Coaching For Better Internship Experiences

Dear Employer:

At The Job Search Center we typically coach accelerating job searches for mid-life, experienced professionals.

From time to time we have younger clients, fresh grads maybe, which is fun as well as enlightening. Their range of skills and knowledge is impressive and their dreams and hearts are generous. I’ve met young people who inspire me to grow my work and give me hope. We also have experience with young people even earlier in their careers applying for internships and co-op positions.

My experience is that young professionals and students wish to succeed and belong. They are curious, eager to learn, respectful, engaging, willing to adapt - all the things employers want in interns, co-op students, and employees.

Yet, despite education and good upbringing, some young people need coaching to help them find their place in the world. And this is where you come in. Young people entering their first career role want to learn and grow. They may not know what they don’t know, but they do want coaching, feedback, explanations, and follow up. They want success.

Many students haven’t found themselves in lower positions in pecking orders. They might have been top of their class and built up -  told they were a special star, destined for greatness. They might never have been shown when or how deference is expected. Yet they are experienced with receiving real criticism of their work and are glad for learning and insight.

We, experienced professionals, are responsible for giving feedback and encouraging reflection in relationships. Being leaders, we share what we’ve learned, and how we learned it (including the hard way).

If we are specific, descriptive and generous with our examples we can help early career stages become meaningful pathways to success. If you share your feelings and thoughts in response to their actions (such as, “You probably didn’t know that when you [did this] I felt….” [1] ), you will make an impact, save face and give room to change.

Below is my response to a student who applied for an internship with our Company which I’ve been asked to share. The role involved significant, unsupervised, one-on-one interactions in a research project with employers in the community. I needed someone who had developed strong enough social skills that I would be comfortable with him or her representing me. When I sent the student a decline letter, to his credit, he wrote back apologizing and asked for feedback so he could make changes.

I’d love to hear your comments as well. Please share your experiences either of coaching or being coached or ideas you have now.

Good afternoon, [Student],

I apologize for my delay in responding to you. I started to write back that same day [you requested more feedback], but really was not sure what my role is here. However, I keep coming back to my notes to send you. Since you are taking my earlier message as a learning opportunity and asking for more details, here are my thoughts.

It’s good of you to reach out again for more feedback. I admire willingness to self-reflect in people. I hope these points may be helpful.

In our interview, you came across to me as someone who is used to being taken care of, as well as being in charge of others’ decision-making. For instance

  • You would only give me ½ hour for an interview and insisted we wait two weeks for you to decide if you would consider employment with me, with no query about how that would be for me or my company.

  • You talked very fast, from which I got the impression that you were impatient with our conversation.

  • You didn’t ask me questions or show interest in what we are doing.

  • You didn’t acknowledge that I offered to design a new project just for you in line with your career interests.

  • Your example of independence was doing your own laundry.

  • You didn’t send a thank you note.

The conversation may have been different if we’d had more time. As it was I felt very rushed. While some things we might have been able to work on together, I couldn’t risk asking you to meet with employers or clients to do the research by yourself.

I really don’t mean to cause you distress. You were courageous enough to ask. The trend in business now is to be approachable and friendly – build KLT factor (Know, Like and Trust) from the beginning of a relationship.

I hope this is helpful and gives you actionable ideas.

Wishing you every happiness in life and in your career,

Sue Nelson

Founding Director

The Job Search Center

[1] If you would like to sharpen your giving-feedback skills, you might like Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication as a model to practice.