the questionable validity and reliability of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment.

Watch the video: Why the Myers-Briggs Test is Totally Meaningless.

A BETTER SOLUTION

The Career Coaching for Students program uses two assessments for high school students that does an excellent job of helping the student narrow the world of opportunity into a more manageable and relate-able short list of career options in a way that engages the student while developing the student at the same time. The Career Coaching for Students program helps the student from a personal development standpoint, much like the MBTI narrowly does. Parent company, The Nielson Group, uses the same assessment tools with large and small employer clients specifically for hiring and selection (job-candidate matching), adult career coaching, leadership development and team development. All of these assessments adhere to an 8th grade reading level standard.

The particular assessments used for high school students in the Career Coaching for Students program is both comprehensive for development and provides an easy-to-follow proprietary method for connecting career options to personal talent (job fit analysis).

IS IT COST-EFFECTIVE COMPARED TO THE MBTI?

The simple and quick answer is yes. Schools that go all in by using “any” assessment for school-wide use will enjoy a “volume discount”. The Career Coaching for Students program is provided under the umbrella of Success Discoveries LLC, a division of The Nielson Group. “We utilize all of our expertise and tools to provide a one-stop offering for staff development, leader development and student development”, states Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer and founder of Success Discoveries. “We provide state-of-the-art tools for student career exploration and student development and development offerings for staff and administration, all the way up to the school board. ”

This ability to bundle solutions for different constituencies allows Success Discoveries to price all of these services very cost-effectively.

Can Our In-House Staff Easily Learn How to Use a Different Assessment?

The Career Coaching for Students program offers a train-the-trainer and certification program. Administering the student programs in-house with your own staff is very doable. Staff will likely enjoy this and receive much greater positive feedback from students (and parents).

So, if your school is using the MBTI with students, you need to realize it can only be as a personal development tool – not as a career counseling and career selection guidance tool. As with many clients that have gone through the Career Coaching for Students program have stated to me, your student may be frustrated and feel like they are at fault when actually the wrong tool has been applied to the right focus.

Families can purchase the self-directed version of Career Coaching for Students which includes the career guidance binder, Student Resource Central and a personal one-on-one debriefing of the assessments (using telephony webinar tools or Skype). Career Coaching for Students has been enjoyed in most of the United States including Alaska, across Canada and China. The assessments are able to be administered in 42 languages.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works. Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at .

Is Student Privacy in Jeopardy? What Parents and School Counselors Need to Know


Student Data has left the barn.Every year, parents of junior and senior high school students are inundated by marketing materials from hundreds of post-secondary public or private schools and for-profit trade schools – many you might never have heard of before. One of the common statements I hear is “How did my son or daughter’s name and address get out?” Welcome to the new age of big data.

Anya Kamenetz, NPR’s Lead Education Blogger, wrote a great article published on NPRed entitled, What Parents Need To Know About Big Data And Student Privacy.

In her article she explains the main law that governs data kept by public schools is based on the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. It gives parents and students, once they turn 18, three rights: to inspect their own records, to correct those records, and to give consent in writing before the release of those records to any third party.

Kamenetz writes, “Well, for the most part. There are two blanket exemptions. One covers the “what” (of student information) and the other the “who” (is authorized to see it).”

According to Sheila Kaplan, a privacy activist mentioned in Kamenetz article, “The big hole in FERPA is directory information”. She explains: FERPA allows schools to release a student’s “name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance” without first obtaining consent (although they are supposed to disclose the release and allow parents to opt out of directories).

The second hole got much, much wider in the past few years.

FERPA always allowed school officials to release records to other education officials without parental consent. In 2008, that right was expanded to contractors and volunteers, as long as they were under “direct control” of schools. This included for-profit cloud service providers.

Are Marketers Providing a Service or Simply Making Money?

One of the concerns that Kamenetz raises in her article is whether student data will be monetized. It already has – in a billion dollar way. Reidenberg’s study found that fewer than 7 percent of district contracts restricted the sale or marketing of student information by vendors. It did not, however, say how many of the cloud service providers are actually selling that info. And who are these vendors?

You don’t have to look any further than your local school board and junior high and high school counselors. They have likely signed “site licenses” with cloud based solution providers such as XAP (“XAP Corporation is the pioneer in electronic and Internet-based information management systems for college-bound students and the leader in online data”) or Naviance, a program of Hobsons. XAP’s privacy statement states that “We will not share your personal information with outside parties except when we have your permission or we are required by law to provide it.” As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. You are giving your permission and they are selling your information.

At the College Board, their privacy policy states “Our Student Search Service is a voluntary program that connects students with information about educational and financial aid opportunities from more than 1,200 colleges, universities, scholarship programs and educational organizations. According to their policy, here’s how it works:

  • Students may choose to participate in Student Search Service when registering for a College Board exam.
  • As part of taking a College Board exam, students are asked to fill out a Student Data Questionnaire (SDQ).
  • Participating, eligible organizations can then search for groups of students who may be a good fit for their communities and programs, but only among those students who opt to participate in Student Search Service.
  • The search criteria can include any attribute from the SDQ, except the following: disability, parental education, self-reported parental income, social security number, phone numbers and actual test scores.
  • The most searched items are expected high school graduation date, cumulative GPA and intended college major. A full list of SDQ questions is available in College Board test registration materials.

According to Kamenetz, often the issue is murkier than the outright sale of information. For many cloud services, like Google Apps, the entire business model is based on mining data for marketing. “A quarter of the services are free to the districts — the providers are monetizing it somehow,” Reidenberg says. Even the nonprofit Khan Academy allows third parties like Youtube to track students’ Web usage.

In practice, defining the commercial misuse of student data is tricky. A program such as Pearson’s enVisionMATH, a software-based tutoring platform, continuously analyzes millions of data points on student performance in order to improve its products and pitch more relevant products to school systems. That’s both an educational and a commercial use.

Alternatives do exist. For example, Success Discoveries, developers of Career Coaching for Students, recently released their Student Resource Central information repository for public access. Part of the criteria for an information site being listed in Student Resource Central is the ability to provide useful information without providing any personal information. Sites like College Board are included due to the ability to gain value from the information on their site without sharing your personal information. They also list sites like Kaarme, founded in 2006 by concerned parents to expand college opportunities for high school students. Their goal is to make college education and scholarship information accessible and affordable by connecting colleges, parents, counselors, and coaches in a safe networking environment, free of charge.

Now you know why you receive a mail box full of marketing material. Safe surfing.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works. Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

Do I Need to Have A Career Plan in High School?


dream-job-nextexitThe old saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” means if you do not know about a problem, you will not be able to make yourself unhappy by worrying about it. That belief is supported by the belief “ignorance is bliss“.

When it comes to creating/having a career plan, focusing on it (worrying about it) will actually create a great deal of happiness, help you avoid major stress and save you (and/or your parents) thousands of dollars. Based on almost daily news, the amount of college loan debt has escalated to levels considered very dangerous for our economy and for individuals. Having excessive education loan debt is a personal accountability issue – not a national economy issue.

How much debt do you want or plan to have when you graduate college? According to an article in the Huffington Post, “the average college graduate obtained a degree in 2012 with $29,400 in student debt, up from $18,750 less than a decade before in 2004, according to a new report.” To avoid unnecessary costs (which frequently ends up becoming debt) during college, avoid changing majors and choose the right college or university for you. If you are unsure about a career direction and go into college as an “undeclared major” you are likely to not have any revelations about a career direction by the end of your Freshman year. Whether you put it off or tackle career planning in high school, the only way to avoid unnecessary expense and find true happiness is to do the career planning work.

So, the short answer to the question, Do I Need to Have a Career Plan in High School?, is that you need to be doing the work of creating a career plan. The Career Coaching for Students program looks at this work as developing Decision Making skills. Decision making is a recognized skill of highly successful people and happens to be one of the weakest skills for incoming Freshman in college. You don’t necessarily need to have made a career decision but you need to be well on your way to identifying and understanding your career interests and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with your career interests.

A career plan is the reward for the work you’ll do to determine your skills and interests, what career best suits your talents, and what skills and training you need for your chosen career.

By developing a career plan, you can focus on what you want to do and how to get there without worrying and without unnecessary expense. To do this well, you must start with a “professional-grade assessment” that helps you understand your personality strengths. Career planning is only one benefit of using assessments to become much more self-aware.  You’ll also find you will have a better understanding of your skills and experiences to discuss with potential employers (on your resume and in future interviews).

To eventually have a defined career goal, get started now.

A career goal can be a specific job you want to do — such as doctor or teacher — or be a particular field you want to work in, such as medicine or education.

Rather than limiting your future, a career goal may help you discover career possibilities you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. There are several job possibilities with any chosen career. For instance, if you choose a medical career, you may want to be a scientist, a nurse, or a doctor.

A career goal can also guide you into doing what you want with your life.

  1. Become Self-Aware.
  2. Identify Career Interests.
  3. Narrow your career interests to a top two or three.
  4. Determine what you need to do to prepare for your chosen career.
  5. Besides the right college major, do you need special training? Some careers need the specialized training but don’t require a college degree. If so, find out what schools offer the training you need. Also, determine what kind of experience will you need to be successful in the career. Consider an internship as a way to get work experience in the career field.
  6. Write your career plan.  Use online tools to help you create a visual career plan.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

Internships – So You Didn’t Get One This Year


State of Internships InfographicEvery college student knows about internships. It’s the thing to do – right? So in the Spring of your freshman year you attend career fairs, visit the Career Center on campus, create a resume, do a little research to see if there are any available internships and call it a day after finding out employers only talk to upcoming juniors and seniors.

So your sophomore year you go in a little smarter, prepared to “find” the internship opportunity that eluded you after your first year. Now, you “qualify” since you will be an incoming junior. All engines at full throttle! Then you find out all the internships are going to “incoming seniors” (this year’s juniors). Once again you are locked out.

Here are some interesting statistics from the infographic to the right before I share “the rest of the story”.

  • 97.6 percent of interns recommended internships to other students
  • As of April 15th, only 16.6 percent of seniors had received a job offer
  • 68.9 percent of college seniors have done at least one internship
  • Students with paid internships are three times more likely to have job offers than students with unpaid internships
  • Students with three or more internships are twice as likely to have a job offer than students with just one internship
  • 48.3 percent of internships were paid in 2014

Here’s the rest of the story…

So you have one last chance at an internship – next summer between your junior and senior years. You could approach it the same way you’ve done in the past – and likely end up empty-handed. Or you can take control of your own destiny and step up to the challenge. Here are some ways you can step up:

A. Meet representatives at the on-campus career fair. Get their business card. Attend profession-related association/chapter meetings in cities close to you, take business cards and get business cards from attendees.

B. Create a “drip marketing campaign where “you” are the product you are marketing (not selling!).

Identify the top 25 employers for internships based on your career direction. Don’t stop until you have 25 on the list.

Contact someone at each company to confirm an internship program exists. If not, you have to evaluate the value of keeping that company on the list or replace it with a different company. For example, the company may not have a formal internship program but you know someone who works there and they have told you it is possible to get a summer job there. In that case, you might want to keep them on the list. However, with no formal internship program and if you don’t have any “warm” or “hot” networking contacts at the company, you either need to get the networking contacts quickly (see LinkedIn) or drop the company.

Connect on LinkedIn with all employer contacts you can find at the employers on your list.

Construct a “Contact Management” Excel spreadsheet includes the name, job title, company name, mailing address for the contact, phone number and email address.

Use the Excel spreadsheet with Word Mail Merge to create printed letters and other materials you’ll be mailing (via USPS or FedEx) to your contacts. You can also track all activity with each contact using the contact management spreadsheet. For 25 companies, your goal is to obtain at least two contacts at each company. One is the key HR or “Talent Acquisition” specialist that handles internships. The other is a line manager, meaning a department head. This might be a VP, Director or Manager.

Design a campaign of ten communications, use e-mail, printed letters/postcards and phone calls.

Drip Campaign Sample Design

  1. SEPTEMBER: “I Want the Internship” postal mailing – This could be a letter or postcard design stating that: “I am so interested in what [xyz company] is doing related to [your field of interest] that it would be a great thing to intern at their company. I will be completing my junior year this upcoming May and want to intern at your company. I know this is a little early but I do want you to know of my interest. I’ll be reaching out to you a few more times over the next six months. If the possibility of an internship goes away just let me know and I’ll stop sending these. I’ve attached my resume in case you are personally interested. If you know someone who might be interested, don’t hesitate to send my resume to them.
  2. OCTOBER: “My LinkedIn Profile” – Hopefully you are already connected but if you aren’t no problem. If the contact has a LinkedIn profile, you can send them a “message” (if you are connected) or an “Inmail” (if you are not connected). In this message, you have to be brief. You might ask a question related to news you read about the company like “Hi ___, I read about the 80% layoffs at the corporate headquarters today. I hope you weren’t one of them but I feel for everyone who lost their job. Speaking of jobs, is the internship program going to survive the cuts?” That example, while using great ironic humor, probably won’t be seen in a humorous way. A better example might be “Hi ___, I just read about the new product release [check their Media page on their website for latest press releases]. Congratulations! I’m sure it took a lot of work by a lot of people. Reading about it made me wish I had been one of those contributing. I hope to do an internship with your company next summer so maybe I will be able to contribute in some small way. “
  3. NOVEMBER: Postal mailing, postcard or letter. Dear ___, Just a short note to say I am still very much interested in the ___ internship opportunity this upcoming summer. On a related note, I made a 4.0 in my Fall semester classes which included [name a relevant course, don’t name a course that they wouldn’t care about]. I also was elected president of the ___ club [if relevant to your career direction or if you feel it helps identify your leadership or project management skills development focus].
  4. DECEMBER: Phone Call
  5. JANUARY: Postal letter. Attach resume. This is a more formal letter requesting to speak with the person about upcoming opportunities to intern at their company. This may be customized based on what you already know.
  6. FEBRUARY: Email. Find something relevant about what positive things are happening at the company. Let the reader know you saw it/heard about it and that you are excited about the possibilities of working at xyz company. You can state that you’ve submitted your resume to the online applicant system per recommended procedure. [if that is true] or you can state that you are hoping to hear about any possible internship soon. If they can provide insight, it would be appreciated greatly.
  7. MARCH: If necessary; if no action has taken place. Obviously, if you are in mid-stream of getting the internship, you’ve stopped the regular drip marketing campaign by now and following the company’s requests/directives. But if they are like 50% of companies, an internship job posting hasn’t even happened.  Send another more formal letter with resume attached. You might expand who you send it to as well. Go higher in the organization if you can identify the right contacts.
  8. APRIL: Time for a phone call. Time is running out. At this point you need to talk to someone who knows what is going on. Certainly, you need to call the people you’ve been sending all the other communications to. But ask for and look for others who may be more appropriate or have more decision making authority.
  9. MAY (twice): Check the job posting site for internships that might have come in late. Make follow up phone calls to all you know in the company.
  10. Late MAY: Email. Send your contacts a short note saying you haven’t landed that internship at their company yet but remain extremely interested. Tell them that “if an opportunity to job shadow for a week is available, you’d like to talk with the right person to make that happen”.

USPS mailings are low cost. If you have the budget, FedEx envelopes cost more but they are more notable. Remember that for the higher-level executives, there may be a gate keeper opening the mail for them. The more you can be appealing to the gate keeper, the better the chances your material is seen and discussed. Designing all ten communication pieces up front makes it much easier to do the actual design work and follow a theme. Use respectable humor occasionally but also be professional and direct with most of your communications.  For example, all of your pieces might open with “From [Name], Your #1 Prospective Intern”.

Don’t forget how to use the phone.

Calling these contacts too often will not be good, however, perfect call timing has to do with one time of the year it is and what time of the day it is. For a summer internship, a first inquiry phone call in September (about 7 months before the actual internship timeframe) is very appropriate and accepted by most. A phone call in December just before the holidays hit is a great time for the second call. People are feeling the giving spirit and starting to wind down from the year. Your purpose of the second call is to ask for career advice (if a line manager, not HR) or, if it is HR you are contacting, you are inquiring about their plans for internships related to your field. Keep in mind you’ve already sent emails and postal mailings to these people.  A third call is appropriate around February if you haven’t already been invited to interview.

So, if you really want an internship, move out of your comfort zone, manage yourself like a PR firm would manage you and get proactive in your pursuit.

Good luck next year!

Carl

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.