As the importance of developing student career readiness increases for colleges and universities, there are many opportunities for on-campus employers to reimagine and elevate their on-campus student employment positions as internships. As the Student Employment Specialist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I oversee several areas including posting student employment positions, reviewing hiring documents, and unifying student employee training and onboarding. When I started in my role in July 2021, I saw potential in these areas to build an internship experience to allow a student to get exposure to Human Resources professionally.
Seeing the potential, the Maverick Student Employment Internship was created. For this position, I was looking for a student who was interested in a career in Human Resources, Communications, Training & Development, Business Management, Marketing, or another related field. This article outlines the experiences that were built into the internship for the student and highlights the student’s perspective on how it helped in their career readiness.
HR Skill Chats
Utilizing the competencies of Human Resources outlined by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), including Human Resource Expertise (HR Knowledge), Ethical Practice, Leadership and Navigation, Business Acumen, Consultation, Critical Evaluation, Communication, Global and Cultural Effectiveness, and Relationship Management, each week an article was shared with the student. Along with the article, reflection prompts, questions, or activities were shared for the student to complete. At the end of the week, a one-on-one meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes to go over the HR skill for the week, discuss the reflection activity, and make connections to how the skill is used in a professional setting.
Student Experience with HR Skill Chats
These discussions have been very beneficial because they not only allow me to learn from the article, but also my supervisor’s perspective. These chats have been great for our relationship as supervisor and intern because we have gotten to know each other better through them. HR is the career that I am most interested in currently, so it means a lot to me that this internship experience was uniquely tailored for me and my interests. These chats have allowed me to learn more about HR, situations I could encounter, and professional organizations I could get involved in. It has become clear to me that the goal of this internship was to make sure that I get just as much out of this experience as the University does with the work that I complete, thus truly living up to the expectations and standards we have set for student employment.
In the internship, even if the student is not directly involved in some of the day-to-day operations of your area, it doesn’t mean that the student can’t get exposure to what you do in your position. This helps the student visualize what your position looks like and what their career could be. In this position, the intern observed the process of reviewing job descriptions and prepared them for posting. In addition, the student walked through the hiring paperwork that employers fill out and how to send the documents for processing.
Student Experience with Shadowing Opportunities
What intrigues me the most about HR is the versatility that it offers. In HR, you can be in management, payroll and benefits, training, conflict mediation, interviewing and hiring, or many other roles. In this internship, I have been shown how to post positions on Handshake (our university’s official career platform) and the process of reviewing hiring forms for data entry. These have been great experiences, as being shown these responsibilities serves as a good indication of what my day-to-day could potentially look like as an HR specialist or generalist.
Meaningful Work Experiences
The Maverick Student Employment Intern had the opportunity to work on several meaningful projects throughout the internship. Most of their day-to-day work centered around developing a unified approach to student employee training. Regardless of the area that a student works in on-campus, there are common skills that we want all student employees to have. The intern researched, designed, and developed content for online training modules in the areas of customer service, communication etiquette, and campus resources. Once the program is established, the completed trainings have the opportunity to reach our 1,600-student employee population on-campus. The intern also helped to implement programming for National Student Employment Week and had the opportunity to give the keynote address at the Maverick Student Employment Awards Banquet.
Student Experience with Meaningful Work Experiences
This has perhaps been the best thing about this internship. Many employers still have a stereotypical view of what responsibilities they can have their interns complete. For example, tasks such as filing paperwork, answering the phones, or picking up coffee. However, in this internship, everything I completed had a purpose. I reviewed our Student Employment Handbook for revisions, drafted statements that have been incorporated into our website and in emails, and I have researched, drafted, edited, recorded, and published student employee trainings. Even when I completed employer outreach, and emailed dozens of supervisors about the status of their job postings, I felt like what I was doing was important.
A highlight of this internship was having the opportunity to give the keynote address at the Maverick Student Employment Awards Banquet for National Student Employment Week. I was seated at the same table as the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. Giving my speech on stage right after the Chancellor, I spoke for 10 minutes about my experience as a student worker on campus, and how it has impacted my life and career readiness. After the banquet, the head of HR at UNO came up to me and gave me his business card. He told me to contact him if I have any questions about HR. Now, thanks to this internship, I have another great experience ahead of me.
Closing Thoughts and Questions to Consider
As you think about how you can reimagine student employment positions in your offices, it is important to take an internal look at your own position, other positions in your office, and the mission and responsibilities of your department. How can you leverage your professional position and department functions to build an experience that helps students gain exposure to career-ready skills? As you work to develop on-campus internships, here are other questions you should consider:
- What professional area, competencies, or skills could a student gain experience in working in your office?
- How would the internship experience build upon what a student may be learning in the classroom?
- What meaningful activities, work experiences, or shadowing opportunities could an intern complete in your office?
- How will you structure time in the internship for you to follow up and discuss career ready skills with your intern?
Student Experience Final Thoughts
In this internship experience, shift after shift, I was given a plethora of opportunities from which I could learn, grow, and reflect upon professionally. The internship has prepared me for life after college, which is part of the mission of Maverick Student Employment. Thanks to the HR skill chats, shadowing opportunities, and meaningful work experiences, I couldn’t imagine working in a different position at this critical moment in my life with my senior year coming up next year. Interviewing for this internship was an excellent decision, and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and how it has prepared me for success in the future.