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What to Do When Summer Internships and Jobs Are Hard to FindDeborah Porter
They did it — your college student landed a summer internship!
Now the school year’s winding down and they're getting excited about the upcoming adventure. For you, though, this may be a bittersweet moment. On one hand, you’re happy and proud; on the other, this might be the first summer they won’t spend at home.
For college parents, finding that balance between supporting our students and tending to our own emotions is an ongoing process and the internship experience is no exception. There are ways to do both this summer.
If the internship isn’t local, finding housing is the next step after accepting a position. The type of housing assistance offered to summer interns varies from one company to another. If assistance is minimal, you can help your student make affordable, convenient, safe living arrangements in their summer city.
Before launching a search, suggest they check with the employer to see if they provide assistance or suggestions (they should at least be able to say where previous interns lived). Other housing options include:
When moving time arrives, your student might appreciate support. If it’s a long trip and they're driving, offer to go with them — split the time behind the wheel, then fly home on a one-way ticket. This gives you a chance to see the neighborhood and meet their summer roommate(s).
Is your student’s internship in a city with good public transportation? Big sigh of relief. If not, they have pre-internship work to do figuring out a reliable way to get to and from work each day and you can help.
If your family can spare a vehicle, letting them borrow a car for the summer might be the easiest solution. Here are other possibilities to discuss.
I’ve worked with students who didn’t think about daily transportation until after they arrived for the internship, and as a result spent the whole summer begging rides from their fellow interns.
A dry run to the workplace ahead of time — figuring out the train or bus, parking, etc. — will help quell your student’s first-day jitters.
In the hectic weeks before an internship, some students completely forget that they won’t be living in shorts and flip-flops this summer. "My daughter was surprised at her intern training when the other interns persisted in asking the HR person if they could wear jeans and t-shirts — in their Manhattan offices — even after the dress code had been thoroughly presented," one parent said.
Now’s the perfect time to check in with your student about their professional wardrobe.
They should have a good idea about the culture of their new workplace from their interview(s). If not, I recommend a quick email to their contact or recruiter asking about the dress style for interns. Here are a few suggestions when the closet comes up short:
Presenting a professional image from day one will be a confidence booster for your student.
My son was completely clueless about attire before his internship (and didn’t want to take advice from me and his dad). Fortunately he had fraternity brothers, and when I showed up to collect him at the end of the semester, he had a stack of khakis and button-down shirts, fresh out of their Lands End bags! — A college mom in Connecticut
It’s natural to want to visit early in your student’s internship, especially if their campus is a distance from home and you rarely see them during the school year. I encourage you to resist the temptation, at least for a few weeks. This may be their first foray into the adult working world and they need time to adjust and find their rhythm. Wait till they're ready to play host, and then keep in mind that their schedule may only allow them free time on the weekends.
Summer internships can be as fun as they are rewarding and I hope that will be true for your student. Some are disappointing, however — the interns aren’t kept busy enough, projects don’t feel meaningful, the position turns out to be a mismatch. For many students, internships are intensely challenging as they immerse themselves in professional workplace culture (perhaps for the first time), adjust to new expectations, and learn new ways of doing things. Your student may thrive under the pressure, or possibly struggle a bit as they discover who they are and what they're capable of.
Be ready with encouragement and emotional support. In situations that are less than ideal, you can be a sounding board: listening, asking questions, helping your student find ways to resolve things on their own.
A first internship means this will be a really different kind of summer…for your student and you.
My daughter’s internship required a drug test which turned into a major hassle. She spent a few days driving from lab to lab because they didn’t have the correct supplies. Don’t leave this till the last minute!