Students lack initiative in pursuing summer jobs

Despite taking numerous steps to encourage students to pursue summer internships, the efforts of the Office of Career Counseling (OCC) may prove futile as many students begin their internship searches only after most major deadlines have passed.

This year, the OCC has posted internship opportunities on their improved website and has held several summer job and internship information sessions throughout the fall and winter. The OCC also sends students their monthly publication entitled “The Other Lephlet” which contains news regarding upcoming information sessions, workshops, recruiting organization and internship deadlines.

For specifics on College-sponsored internships, the OCC sent every student a letter and brochure detailing the Williams Alumni Sponsored Internship program last fall. Then during the months of October through January, the OCC held several Summer Job and Internship Information Sessions, which explained both the internship search and the Williams Alumni Sponsored Internship Program.

Students ready to begin their internship search can find information at both the OCC Career Resource Library and on their website http://www.williams.edu/admin-depts/occ/. The OCC library also holds 200 summer job reports with information regarding what students did in previous years. The job reports were created when students voluntarily responded to online surveys conducted in September. In addition, the OCC published the Williams College Alumni Sponsored Internship Programs 2002, a book featuring student-written summaries of their experiences.

The OCC also posts all internship listings on its online database via its website. The website hosts many links to internship opportunities and internship search engines.

The OCC can also connect students with potential employers, as students may schedule interviews with recruiters from various fields who come to campus to hire summer interns. Earlier this year, the OCC invited companies such as Morgan Stanley, Bain and Company and Bear Stearns and Company to interview and recruit Williams students. Moreover, the OCC will host a non-profit fair at the Williams Inn in March.

Career counselors at the OCC can also assist students hoping to find summer internships by meeting with students individually and speaking to them regarding summer job possibilities. Career counselors further provide workshops during which they instruct students in drafting resumes and cover letters.

Despite the resources available to them, students often do not take advantage of summer internship opportunities because they are not aware of the internships’ early application deadlines. There are several reasons for the early application deadlines for many major internships.

According to Brian Safyan ’98, who interviews college juniors for summer positions at Monitor Group, a top business consulting firm: “Interviews used to occur at later dates, but in recent years have been happening earlier as the market for qualified candidates has become more competitive. . .Elite, professional firms, eager to secure the best candidates, start recruiting earlier in the year so they can lock these candidates in for the summer.”

In addition, many popular internships attract an enormous applicant pool and additional time is needed to process all these applications. Ron Gallagher, Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at the OCC, suggested that although these internship programs attract a larger applicant pool, they may not necessarily be better.

“There are positive aspects to structured programs with a ‘household name,’ but because the program is larger, interns may be given one assignment and not have access to a full range of experiences in several areas,” Gallagher said. “Furthermore, companies come to rely on students for free labor knowing that the ‘name’ guarantees a large annual pool of applicants willing to do anything just to say that they interned at ‘so and so’.”

Early deadlines also allow students extra time to make the necessary arrangements for the summer. For example, The Washington Post received 615 applications for the 20 positions in their internship program this year.

Because the deadline for the internship program was in early November, the applications could be read in November and December and decisions announced by January. As a result, interns are given ample time to make housing arrangements, and the remaining applicants are given enough time to find summer internships elsewhere.

Finally, government internships necessitate early deadlines because they usually require background checks, which take several months to complete.

Unsure about which career track to pursue, students often procrastinate, beginning their internship search late and consequently missing internships with early deadlines.

In addition, some believe that students often do not take advantage of these early deadlines because the College does not prioritize internships as highly as other institutions do. Dan Keating ’84, Database Editor for the Post, evaluated applications for the newspaper’s summer internship program. “Williams is wonderful for its devotion to free-thinking, broad liberal arts education,” he said. “But many schools are very focused on jobs, jobs, jobs. The departments are measured by exactly what jobs the graduates get. In a lot of fields, the job placement can be very well predicted by what real-world internships a student had. The academic plan for a student incorporates work experience, so lining up those internships is a first priority, not something to worry about after classes are done.”

Keating believes that internships can prove invaluable to students who want to succeed in certain fields. “Getting a liberal arts education is great,” he said.

“Like many people, I was still weighing choices of what to major in until my junior year and I changed my mind about what I wanted to do for a living while at Williams. That is great and has some advantages. But in some fields of work, students who make a career decision earlier can get a big jump start on folks who are undecided.”