Five Tips to Create Successful Summer Work Terms


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Setting Students Up For Successful Summer Terms

student employees
Summer work terms are essentially summer-long job interviews. It’s important that your students are set up for success from day one and that you gain the most value out of them during their 4 months at your company. After all, the goal is to test drive them for full time employment post graduation.

5 Tips To Build Successful Summer Work Terms:

1. Be Clear on Your Expectations

You may hire 1 or 250 students every summer. It’s important they aren’t just another number. To them, this is a make or break it career-building experience.

Being thoughtful and creating a great summer takes planning. The first step is setting goals.

Defining summer work objectives helps ensure students and leaders are on the same page. From an HR perspective, I highly recommend creating a standard student goal setting document. In it, your students and leaders can agree on goals for the work term, define what success of those goals looks like, and agree on final work-term evaluation points. This document can start and end their summer.

2. Create Mentorship Opportunities

Choosing the Right Leaders

Choosing the right leaders to guide summer students is very important as they require more hands on management and constructive feedback.

Not all technical leaders are built to be managers. Choose the right leaders to guide students. Being clear on what is expected of your leaders in managing summer students helps everyone perform well.

Hosting lunch and learns for managers is an easy way to kick off your programming before your student’s start. An agenda might include: emailing students prior to their first day with their first week’s agenda, planning their work term goals and objectives, booking monthly check-ins, best practices for giving feedback, and how to complete final student evaluations.

Peer Mentorship

Buddy or peer mentorship programs are a really great support system to provide your students. Partnering them up with a new grad that has recently joined the company provides a safe place for them to ask those questions they wouldn’t want to ask their new leader.

Senior Exposure

Giving students exposure to senior leaders is very motivating. It’s important to ensure it delivers value to both your students and your senior leaders.

A great way to create an opportunity for senior exposure is to have students complete an end of term project or report. This report could be presented to the senior technical leader in your department. Thus, the report would include the technical skills that were hopefully demonstrated during that summer term and by making it an oral presentation, they can also demonstrate their interpersonal skills. Creating an “end of term student day” could be a full day of student presentations from a given department and then a thank you dinner to nicely close off the term.

3. Run Student Events

Host First Day Orientations

A first day orientation is really important. Giving student’s an overview of office policies, how to go to for what type of information, overview of company culture, and key highlights or events during their summer terms is a great way to orient them to your company.

Student Development Events

As per Helen Rol’s recent post on 3 tips to run successful student events, these are a very important part of a successful student term. They are opportunities to help develop your students and build your employment brand. Don’t miss Helen’s tips on building successful events – Read it HERE.

End of Summer Student Day

Ending the summer term with a thank you day helps end the term on a positive note.

4. Complete End of Term Evaluations

Evaluations take time to complete and your managers are busy; however, these are a great way to give your student’s direct feedback on what they did well and what skills they need to work on. This is really tied to tip 1 on setting expectations and what success looks like.

A standard summer student evaluation should include points like evaluating teamwork, collaboration, written and oral communication, technical skills, and leadership etc. We all know that it’s not just what you know but also how you work that builds successful careers.

A good student will take that feedback to heart and use it to improve their skills and grow their career. Don’t underestimate the power this feedback holds. As an HR professional, helping your senior leaders plan this date and use a pre-created template makes it as easy as possible. Remember, the easier it is, the more likely it will be done well!

5. Get Student Feedback

As stressed above, it’s important to give your student’s feedback from their work term; however, it is equally as important to gain feedback from your students.

Understanding what went well in their term and what can be improved upon can help in debriefing your summer program and continue to make it more successful year after year.

Depending on the volume of your student hiring, you may choose to do these in person or via an online survey. If volume allows, I prefer to do these in person as you can probe into answers and really get the nitty gritty details.

Let’s Hear from You

Students: What have made your summer terms awesome? What were major fails?

HR/Leaders: What helped make your summer student programs successful? What advice would you give students to help them have a great summer?

Chelsea Newton
Chelsea is known as a dynamic and engaging talent consultant and professional speaker. As a Certified Executive Coach, she is extremely passionate about helping people realize both their goals and full potential. Chelsea has worked in 12 countries around the world helping Fortune 500 companies recruit, train, develop, and motivate top talent using cutting edge communication techniques and social media. She is currently developing top talent in the oil sands and speaking across Canada as the founder of Talent Formula.

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