TUN sits down with Adam Capozzi, the director of career services, assessment and student success at Syracuse University, to discuss what students can do to help them get a summer internship.
TUN: Adam, thanks for joining us.
CAPOZZI: I appreciate the opportunity, Jackson.
So, let’s start on campus. What on-campus resources can students use to help them find summer internships?
That is a great question. With my role, I have to do a plug for career services and stress the importance of meeting with your career teams. No matter your school or your institution, I’m sure many of you have career departments that are at your disposal 24/7 and year-round.
We are great resources for all aspects of your career exploration. It can be anything from starting off your professional development journey to seeking support on employment negotiations. The individuals in career services are really there to help you define, search and achieve your goals and ambitions. So, the conversations can really be endless.
On top of us, I also suggest meeting with your professors. They are amazing resources. You’re in their classrooms every single day, and they stay in contact with a lot of their previous students who are out in the real world right now doing some amazing things. So, speaking with them and sharing your career goals can lead to more robust coaching outside of what you traditionally do with career services and really help you navigate the internship search process based off of any material that you’re learning within the course itself.
Outside of those main two points, I would suggest getting involved with student organizations. Many of them have close ties to external organizations and partner with them on year-round recruitment programs. So, these can happen on campus when we do get back to normal, and we are seeing a great deal of it from a virtual lens.
Are there any online resources that students can use to help them find summer internships?
Yeah. So, almost every university and college has an online CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that they use to post internships, jobs, information on career fairs, employer info sessions, professional development programs and any type of interaction like that.
At Syracuse University, we utilize Handshake. Very similar to Handshake, these other CRM platforms are 24/7. They offer great resources, and I highly recommend that students make it a habit to be checking them on a daily basis. A lot of new and exciting opportunities are always being posted. So, being active within that is probably my number one recommendation.
From an external lens, LinkedIn. I can’t stress the importance of LinkedIn enough. To all of the students with whom I interact, I always stress the importance of having an online presence. So, if you don’t have a profile, I recommend creating one. Make sure that your information is as up-to-date as possible, and treat this as your online resume. Outside of creating your profile, follow organizations that you are interested in. I know that that sounds very easy, but you will be surprised by how frequently they are posting different internships, placement opportunities, webinars or overall interactions that they are doing daily, weekly and/or monthly. So, the more that you can be ingrained in that, the better.
Also, a new feature of LinkedIn that I love is that they highly recommend that a person who is still seeking opportunities add a label called “open network” to their profile picture. This is cool because it shows that you’re interested in receiving connections, and internships and job requests can come from this. So, definitely be active in that.
On top of that, I recommend that students check out sites like Cantor, Parker Dewey, and Intern From Home. Not only are these sites highlighting which companies are actively hiring, which is extremely important right now, but they also offer smaller, more condensed micro-experiences These can really help you boost your resume during times like the winter break that we are currently in or find those in-semester opportunities for those additional hands-on internships or small experiences.
Great. So, do you have any networking tips for students who are looking for summer internships? Who should students be reaching out to and where can they find these people?
I’m going to go back to career services again and stress the importance of meeting with us. I say this because we can help students with being more comfortable and prepared to talk about themselves as they start to seek out opportunities.
It can be very challenging to make that first connection and know what to say or how to say it. So, working with us on your elevator pitch — on who you are, what you’re studying, what your interests are and what your future plans are at this moment — is extremely important during the beginning stages of networking.
I will also say, utilize your personal network. You don’t realize the people who are in your own back pocket right now. These could be family friends. They could be relatives. They are probably in careers or in fields that are highly interesting to you. So, in the holiday season, use this free time to reach out to them, connect with them and learn a little bit about how they got to where they are. This is a great way to get instant, unbiased feedback. You’ll learn the things that you should focus on in the future should you go down that career path.
Going back to LinkedIn, connect with alumni from your institution. This is an amazing thing that I highly recommend. Nine out of 10 times, alumni will accept your request to connect. You can utilize the alumni feature within the platform. But, I highly recommend putting a personalized message with a request, and don’t specifically ask for a job. You want to nurture the relationships that you’re making because the whole goal is to strengthen your overall network, as it could potentially lead to future opportunities. If you strike up a good rapport now, a door could open. It might not open next week, but it could open in two weeks, a month or even a year from now.
Additionally, look at mentor programs. All of the schools and colleges that I have worked at and partnered with have some type of mentorship program. This could be peer-to-peer or this could be peer-to-alumni. So, definitely find out information about that. Information about mentorship programs is usually posted on the different schools, colleges and universities’ websites. These are going to be great conversation pieces to help get you comfortable and start looking into different career paths.
Great. So, how early in the year should students start looking for summer internship opportunities?
This really depends on your major and area of focus. It is interesting. This has been a big change in the last 10 years. For students who are interested in the traditional STEM career fields, active recruitment can really start a year prior — at the end of the summer or start of the semester for that next upcoming summer. So, being active in the process 9-10 months ahead of time is extremely important.
For students who are focused on more of the creative fields or interested in the arts, opportunities can be a little bit more cyclical. So, these can really expand into the end of the academic year or even at the start of the summer for that summer term.
This is also going to change depending on your location and the type of organization that you’re seeking out. But, I recommend sooner rather than later, to give a better understanding of the type of roles that are out there. And, a good starting point can be your school’s career fair. Most schools are running fall career fairs throughout the month of September, very early in the academic year. And this is a great opportunity to hit the ground running and explore your options.
Great. So, how many internships should students be applying for? Is there a set number?
I wouldn’t say that there is a set number. But, I would definitely advise keeping your options open. Focus on what the experiences have to offer when you’re reading the job descriptions and the number of hands-on opportunities that they provide.
You shouldn’t go out and say, “I want to apply for 10 internships in this one month.” You want to be really considering what the experience would be like, should you be offered the opportunity to interview and proceed.
When I say keep your options open, that doesn’t mean do a complete 180 and apply for something that doesn’t correlate with your career interests or potential goals. You want to look at organizations that are very similar to the ones that you’re actively seeking out. So, if you want to go into business development and you have a certain company in mind, look at who that company’s competitors are. Look at the jobs and/or internships that the company is posting, and that could open up maybe two or three more opportunities for you to be applying for.
Great. Thanks, Adam, for joining us today.
I appreciate this, Jackson.
This interview has been edited for clarity.