Questions and Answers with Career Expert Jenny Von Helms
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Jenny Von Helms is associate director of career services/internship coordinator at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What special techniques have you identified for uncovering internships? Do you find that students are reluctant to do unpaid internships? How can students be resourceful in creating an internship where an official one didn’t previously exist?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Students first need to take responsibility for their own career decisions including a job or internship search. Aside from applying to advertised internship openings, list the things you would like to be doing and skills you would like to develop. Develop an internship proposal to present to companies who might not have hired interns in the past. An employer will certainly be more impressed with a student who says “I want to learn this, and I can do this for your company” than one who lacks focus or initiative. Show the employer that the company has a need, and you are the person to fill that need. I also recommend that students use the yellow pages to identify potential employers. You might not realize that a growing or strong company is right in your community if they have not established a presence.
One of the biggest mistakes I see students make is refusing to pursue non-paid opportunities. Although I understand that many students are paying some or all of their own way through college, there are so many great options that are overlooked. I have also found that “non-paid” does not necessarily mean without compensation. Quite a few non-paying internships will reimburse students for public transportation or offer other perks, such as parking, meals, and discounts. I also believe the dynamics of the relationship change when a student gets paid for an internship. The student who is paid is now an “employee” where there are clear cut expectations of work in exchange for money. The unpaid internship experience might offer the student more of an opportunity for learning with less pressure for “a result.”
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the one job-hunting secret you share with students but that may not be widely known?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:||Be nice to everyone you are in contact with including, and especially, receptionists and secretaries.|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest “reality check” your students face once they successfully make it into the workplace? What surprises them most?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:||Believe it or not, full-time interns or recent alumni often complain about the change in their daily routine. I remember myself how hard it was to leave the house at 7 a.m. to make it to my first job in downtown Chicago by 8:30 a.m. My earliest class in college was usually 10 a.m.! New employees soon realize that their days of napping in the afternoon and watching late night TV are over.|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest mistake job-seekers make that your advice could correct or prevent?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:||Too many job-seekers rush into the job market without knowing what it is they want to do or are qualified to do, which can simply be a lack of experience on the part of new graduates. Many students indicate that they want to go into consulting or investment banking without knowing how those career fields operate on a day to day basis. Too often students are hooked on the romanticized version of a career (travel, salary, prestige) without knowing exactly what the daily grind will be like. Informational interviewing is the best way to learn more about the specifics of a certain career. Candidates should sort out their values and interests before jumping into the job search.|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||How does ethical decision-making figure into career counseling? In what ways do students need to apply ethics to make decisions about their careers?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Students fail to realize that their actions not only reflect poorly upon themselves, but also their career services office and the college. With the ethical problems hitting other areas on campus (i.e., plagiarism, cheating, hazing), I am not surprised that we are seeing similar concerns in career services. Unethical or uncivil behavior is a problem affecting the greater society outside of campus as well. Positive role modeling and clearly defined ethical guidelines are the effective interventions in career services. I recommend creating a contract of students’ expectations and responsibilities. I have identified several of the most common ethical dilemmas my students have faced:
On the other hand, employers can conduct themselves unprofessionally as well. One senior traveled for more than an hour to meet with a recruiter at another campus. At the onset of the interview, the recruiter told the student that she was overqualified for the position but that he was interested in discussing the competitor company for which she previously interned. The recruiter seemed to be looking for information about how she was recruited by the competitor and what her internship experience was like. He was obviously not interested in hiring her. Another student interning at a large public-relations firm was asked by his employer to draft letters to the local papers posing as “a concerned citizen” in favor of a major project the firm was working on. Again, with role modeling like this, I am not as surprised when students act unethically.
Jennifer Von Helms earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and her Master of Education in College Student Personnel from Loyola University Chicago. Jenny has worked in a variety of student-affairs positions including admissions and residence life. In June 2000, she moved to Milwaukee and became the associate director of career services/internship coordinator at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. Jenny is excited to be teaching a “College Success Seminar” this fall for beginning freshmen as well as “Career Planning and Preparation” in the spring.
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