Do you remember searching for internships while in school or as a freshly minted graduate? If you were like me, you probably didn’t have many contacts with hiring connections in your desired industry, so finding an internship was a long process of making calls, browsing the jobs section of company website after company website, or visiting offices in person to ask if any internship positions were open. Maybe you stopped by your school’s on-campus career center for help, but even then, you had to visit during certain hours and hope someone on staff was knowledgeable enough about the type of organization you wanted to gain experience with to make a qualified recommendation.
You needed those recommendations quickly, too: Many internships are semester- or summer-based and the deadlines to apply often happen months in advance of their start date.
Your association has the potential to make the arduous internship finding experience easier while developing relationships with potential future members (and their employers) by building out an internship section, or module, in your online career center.
What is an internship module?
An internship module is an area within your existing online career center dedicated to hosting internship listings. Such a section can help job candidates who find a position in which to practice skills learned in a classroom and/or deepen their understanding of the pace and experiences your industry offers. It can be an area of your website where students, recent graduates and career changers can post a short, simplified profile/resume that outlines their interests for employers to browse.
It’s also an area for employers to advertise open internships and find the help they need. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that half of internships and co-op positions are filled via open applications. Just 8.2 per cent of internships are filled through direct faculty contacts. An internship destination on your association’s online career center can help employers, who begin looking for interns an average of eight months before the desired start date, shorten the hiring process by delivering a targeted audience to their internship listings. An internship module gives employers customized space to describe the responsibilities and benefits of their internship offerings as well.
Benefits of hosting an internship module
Incorporating a new career development tool such as an internship module on your online career center helps position your association as the premier resource within your industry or profession.
An internship section can benefit your members and potential members by:
- Bringing more attention to the value of internships: Internship positions are sometimes overlooked, but they are an excellent building block for the next generation of industry professionals and a cost-effective way for employers to find their next generation of leaders.
- Inviting potential members to explore other areas of your association: Any time you market something new on your website, you can potentially bring attention to other content on your site through links, display ads, video or pop-ups.
- Making the hiring process easier: A common profile for applicants to complete and apply to multiple internship listings within your internship module makes for a more pleasant application experience. Bringing many applicants together on one site also makes it easy for employers to comb through candidates in one place and complete the hiring process faster.
An internship area addresses employer goals:
Associations that help employers attract up-and-coming talent in an efficient, convenient way prove another aspect of their value:
- The employer’s listing can receive applications 24/7 from both students and non-students that may be interested in their internship position.
- As a registered employer with an internship posting on the site, they will have access to review the searchable student profiles that applicants create within the career center.
- This allows employers to easily identify the candidates that are a good fit for their position and reach out to make a connection.
Benefits for your association:
- Lead generation: When applicants fill out a site profile, your association gains another potential member lead.
- Revenue growth: When employers see how easy it is to post an internship position and the attention existing positions receive, they’ll want to post more, resulting in more revenue for your online career center.
- Stronger sponsor relationships: Employers who feel they receive a good value from listing internships with your association will be more likely to sponsor additional job listings, programming, and/or members.
- Additional enhancement to your career center. The addition of the module will make for a more robust Career center that members and potential members want to use instead of turning to larger, impersonal job search engines.
A few questions to ask yourself before implementing an internship module in your online career center:
- Is this a good fit for my organization? Does your industry hire for internship positions or have a steady stream of interns? Keep in mind that other terms like “externship” or “residency” could refer to these types of positions meant for industry newcomers.
- What do I want to get out of this? Are you looking to simply provide another career development tool for your website visitors / members? Do you want to use an internship section as a way to reach more young professionals who might become members? Do you want to potentially earn more non-dues revenue by expanding the type or volume of job listings on your online career center that are pitched to employers?
- Would this be successful? You should take a look at your industry’s job market and get an idea of the amount of internships that are typically offered throughout the year. You’ll create a substandard user experience if you open an area for internships on your career center with very few listings to explore. Research what other organizations charge for internship listings, and consider creating packages or specials that incorporate this new offering to your existing job listing packages. Get the word out to your members, your employer partners, schools and students that you have this great new internship finder available online and help them take advantage of it by providing user guides via email or PDF. As with most programs the more you put into it, the more successful it would be.
Implementing an internship module in your online career center
Once you have identified that an internship module or section is indeed a good fit for your organization, it’s time to build it.
Determine how you can work this into your existing career center or determine the resources within your organization to help build this into your existing website. When setting up, be sure that you are providing the necessary benefits for both your employers and job seekers to connect efficiently: A clearly-labeled section, easy-to-locate listings, a central profile for internship seekers to complete, and a direct link between applicants and employers, to start.
Build up a sizeable amount of internship listings for the section. If you know of employers who have already expressed a strong need for internships, invite them to be part of your internship launch. Make it easy for employers to post their internship positions and to seek out those students that are looking to fill their internship positions. When accessing a student record, provide them with a snapshot of relevant information that can help them to determine if this student would be a good fit for their position.
It’s up to your association whether or not to charge for internship listings. If you do charge, consider setting a special rate for a short period of time or for the first 25 employers who book internship listings with your association.
You’ll want to make the process of creating a student/applicant profile, updating personal information and viewing and applying for an internship as simple and intuitive as possible. Make sure all text is large enough to read, in a font and color that is decipherable, and organized in a logical way that leads the applicant from discovery to application complete with no roadblocks.
Once up and running you will want to conduct occasional user surveys. See how internship seekers like using the platform (or not) and what could make searching for an internship on your association’s career center more effective. Ask employers about the value they perceive from listing their internship positions on your career center and about the quality of candidates they’re hiring. Knowing how well you’re meeting the needs of internship seekers and employers will help you keep this new section useful and engaging, and help keep your association in mind when those two audiences need resources in other areas of their professional lives.
Promotion of your internship module
Create some excitement about your new offering and let your members know they can now take advantage of it as a resource.
Advertise your improved career center to universities, technical schools and your membership lists. Talk it up at association events. Include a printed link to your online career center and instructions about how to access the internship module in your member newsletter and magazine. Put a direct link to the internship listings in a featured area of your homepage. The easier it is to locate, the more attention it will receive. Let everyone know this is now a resource and position your association as the go-to place to secure an internship.
Internships can be a key building block for a student’s career path. Internships provide up-and-coming professionals with hands-on experience that help them hone in on their desired career path and make them a more competitive candidate. Help your employer members find the right candidates and your student members the right career path through an internship section in your online career center.