5 Questions with: Toni McLawhorn, director of career services, on internship etiquette

by rcnewsblog on March 1, 2013

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Figuring out what to do after college can be daunting for many students. Luckily, Roanoke College can help to make this process easier and less stressful.

A top resource at Roanoke is Toni McLawhorn. She is Roanoke’s director of career services, and she works hard to find opportunities to help students land important internships and find their footing in their post graduate careers.

With summer break about two months away, we recently spoke with McLawhorn about the importance of students finding internships and meaningful summer jobs in order to prepare for post graduate life.

RC News Blog: Why is it important for college students to get an internship or a summer job related to their future career field?

Toni McLawhorn: There are a couple reasons why it’s important. First is to build your resume so that by the time you’re a senior and ready to graduate you have more meaningful experiences, things that are related to the field that you want to go into, instead of just a summer job life guarding. Not that that’s a bad job, but it’s not going to sell you to employers, like internships would.

Internships give you the opportunity to try something out before you make a long term commitment for a full time job. A person may have thought all through college that they wanted to go into a particular field and all of the sudden they’re in that field and they don’t really like it.

Internships can give you confirmation that you like a certain field or maybe it’s not for you. It’s better to learn that sooner rather than later.  Employers like to see a couple of internship experiences in their candidates.  We see a pattern of employers having a preference of hiring people with internships.

Students have got to do something meaningful to stand out to employers.

RC News Blog: What resources does Roanoke’s Office of Career Services offer for students?

Toni McLawhorn:  Every job and paid internship that is sent to the Office of Career Services is posted on Maroon Net. It is updated daily, and there are four to 10 new postings each day. These aren’t just local jobs. These are jobs and internships from all over the place. Internships.com is another great site, and it is free. We use alumni and have a way to search the alumni database, helping students network with alumni in different fields. Our alumni look out for each other and if they can help, they will. If you’re looking for a job or internship, Google is always a great source. There is a wealth of information about different jobs and internships across the country on Google.

RC News Blog: What is the best timeline for students to start looking for a summer internship?

Toni McLawhorn: Students need to be looking right now. Some companies are national in scope, and their deadlines have actually passed. Other deadlines will be coming up soon. The companies want to know who they have for their internships early on. It also depends on how national and competitive the program is. The sooner you get on it the much better the opportunity you have.

RC News Blog: What type of job-related workshops do you offer to students throughout the year?

Toni McLawhorn: We have workshops where we work on interview skills, and we go over things like proper attire and different aspects of a good interview. We stress proper attire, and we also try to stress this through different functions we have. At our job and internship fair, we require students to wear business casual not just come as you are. Employers comment and notice when an applicant isn’t properly dressed. With things like this, it is always important to make a good first impression. We occasionally do a business fashion show with a store in the area showing proper business attire.

RC News Blog: How do students find the best internship, and how can students turn an internship into a future job?

Toni McLawhorn: The internship search is a lot like the job search. Nothing is for sure. The student has to sell him or herself. The student also needs to interview the employer and find out exactly what they‘re expecting out of an intern and what will you have them do. If it’s not what you’re looking to do you shouldn’t just take the internship to have it. If an internship turns out not to be what you expected it to be, talk to career services and maybe they can talk with the employer or if you feel comfortable, do it yourself.

Most employers say that there is no promise of a job. There are some jobs that will say that this is step one to employment with us, and if it works out then it can lead to a job. You need to do what you would do as a new employee. You need to show initiative, make sure you are aware of your time management, be on time, show interest in the position, offer suggestions and ideas, and at the same time, not have such high expectations that you put on an air of cockiness.

-By Greg Snyder ’14

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