Sunday, October 12, 2008

Successful Summer Intern Programs!

The Working Life: Making Your Intern Program Work for You

For many businesses, summer means a swarm of seasonal student interns. These youngsters bring energy, cheap labor and knowledge about the latest technologies into the workplace. Managing short-term, college-age workers can pose a unique set of challenges, though. With some effort, you can ensure that your company’s intern program is valuable, effective and worthwhile, for everyone.

The Typical Internship

Almost every type of organization uses internships, from small businesses to large government agencies. Interns are usually college or university students, but they can also be high school students or post graduate adults seeking skills for a new career. Internships are popular and desirable, for both the intern and the employer.

For the intern, it is an opportunity to gain experience in the field, determine if they have an interest in a particular career, create a network of contacts, or gain school credit. For the employer, internships provide cheap or free labor for (typically) low-level tasks and also the prospect of interns returning to the company after completing their education and requiring little or no training. It’s a great way to get quality work while at the same time developing a pipeline of future talent. It’s a win-win for both intern and employer.

Internships can be paid or unpaid. Paid internships are most common in the medical, science, engineering, law, business, accounting, finance, technology and advertising fields. Internships in not-for-profit organizations such as charities and think tanks are often unpaid positions. Internships may be part-time or full-time. Typically they are part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer.

What Makes a Great Program
The intern program is an incredibly valuable and important business tool. A great internship program covers four elements:

Element 1: Clear goals and purposes
Element 2: Structure and strategies to meet those goals
Element 3: Management support and buy-in
Element 4: The experience of the interns

In order to establish and maintain a successful program, those four elements must be assessed regularly. Your program is expensive in terms of time and dollars, so regular evaluation needs to be part of the strategy.

When evaluating an internship program you need to focus on how well you are delivering on the four major elements. This is crucial. Here are the questions you have to ask and answer for each element:

Element 1: Clear goals and purposes: Determine what you want to get out of the program. What are the goals and purposes? What do we want to get out of it? Is it recruiting and training new talent? Hiring cheap summer help? Marketing our company?

Element 2: Structure and strategies to meet those goals: How are we meeting these goals? How and where are we recruiting? How are we onboarding, evaluating and tracking the program?

Element 3: Management support and buy-in: Are the right people involved? Are the managers of the interns on board with the program? Do they understand the goals? Do they have the proper training and resources to create valuable experiences for both the organization and the interns?

Element 4: The experience of the interns: Are we providing the interns with a valuable experience for them and for company? Did we meet their expectations? Did they have the experience that we promised in our recruiting? Would they recommend our organization to other interns or prospective employees? Remember, your interns are not just free workers or potential employees; they will also be broadcasting their opinions about your organization. So make sure they say the right things.

How to Develop a Great Intern Program
For the company, the most important thing is to get really clear about the purpose and goals of your internship program. You have to know what you want to get out of it before you go any further. Start with your objectives and go from there.

No matter what you decide you want to get out of it, you have to work hard to create a positive experience for the intern. Great internship programs mean spending some time to really make sure your goals are in alignment with your intern’s goals.

Today’s youth are much more interested in doing real work than fetching coffee. Make sure you provide your intern with challenging and “real” work as much as possible.

I’ve worked with some companies that have developed dynamic and innovative intern programs. Here are some ideas that work for them:

  1. Create a meaningful onboarding strategy for your interns. This means bringing them together for an interactive orientation and onboarding. This will help set the tone and create a sense of team among your interns.
  2. Consider integrating professional development workshops and trainings. Bring your interns into sessions with higher ups. This helps integrate them and make them feel connected.
  3. Involve managers and senior leaders as much as possible. Use a cohort approach, sponsor meet and greets or other events to provide interns with an opportunity to network.
  4. Provide interns with a meaty project, something they can work on above and beyond their day-to-day tasks. This really gives them a sense of worth, accomplishment and enhances the idea that they are part of the company.
  5. Do a proper close out with them. Find out what they liked and didn’t like, what they would do differently, what worked and what didn’t.

Avoiding the Pitfalls
Great intern programs all have one thing in common: the organization takes it seriously. Great programs require a great deal of work, thought and follow through. Many organizations just kind of slap them together, but this is a mistake. Here are common mistakes companies make and how to avoid them:

Mistake 1: Not ensuring your managers are truly in alignment with the intern program goals. It is often challenging for managers to take on the additional responsibilities of an intern, but the people managing the interns are key elements in your program’s success.
Make sure you choose the right people to work with the interns and make sure you have trained them properly and that they are on board with the program’s goals.

Mistake 2: Not providing meaningful work or professional development for your interns.
Young adults want to gain experience. This is not about simply fetching coffee; it’s about introducing them to the workplace in general and your company in particular. They want to feel they have made a meaningful contribution, so give them something real to do.

Mistake 3: All flash no fire. This is when organizations that want to use their intern program as a recruitment tool spend the summer wining, dining and schmoozing their interns instead of actually trying to see if they would be a good “match” for the organization. Law Firms are really notorious for this. They throw boatloads of money at the summer law associates trying to lure them. Sounds great, but they aren’t really getting much for their money—research shows that there isn’t much correlation between the money spent and the retention it inspires, and lots of firms are re-thinking this practice. Find a way to make the internship meaningful to both parties.

Evaluating the Program
Effectively evaluating your program is crucial to its success. Here are the right ways to evaluate:
  • Hold meetings with the frontline folks who managed and worked with the interns. Do an “After Action Review” and ask: What were the interns' skill levels like? What work did you give them? How could you have utilized them more? What suggestions do you have for next year’s program?
  • Do exit interviews with the interns. Hire an outsider to do this, so they feel comfortable giving honest feedback. If that isn’t feasible, offer an online or anonymous survey. Getting honest feedback is crucial.
  • Keep track. You need to track quantifiable results from your program. This means you have to follow up with the participants and track returning intern ratio, referrals from interns and other quantifiable data.
The hallmarks of a great intern program are establishing clearly defined goals, providing proper supervision and meaningful work and then following up.

If You Are the Intern
Internships are a great way to test the waters of a particular field or company. Internships are also a great way to network and make contacts in your field. Plus, internship experience is great resume fodder. More and more organizations consider internships an integral part of career development, sometimes even more so than other summer jobs.

If you are entering an internship, here are some tips to make it worthwhile:
  1. Take your internship seriously—even if your employer doesn’t.
  2. Think of your internship as a 12-week interview.
  3. Be clear about your personal and professional goals for the internship.
  4. Find out about the company’s goals and find ways to meet them.
  5. Request meaningful work. Volunteer to work on big projects.
  6. Make connections. Network and socialize with colleagues and other interns. Take the time to really get to know a wide assortment of colleagues.
  7. Show appreciation. Write thank you notes and send emails.
  8. Stay in touch! Follow up with the company.

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Laid Off? Now What?

The Working Life: What To Do If You’ve Been laid Off

It happens to thousands of people every day. You get laid off from your job. For many, it’s a terrifying situation, but with a little work, not only can you handle it, you can find a way to move forward.

First of all, it’s important to remember that getting laid off is not the same thing as getting fired. When you get fired, it basically means that didn’t perform the job you were hired to do to the satisfaction of your employer. Getting fired is usually due to performance issues, breaking company regulations and policies or the inability to work effectively within the organization.

Getting laid off, on the other hand, usually means that your employer had to reduce its workforce. This is generally due to economic hardship or restructuring, and you or your position were part of the trimming of the proverbial fat.

While the reasons and intentions behind a firing or a lay off are different, the impact is often the same. You are out in the cold with no job and it feels terrible.

Prepare Yourself
In today’s climate, it is best, as the Boy Scouts know, to be prepared. Rarely does a lay off or a firing come out of the blue. The minute you start hearing rumors or seeing the signs you should start to prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario. Here’s what to do to prepare yourself:
  1. Review your salary and benefits package so you have accurate information of what you can negotiate with HR. The more prepared you are the better off you will be to negotiate an optimal severance package.
  2. Make a list of things to discuss with HR, including benefits severance, help with future employment, training, etc.
  3. Update your resume. This is critical and should be done while still employed. It is much easier to create a positive resume when you are coming from a place of success rather than a place of despair. Do it while you still have a job.
  4. Reconsider any upcoming large expenditures, like trips or other purchases. Now is not the time to buy a new car or go to Paris.
  5. Make sure you have 3 to 6 months of liquid living expenses.
  6. Update your Rolodex or PDA with contacts you may need and start to network immediately. Copy your e-mail address book, phone numbers etc. You may not be able to later.
  7. Gather or copy any awards, accommodations, citations, letters of recommendation, etc. from your workplace that you will need.
The general idea is to reduce as many hurdles as possible to transitioning out of your current job and into another one. You may not have a lot of time or a lot of notice to clear out, so you need to be ready. And with a resume, it is a lot easier to make a minor revision than a major overhaul. So keep your resume updated just to be on the safe side.

The HR meeting

While all the tips above are critical steps, you need to be especially prepared for your meeting with HR. It may come very quickly, with little or no notice. One day you are gainfully employed and the next you are out of a job and sitting in front of your company’s HR person who is handing you a check and telling you your computer access has been cut off. So you need to have your wits about you.

Even though you are being laid off, you can still negotiate. And depending on your position, you may have a lot of things to negotiate. Think of this as a business transaction. There are lots of things to discuss, and this is where being prepared can really help. You will or may need to discuss:
  • A severance package
  • Vacation time, comp time and sick time buy out
  • 401 Ks, stock options and other financial compensation tools
  • Your expense accounts
  • Health insurance – how long will the company pay? What is your share?
  • Other benefits like company cars, club memberships, education and other perqs
  • Transition services like training, employment counseling, relocation, etc.
  • Reference policy and reference letters
  • Copies of awards, commendations, etc.
Before you are shown the door, you need to have your head about you to be able to discuss these and possibly other things with your former employer. And the more prepared you are the better your outcome.

Leaving nicely
Though you may be sorely tempted, now is not the time to tell management what you “really” think about them. I’m not saying you need to empathize with the company that is letting you go, but it is important to remember that it probably was a tough decision for your boss or the organization. No one relishes cutbacks.

You want to leave on the best possible terms for two reasons. First, your next employer may call them for a reference. Second, many companies rehire laid off employees when their economic situation improves. Don’t burn any bridges. Leave nicely.

Wallow, Then Get Going

OK, so you’ve lost the job and now you are at a loss. This is serious. Getting laid off is a major life change that delivers a psychological blow. It rapidly forces people into an unexpected and many times undesirable change, one that is surrounded by a sense of fear, anger, and ambiguity. It’s a hard thing to handle, and it is imperative that you take
some time to adjust to this jarring turn of events. My advice is to take a few days to a week to wallow, feel sorry for yourself and decompress. This is the time for the sweat pants, Oreos and daytime TV.

Then, after a few days, that’s it. No more wallowing. Get up, dust yourself off, get dressed and accept that your new job is to find a job.

The first thing to do is to find out if and when you are eligible to file for unemployment. Check with your local unemployment agency. Programs vary from state to sate, but they generally run between 14 and 21 weeks. There is also a 13-week federal extension program that is worth exploring.

What you don’t want to do is dip into your 401ks or other retirement accounts. Every working person should have 3 to 6 months of living expenses salted away for a rainy day. This may be it. In your meeting with HR, you should have determined your severance package and benefits, like health insurance, so you should have a good idea of what your income and expenses should be in the near term. Sit down and budget your expenses. Now is a good time to cut back where you can.

Next, start networking. Get out there and let people know that you are on the market. Get that resume circulating and start lighting up the phones. Call friends and colleagues. Troll for information. Work your network. Keep in touch with your former HR person and stay updated.
For many people, however, being laid off is a great time to re-evaluate your professional goals and interests. For some, this is the opportunity to make that career change they have longed for. You can use your lay off to make changes in your career development. If you can afford to, take a class, learn a new skill, explore other fields. Take a temp job or internship in that field. That’s a great way to start exploring a new field, start a new network, gain new skills and meet potential employers.

If you don’t want to change careers or fields, temp work is still a great way to get your foot in the door of another company. You can earn money while networking, staying professionally sharp and meeting potential employers.

Many others, however, have been in the same field for 20 or more years. For them, getting laid off is truly terrifying. They may not have the new skill sets to find new jobs. For this group, you will need to find a recent college grad, maybe your son/daughter/niece/nephew, to show you some tips. Don’t let the new fangled Internet distract you from the core competencies of job searching, which are always a stand out resume, superb interviewing skills and a strong network that can alert you to opportunities.

With planning, preparation and perseverance, you can get through being laid off and find another or a new career.

To Listen to an archive of this show:

Dealing With Difficult Co-Workers

The Working Life: Dealing with Difficult Coworkers

The Saboteur. The Exploder. The Demeanor. These monikers sound like characters out of a James Bond novel. In reality, they are sitting in the cubicle next to yours.

Accompanied by the Jerk, the Complainer, the Empty Pit, the Victim, the Micromanager, the Know-It-All, the Gossip and the Constant Competitor, these difficult and obnoxious coworkers can drive you to distraction. Worse, they can impact your work and the work of others, poison the atmosphere and hurt your company’s productivity, not to mention its bottom line.

Dealing with difficult coworkers is a skill that can be mastered, however. With a little knowledge, a lot of understanding and a few tips, you will be able to marginalize these negative forces, overcome workplace difficulties and get back to work.

Use Your E.Q.
One of the best ways to deal with difficult coworkers is through your emotional intelligence. People with high E.Q.s are able to understand the motivations and sources of bad behavior, and this is critical to dealing with the problem. Most difficult people are people with very low emotional intelligence; they have no clue what they are doing or either don’t know or don’t care about the impact of their behavior. But you should use your E.Q. to recognize difficult coworkers and try to discern the motivation behind their behavior. That, in turn, will determine your reaction to it and whether the behavior warrants intervention.

Some people just like to vent, and have no idea that this is annoying and distracting to others. Some people like to cause trouble and make others miserable. Some are simply stunted emotionally -- they never learned how to play nice with others. Others get corrupted by power. Some coworkers may be in over their heads, which creates a situation of personal stress and fear.

Still others are replicating behaviors that have made them successful in the past, but which now serve to undermine the workplace. Some are just overly ambitious and are trying to get ahead at any cost. And others may just be reacting to the unwritten value system of the organization. It’s sad but true, there are many organizations that actually promote and reward difficult behaviors.

Assess, Strategize and Act

Very often, we are terrified to confront others in situations where we really should. In many cases, we enable people to behave poorly by not standing up to them and asking that the behavior stop. This is because most people don’t have an effective model or paradigm for making clear requests and delineating clear boundaries. But dealing with difficult people can usually be handled in 2 or 3 minutes using a well thought out and simple request. There is a right way to do this: assess, strategize and act. Here are the steps:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Detach yourself emotionally from the situation. Take a walk, calm down and sort through your emotional landscape until you can look at the situation clearly and objectively.
  2. Assess the situation honestly. Ask yourself, What is really bothering me? Why does it bother me? What value of mine is being trampled? What boundary is being crossed? How is this hurting my job or ability to perform my job? Can I ignore the behavior and do my job?
  3. Third, explore your contribution to the behavior. This is crucial, as many people suffer from a “victim” personality. You know the Victim. This is the person who is always blaming others for their failings or for their poor performance. This is the person who is always waiting for others to change their evil ways and is never willing to look at their own contribution to the problem. So, take a good hard look at yourself. What has been your contribution to the situation? How are your actions, opinions, perspectives, or behaviors impacting the situation? You have to be willing to change your own behavior before you seek to change others. Name your contribution and own your piece of it, so that you can change and stop.
  4. Fourth, determine what behavior you want changed or stopped. Think about what exactly you want to change.
  5. Think about and practice how you will speak to your coworker. You must find a way that will resolve the situation and not perpetuate it. Remember, don’t phrase it personally. You do not want to come across as attacking the person, just seeking change in a behavior. Make the request in a calm, clear, non-personal and unemotional manner. Do not judge or use the word “should.”
  6. If you are a manager or supervisor, use business tools to make the request and follow up. This includes memos, e-mails, follow-up meetings, performance reviews, etc.
There are lots of mistakes you can make when dealing with difficult or irrational coworkers. First, don’t take it personally. Don’t get emotionally hooked or drawn in by this person. Second, don’t respond at their level. Instead, use your E.Q. and take the higher ground. Third, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that people “should” behave differently or behave to your own internal code of conduct. Understand that others do not necessarily accept your value system and internal ethos. For example, just because you think that managers should care about their employees, or that managers should be fair and give you credit or that coworkers should be teammates or should be respectful and friendly, doesn’t mean that is the way it is. Get real about your workplace.

It is never easy to approach a coworker about bad behavior. In many cases, you do not need or want to go over the person’s head. It should be dealt with one on one. But there are many times when it is advisable to include a third party, either a supervisor or someone from HR. This should only be done if you’ve tried to resolve the situation yourself to no avail, if the difficult people begin to create a toxic and threatening atmosphere, when their behavior is threatening organizational productivity or if you believe that person is truly unhinged. Then get a higher up involved.

When the Boss Is the Problem

If the toxic person is your boss, then you have a tough situation. In any workplace, it is a smart move to “manage up,” which means you should manage and establish a relationship with your boss in a mutually beneficial fashion. You need to make the boss look good and do what it takes to be in his or her good graces. There is nothing wrong with a little ingratiation (which is not the same thing as brown nosing). If you’ve established a good relationship with the boss, you may be able to talk it out. But if not, you've basically got three choices, none of which is great.

First, leave the company. Second, accept the situation and develop strategies to unhook yourself emotionally from your boss’s behavior. Third, try to change your situation at work. Get a new job within the company, try to get your boss fired, or try to change your boss’s behavior.

None are terrific options, but if you choose option two, here are some tips to detach yourself emotionally.

  • Tip 1: Reframe how you see things. Change your mental model about what is going on. Instead of seeing your boss as an insensitive jerk, try to see him as someone who is scared and in over his head.
  • Tip 2: Hope for the best, but expect the worst. Stop expecting your boss to be someone he/she isn’t. Prepare for worst case encounters
  • Tip 3: Practice emotional detachment. Stop linking your self worth to jerks at work. Find another way to value yourself.
  • Tip 4: Limit your exposure. Meet with your boss as rarely as possible. Do whatever you can to create buffers.
  • Tip 5: Build pockets of safety. Find people with whom it is safe to vent and create strategies. A sort of victim support group.

Study and practice
It is not easy to handle and deal with difficult coworkers or supervisors. Even with the above tips you will need to practice your approach. There are lots of places to get help, though, and here are three books I highly recommend for further study: “Working with you is killing me,” by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster; “The No Asshole Rule,” by Robert Sutton; and “Crucial Confrontations,” by Kerry Patterson.

With a little understanding, a little detachment and some practice, you can figure out the problem, the source and what to do about it.

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Emotional Intelligence At Work

The Working Life: Emotional Intelligence

Many different things go into the making of a good leader and a strong individual. Knowledge, drive, ambition, resourcefulness, force of will, intellect, etc. But there is one factor that almost all successful people share - emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to use your emotions in a positive and constructive way in relationships with others. It's about engaging with others in a way that brings people towards you, not away from you. Emotional Intelligence is about recognizing your own emotional state and the emotional states of others and being “choiceful” about how you interact and engage with them. It is about choosing to engage people in a positive and constructive manner, and it can help tremendously in the workplace.

The E.I. Personality
Emotional Intelligence is divided into 4 basic competencies. Each competency has several skills or personality traits.

1. Self Awareness
This is recognizing how emotions affect one's performance. It requires an accurate self assessment, a candid sense of one's personal strengths and limits and then being able to accurately identify one's own areas of improvement. Self-aware individuals are reflective and learn from experience. They are open to candid feedback, new perspectives and self-development.

2. Self Management
This is the ability to manage one's internal states, impulses, and resources. It means being choiceful in interactions with others and the ability to manage or control reactions to difficult situations. Personality traits include self control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, innovation and optimism.

3. Awareness of Others (Social Awareness)
This is the awareness of other people's feelings, needs, and concerns. It means having empathy, seeking to understand others and being able to read and tune in to the emotional state of others. Social awareness skills include understanding others, developing others, service orientation, leveraging diversity and having political awareness.

4. Relationship Management
This competency is about successfully engaging with others. It includes the ability to communicate, relate and listen well to others and to induce desirable responses in them. People with this ability understand that emotions are contagious. They can adapt their communication styles to people and situations.

EI in the Workplace

Emotional Intelligence is extremely useful at work. Most workplaces rely on different people working together to create a product or service. The workplace is not “all business.” It is a social network and, as such, it is a hotbed of emotions, egos, stress and conflict. Emotional Intelligence can help you develop robust relationships, solve problems using both logic and feelings, maintain an optimistic and positive outlook, cultivate flexibility in stressful situations, help others express their needs, respond to difficult people and situations calmly and thoughtfully and respond to change with grace and calm.

Many people assume that a high IQ is more important than high EI skills. While both are important, many studies show that EI is a much more accurate determinant for success and career growth than technical skills or a high IQ. Today's workplaces are fast moving and full of change. The ability to roll with the punches is huge. You'll get the best out of your employees if you create an emotionally intelligent workplace and you'll be a better employer or leader if you use your EI.

Emotional Intelligence really comes into play when it comes to managing and dealing with difficult people, including customers, employees, colleagues, and bosses. Your ability to understand and empathize goes a long way. EI is important for managing change, understanding the political landscape for a new project, dealing well with setbacks or workplace obstacles, motivating and influencing others and working with or for a team with different personalities.

Some people are born with natural EI sills. In certain fields, EI goes hand in hand with success, like sales. Some people are natural born salesmen. Many companies actually use EI competency testing as criteria for selection into highly engaging positions like sales. A recent survey showed that companies that selected their sales people by using EI competency criteria decreased their first year turnover rate by a whopping 63 percent.

But EI can also be taught and many companies hire consultants like me to host workshops to train employees on emotional intelligence. If companies are truly committed to creating a positive workplace, this can be a great way to start.

EI works on the self-employed as well. First of all, very few people actually work “alone.” Even if you are a sole task producer you still have to create something for a customer and client, so your ability to manage your relationships, even if it is just one or two, is pretty important. And you still have to manage yourself. Your state of mind will absolutely affect your work product. Being able to manage your own emotional landscape will definitely help improve your work product and process.

How Employers Can Use EI
Employers and managers should think about what kind of climate will get the best out of their employees. It always makes me cringe when I see leaders use oppressive tactics to drive performance. It really isn't a successful long-term strategy, especially if you hit hard economic times. A person's relationship with their employer is and has always been a leading factor in an employee's decision to stay or go, and contributes greatly to their productivity.

So if you want to improve your image as a leader, get feedback and be willing to make improvements in yourself and your management style. And remember, being emotionally intelligent is not about “being soft” or forgoing the bottom line. It's about creating and maintaining constructive and generative relationships and environments, and that helps your bottom line.

EI is critical for top leaders. In fact, the higher your position in a company, the more important emotional intelligence becomes. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the biggest reason that managers fail is because of poor interpersonal skills. Another survey showed that 85 percent of the difference between a good leader and an excellent leader is emotional intelligence.

You can easily see this when you ask people what qualities they think make a great leader or boss. Eighty-five percent of the qualities they name are usually EI qualities while only a handful turn out to be technical skills. EI is critical for a good leader.

How to Measure Your EI
There are lots of books out there that you can use to test your EI. You can also go online to find lots of tests, like

Employers are always looking for people who are not only book smart, but are also charismatic, optimistic and resilient. They want people who are not afraid to use emotional intelligence to get ahead. Find out where you stand so you can use your EI to get ahead. Whether you are an employee, a boss, a manager or are self-employed, EI is a critical component of your success.

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