One day, Jessica Brown wants to be bigger than Donald Trump. However, for now, she would relish the opportunity of being Trump's – or some other company's – “apprentice.”
“I'm honestly looking for an internship that will keep me busy,” said the Siena Heights University senior management/marketing major. “I'm looking for a challenge that will help me in the future.”
Brown was one of a dozen or so SHU students who participated in the recent Reverse Internship Fair. SHU's Career Services Office and the local office of South Central Michigan Works! partnered to offer the unique fair to bring business and organization representatives on campus to interview potential internship candidates.
According to SHU Director of Career Services Melissa Growden, each year many businesses contact her about the possibility of student interns. Instead of the usual method of the student visiting the employer, Growden and SCMW's Business Solutions Manager Jack Townsley decided to “reverse” the process by having employers come on campus to meet and interview multiple internship candidates in one day.
“The idea is the candidate is behind the table versus the employer being behind the table,” Growden said. “The candidate really has to know who they are as a professional and what they are bringing to the table. It's more of a shared process.”
Junior- and senior-level students interested in attending the fair had to pre-register. That process included completing mandatory workshops before the fair in resume writing and interviewing, which were conducted by SCMW.
“Students had to attend both workshops to be eligible to participate,” Growden said. “There was a learning component to the actual experience.”
Employers also had to complete a registration process, providing a job description of the internship beforehand.
During the fair, employers could freely move around the room to meet internship candidates. Once the open forum was finished, employers then individually interviewed their top three choices. Finally, they met with Growden and Townsley to decide the best fit.
“Several of our students were courted by multiple employers,” Growden said. “We put it back to the students. We wanted them to go where they feel the most comfortable.”
Maggie Seagraves, human resource coordinator for ididit, inc., a manufacturer of steering columns for hot rods and golf carts based in Tecumseh, Mich., said she attended the fair to find an intern to fill in for a full-time employee who is going on maternity leave. She said finding the right combination of personality and skills is important to her small, family-owned company.
“Personality plays a big part of it with the dynamics of our office,” Seagraves said. “We're hoping to make that connection.”
Growden said some internships are paid, some are not. Most offer college credit, but there also are more lasting benefits, especially in today's job market.
“The value of an internship is the on-the-job experience,” Growden said. “It's a leg up. If you are looking at two candidates and one has an internship and one does not, that can be the lynch pin.”
“Being in the HR industry, everyone goes on word-of-mouth,” Seagraves said. “The job market isn't where it should be, and establishing that type of relationship prior to getting out there I think is very necessary.”
Growden said the fair placed nine students with internships, and “everybody who participated came away with the outcome they intended.”
That included Brown, who landed a for-credit paid internship with Goodwill Industries.
“I want to own my own company or be a CEO of a multi-million dollar company,” Brown said of her long-term career goals. “I like networking, and I think this (fair) was an all-around good experience.”