Internships are key for any college student. They can help your student secure a job after graduation—nearly 58% of college graduates who received job offers completed at least one internship—but they can also help them identify the kind of career they want to pursue. And, perhaps even more importantly, they can help them identify the type of work they don’t enjoy.
As a parent, you obviously want to give your teen every possible advantage. It’s natural to want to help them network and get their foot in the door with an internship. At the same time, you don’t want to become a helicopter parent. Nightmare stories exist of parents accompanying students on job interviews or calling employers for feedback on their résumés. Helping your student without being overbearing is a careful balancing act. To give them the tools they need to network for internships and jobs, follow these five helpful tips.
1. Help them brainstorm career options
Many parents encourage their students to pursue careers in their own fields since that’s what they know best. However, what you do for your job may not suit their interests or talents. There are hundreds of different jobs your teen could do. If you’re struggling to think of different roles, these tools could be useful:
- American Student Assistance FutureScape: The FutureScape tool is a free career aptitude test students can take to find careers that suit their personality and passions.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook includes information on the salaries, necessary education, and future outlook of over 800 occupations.
- CareerOneStop: Sponsored by the US Department of Labor, CareerOneStop has a database of over 900 career profiles that give students an idea of what tasks jobs require, how much money people typically make in a particular field, and how much education or training they may need to get a job.
2. Connect them to experts for informational interviews
If your student is interested in pursuing a career you’re not familiar with, you may be limited in how much advice or guidance you can provide. Talking to experts in the industry or recent graduates who have secured jobs in that field can give them in-depth insight into the day-to-day life of these kinds of workers. If you know of a colleague or friend in your student’s desired field, ask them whether they’d be willing to meet with them in person or over the phone for an informational interview. While these conversations may not directly lead to a job, they can be invaluable opportunities to learn about the industry and job requirements. But one word of caution: Be sure to discuss it with your student before asking a colleague to do an informational interview. You want to ensure they’re fully on board before making connections on their behalf.
3. Encourage cold networking
Surprisingly, connecting your student to your own professional network may not be the most effective way to help them succeed in their careers. In a study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 70% of students whose internship turned into a full-time job offer found the internship through cold networking: contacting professionals without any established relationship or connection. In the study, NACE theorized that employers might view cold networking more positively since the student is relying on their own merit. Encourage your teen to cold network by:
- Joining professional associations
- Reaching out to people on LinkedIn
- Contacting alumni who work in their desired field
- Attending in-person networking events
Your teen can find networking events through their college’s career services department or by searching on EventBrite.
4. Provide feedback on their LinkedIn profile or website
In today’s market, having an online presence is essential. Your student can increase their chances of success during cold networking by building a strong LinkedIn profile, professional portfolio, or website. If they’re not sure where to start, spend some time searching for professionals in their chosen field. Look for what the top professionals include on their profiles or websites and suggest they use some of those common features. In general, their LinkedIn profile or website should include a recent professional photo, information on their education, and achievements and samples of their work through PDFs, videos, photos, or links.
5. Discuss financial support
Unfortunately, unpaid internships are still the norm, especially in certain industries. According to NACE, approximately 40% of internships are unpaid, with unpaid internships being more common in journalism, public relations, or marketing and social services. However, unpaid internships still provide valuable work experience and help students build a portfolio and professional network. In fact, 85% of individuals who completed unpaid internships said their experiences were highly beneficial to their careers down the road. However, it can be challenging for students to support themselves financially during the internship period. If you can afford to do so, one of the best ways to give your student a leg up is to provide them with some financial support during their internship. Financial support can take forms such as:
- Waiving rent: If your student can live in your home and commute to the internship, waiving rent can give them more breathing room by minimizing their expenses.
- Paying a stipend: Some parents opt to pay a monthly stipend while their student completes their internship. Giving them a flat amount each month allows them to manage and budget their own money accordingly.
- Researching affordable accommodations: Some students opt for internships in other states. If they need to live elsewhere for their internship, you can help them research inexpensive housing options on Airbnb or Sublet.com.
If you can’t afford to support your student during an unpaid internship, make sure they know so they can plan accordingly. They may have to search for paid internships, take a part-time internship while also working a paid job, or build up their savings before taking one on altogether.
Internships are an essential stepping-stone for students looking to gain experience and enter the workforce. Aid their search by helping them explore career options, establish an online presence, and figure out financial needs. By acting in a supporting role, you can give your child the skills they need to succeed without overwhelming them.
Still working to find the right balance while helping your student through their academic journey? Check out more expert advice and articles in our Parents section.