Internships help students explore possible career paths

by Sarah Rubenstein | 11/18/98 6:00am

High school is easy.

Most students who have ended up at Dartmouth knew in high school that they would spend the next four years of their lives at college.

But plenty of them haven't the foggiest idea what they will do when they finish their careers at the College.

Finding a leave-term internship is many students' first step toward discovering their career options.

For others, internships carve the path to occupations they already know they will pursue.

Whether students know their plans -- or they haven't a clue -- Career Services tries to provide a link between them and the internship world.

Getting started

Associate Director of Career Services Kathryn Hutchinson said "way too many people" bypass the first step toward finding leave-term internships -- discovering their goals and the resources available for achieving them.

"It's really important for students to pursue interests that are their interests," Hutchinson said.

Students can attend workshops on conducting internship searches, learning basic job searching skills and writing cover letters and resumes -- and they can also set up an appointment with a career counselor.

"You need to admit that you're confused and start talking to somebody," Hutchinson said.

Discussions with counselors can help some students identify a "manageable" process of finding internships they have decided to pursue, Hutchinson said.

But she said counselors also help those who have no idea what they want to do.

Hutchinson said counselors ask them about their interests, the topics they enjoy studying, skills they like to use, areas in which they have been successful and what they are proud of.

"All of that reveals information," she said, adding that counselors also help students choose among internships that have been offered to them.

She said counselors also ask students about any "external influences" on them -- such as cultural, parental or financial pressures -- and they discuss how to deal with pressures that contradict their personal interests.

"We want the person to develop and individualized plan," Hutchinson said.

Leslie Kinsey '99 said she went to Career Services "just sort of wondering what different sorts of options I had."

Kinsey said a counselor looked at her resume, outlined the skills implied by the resume and discussed different fields in which those skills would be useful.

She said she also discussed her "likes" and "dislikes" with the counselor.

"It was neat to hear what someone thought I would be good at, whether or not it would be something I would pursue," she said.

Kinsey's resume highlighted skills that might be useful in education -- "and I had not necessarily thought of that before," she said.

She found a job as a Residence Advisor and teaching assistant at a summer program held at Amherst College, and she enjoyed the experience.

"I just wanted to check it out before I sold my soul to the corporate world," she said.

The process

Students are advised to begin their internship searches two terms before their off-terms, particularly if their searches may be difficult.

The two terms give them the time to research the possibilities, prepare cover letters and resumes, arrange for appropriate interviews, apply for any necessary funding, follow up on applications and decide among any offers they receive.

Most students start the process by looking through Career Services' internship binders.

Hutchinson said the binders list about 1,800 internships categorized by job field and geographical location, including all 400 Tucker Foundation internships and many others listed by different departments at the College. All internships are also listed on the Career Services web page.

The binders are updated every time Career Services is contacted by a company that offers internships, Hutchinson said, adding that Career Services also initiates conversations with many companies.

Career Services contacts companies that have been in the binders for two years in order to make sure that the internships are still offered.

Students can find more information on the internships that interest them by looking each internship's file in Career Services. The files are presented alphabetically and have numbers that appear in the binders.

But Hutchinson said many students make the mistake of limiting their searches to what is in the binders.

She said Career Services also provides multiple internship directories, including commercial directories put out by companies such at the Princeton Review, and more specialized directories, including a book of internships in Washington, D.C., and another that lists international schools for students who may be interested in teaching abroad.

"What they need to do is take that extra step and actually ask us," Hutchinson said.

Career Services provides books describing different fields, and it has listings of alumni who work in the fields and can provide more information.

There are also web sites created by private organizations, including Drake University's regional, national and international internship listings, an index called "Action Without Borders" of non-private internships and a compilation of environmental internships put out by the Environmental Careers Organization.

Once students have compiled a list of internships to pursue, they should prioritize the opportunities and send out their applications, resumes and cover letters in stages. Career Services review resumes and cover letters by appointment or through an overnight drop-off process.

Students should make follow-up calls 10 days after they send their applications and should arrange for any possible interviews.

They can make appointments for advice from counselors at any point in their search processes.

Is banking my only option?

While many students said they have found Career Services' resources and employees helpful, most interviewed by The Dartmouth said they found more resources devoted to investment banking and consulting than to other career options.

Scotty McConnaughey '99 said she found two internships through Career Services.

She interned at Goldman, Sachs and Co. investment banking firm in New York City last Winter. Over the summer, she worked at Lubin Lawrence, a strategy consulting firm, also in New York City.

While McConnaughey was "satisfied" with the resources she found at Career Services, she said she thinks Career Services could do more to help students find "alternate jobs for liberal arts majors" in areas such as publishing or teaching.

"I kind of wanted to see everything that was out there, and I did notice that there were fewer of those," she said.

Liz Castellani '99 said she looked for an internship in communications, the media or public relations through Career Services for last Winter, "but I felt like they didn't have as many options as they did for investment banking or consulting."

Castellani said she found an internship in the White House press office through people she knew who were working there at the time.

Hutchinson said the notion that investment banking is Career Services' only priority is "a really hard myth to bash," particularly since there is a "cultural emphasis" at Dartmouth on that job field.

She said certain occupations such as investment banking and consulting use recruiting and advertising on college campuses as "mechanisms" for finding employees.

Students who have other interests may have to "knock on doors" and look a little harder for opportunities, she said.

"Everything isn't packaged," Hutchinson said. "We're here to tell you how to do it."

The field of health and human services, for example, rarely announces internship opportunities on college campuses, she said.

Hutchinson said she would ask students interested in the field where they would like to intern and them to directories of health organizations in those geographical locations.

She said students could call the organizations and ask about internship opportunities there.

They could also contact alumni in their area of interest to ask about opportunities, and they could talk to faculty members -- a step that many students never think to take, Hutchinson said.

Todd Weller '99 worked last Summer at Genentech, Inc., a bio-technology firm in San Francisco.

Weller said he found more listings of internships in technology through his own resources rather than Career Services, but he doesn't "feel it's all that frustrating, because I don't feel you should have a job handed to you on a silver platter."

"The people are definitely very helpful and very friendly," Weller said. "When you're looking for a specific scientific career, sometimes people aren't as knowledgeable, but they pointed me in the right direction and got me started on my own research."

Hutchinson said "there are so many technology opportunities, it's not even funny," but the companies do not advertise in the same way investment banking firms do.

She said Career Services has good relationships with many different types of companies and can direct students to other resources if they would ask about them, rather than just flip through binders and give up.

"We do so much behind the scenes," she said.

"What we don't want students to do is hesitate because something isn't in front of them."

The Dartmouth connection

Hutchinson many students do not take advantage of the resources provided by the alumni network and their own association with Dartmouth.

"The alumni advisory network is a pot of gold," she said. "It's probably one of the best gifts that Dartmouth provides its students and alumni."

Dartmouth's alumni are asked by the College after their fifth reunion what they are doing and whether they would like to be career advisors, help students plan their job searches and provide information on their fields and companies.

Those alumni, in addition to many others who typically hire Dartmouth students, have a role "that is really quite significant," Hutchinson said.

Many companies have special relationships with Dartmouth and regularly hire students at the College.

John Nies '90, managing director of the Parthenon Group in Boston, said his company hires about six full-time interns per year, and three of them are typically Dartmouth students.

"We have a variety of people at the firm that have Dartmouth backgrounds," Nies said. "We love the school, we love the campus and we're very confident in the type of employees that we find there."

He said Dartmouth emphasizes more than just academics, and Dartmouth students "tend to be more socially mature."

Nies said Career Services originally suggested to the Parthenon Group that it offer internships in terms other than the summer. The firm agreed to do so, particularly since many people at the Parthenon Group are alumni who are "in tune with the D-Plan."

But he said a lot of other firms don't offer such internships.

"It's easiest for them to run a successful program only one time during the year, when the most students are available, because it really does take a good amount of effort," he said.

Nies said the company's interaction with Career Services has "been quite involved," and Career Services gives the Parthenon Group a lot of "input as to how we can most effectively interface with the students."

Goldman, Sachs and Co. also hires a large number of Dartmouth students.

"Dartmouth is a key feeder school for the firm, as it has a tradition of superior academics, a well-organized Career Services office and an extensive alumni network," Bill Buckley, managing director of the firm's equities division, wrote in an e-mail message.

Career Services creates long-term relationships with companies that do not recruit and are not necessarily associated with Dartmouth alumni, Hutchinson said.

She said the office promotes skills that are unique to Dartmouth students.

The College's rural surroundings foster a greater sense of community and prompt students to get more involved with campus organizations, she said, allowing students to increase their work-force skills and communicate more comfortably with each other.

Hutchinson said Career Services also emphasizes the importance of the D-Plan, which creates terms that have a shortness and intensity similar to what students will face in job atmospheres.

Dartmouth's curriculum and distributive requirements expose students to varied ideas and perspectives, and the short terms force them to "analyze rapidly" and "learn quickly," she said.

Career Services also emphasizes the College's foreign language requirements and study-abroad programs.

The Children's Television Workshop, Advertising Age Magazine and Cargill, Inc., a commodities-trading company at Brown University, are among the many companies that typically hire Dartmouth students as interns, Hutchinson said.

Career Services also contacts students' parents to ask about internship opportunities.

Hutchinson said the mother of a student in the Class of 2001 is associated with a network of social services companies in Alaska and helped place 11 Dartmouth student in internships there last year.

Barriers to break

As if figuring out what they want to do and how they can get an internship isn't enough, Dartmouth students face some added twists.

While the College advertises to prospective students that its D-Plan provides unique opportunities and reduces competition with other students during terms other than the Summer, students disagree on its benefits.

Steve Wiesenthal '00 said Career Services has been "fantastic" in helping him look for internships for next spring and summer.

However, he said the spring is a particularly "weird" term to be applying for an internship, because it starts late in March and ends a month after other college students have started their summer vacations. He said he has found more opportunities for the summer than the spring.

But Castellani said the D-Plan helped her find an internship for last winter, because she was one of the few college students who was available to work full-time.

"A lot of employers -- they don't mind letting you just work for a winter, because they're getting you full-time for that whole winter," she said.

Castellani said she got "the full hands-on experience" in her internship, because the other interns at the office were taking classes and working at the internship simultaneously.

Hutchinson said many companies only offer internships for the summer simply because few college students are available at other times, and the companies would love to have extra employees at other times of the year.

She said students should contact the companies that only offer summer internships, ask if they can work during a different term and emphasize that they will be available full-time.

If students inform Career Services when they have prompted a company to offer internships during alternate terms, Career Services also contacts the companies and asks them if they would like to enter a long-term relationship with the College, Hutchinson said.

She said this creates more opportunities for students looking for internships in future off-terms.

In addition to adjusting to the D-Plan, some students -- particularly those interested in the arts and communications -- must negotiate with companies who require that colleges give academic credit for non-paying internship experiences.

Companies insist that schools give academic credit in order to make it clear that the non-paying internships they offer are not taking work away from their regular employees, Hutchinson said.

"Asking for credit verifies that it's a learning experience," she said.

Academic credit also verifies that interns are active students and are therefore covered by their own insurance rather than the companies'.

Dartmouth does not give academic credit for internships. To compensate for this, Hutchinson said the College sends letters to companies and endorses the internships as valuable educational experiences.

If companies do not accept the letter from the College, Hutchinson said students can ask faculty members for some credit if the internships are closely related to the curriculum.

Some students have also enrolled in courses literally called "internship" at local colleges and gotten credit for them there, Hutchinson said. However, that credit cannot be used toward a Dartmouth degree.

Finding funding

Students who find non-paying internships may also need to find financial resources to fund their leave-terms.

Hutchinson said different departments at the College, including the Tucker Foundation, the Dean of the Faculty and the Dickey Foundation, offer grants to pay for such students' expenses.

Career Services also offers three grants of up to $2,000 every term for students with non-paying internships.

The Fisher Grant funds students interning in advertising and public relations, and the Robinson grant supports students with work in non-paying children's educational media, such as an internship at a children's publication or museum.

The Boehm Coster grant funds students who intern in public service or public policy.

Hutchinson said students must apply for the grants by the end of the fifth or sixth week of each term.

Each application must include a proposal, a budget and other personal information. Students must also be interviewed.

The interview process "enables us to get a better understanding of the internship itself, the purpose of it and how it might be aligned with a student's career goals," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the grants are competitive, but the number of students who apply and the number of grants are usually "pretty even."

She said students on financial aid are not necessarily given preference, but "it's certainly taken into consideration."

Students who earn grants receive different amounts of money, depending upon their expenses.