Parents of Internship Seekers: How to Help your Child Gain an Edge, Without Pushing Him Off One!

by Laura Labovich on April 3, 2013

By now, you are likely aware of the importance of higher education. But an education without an internship is like having a boat with no water: it might look good, but it’ll be pretty difficult to put to good use.

Internships have become increasingly essential to post-college success. So essential, in fact, that the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that 67% of 2012 college graduates receive a job offer after completing a paid internship (compared to meager 37% who got a job offer without any internship at all). In addition, the survey also discovered that almost 50% of employers would like to see an internship on a prospective employee’s resume.

Internships provide an opportunity for young adults to take a “test drive” in their chosen field, and afford a meaningful, real-world experience that goes beyond just a simple summer job.

So as the parent of an internship seeker, what exactly can you do to help, without going overboard?

  1. Inquire about your child’s interests. Engage with your child about his vision of summer. Ask “do you want to wear a suit and tie or shorts and sneakers?” or “do you wish to stay local or move to the mountains to work?” or “do you see yourself as part of a team, or do you want more autonomy?” Use the answers to these questions to help him narrow down the fields in which he might be interested.
  2. Help critique cover letters and resumes. Allow your child to fashion a first draft resume and cover letter—as this will likely be a useful lifelong skill.  Then, go over it with him, and offer edits or improvements, but don’t demand the final say. Search for comparable examples online, or people in the industry, so he can see how his document stacks up against the competition. And then, if it still stinks, run – don’t walk – to get him some professional (resume) help.
  3. Drop hints to colleagues. Keep your child’s name and interests fresh in the minds of your friends and colleagues who frequently source for interns, but do so subtly. A simple, “Sarah is starting to look for internships” or “Sean mentioned that he’s curious about this field” is good, but a more specific mention like: “Dave is looking into an horticulture internship this summer” will plant the seed in the case that your friend or colleague can introduce your child to someone of interest in his industry. That way, when hiring time comes and Dave wants to apply, he has a leg up on the competition.
  4. Source – don’t force – opportunities. Although dropping hints to your connections may come in handy for your child, do not offer him up for an opportunity, especially one you are unsure that he’ll want! Handing your child their first internship will do him no favors down the road to an ideal career. (Ok, one caveat, if your friend is in the horticulture field, certainly make an introduction – insiders do statistically get hired first.)

And, at the end of the day, it’s critical to be supportive of your child’s decision. If he expresses interest in a field with which you don’t see a stable future, permit him to make the selection and learn from it.  Oh, that’s exactly where the short-term structure of internships comes in handy, after all.

Watch the full NBC 6pm news clip here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjhjHybv-CM

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