For aspiring housing professionals, the prospect of choosing a summer internship can be a bit daunting. With hundreds of schools to choose from, you must ask yourself several questions about what you hope your educational outcomes from the internship will be. Reflecting on my own search process, I realized the questions I used to guide my search were nothing more than the old “who, what, where, when, why and how” questions that have been in my decision-making tool box for years.
For anyone contemplating a search of their own, I thought I would share how these questions led me to my position here at Capstone On-Campus Management on the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As a current Graduate Residence Hall Director, my timeline to close my building and reopen it was pretty tight. The when question allowed me to significantly narrow my search, which was a relief; schools that needed an intern through August were automatically off my. You may have other time considerations that can guide you. The where also significantly guided my search. Knowing I had very limited experience working or visiting the South, I decided to narrow my search to that region to get a broader perspective of student affairs operations in other areas of the country. I also was interested in seeing how an urban campus operates since I had yet to have that experience. Others may also look at institutions they are considering for future employment or schools offering a comfortable proximity to home.
The who I would be working with question was very important to me as well. Coming from a school with a robust housing department, I was interested in experiencing how a smaller department operates so I could potentially wear even more hats than I normally do. I also thought about working at a private institution since my experience has been with public schools, which helped me in my search as well. It was not until after my search began that I realized third-party housing management could add breadth to my understanding of housing. Given my preference for highly collaborative institutions, it helped me rule out positions that would function largely independently or at a high power distance.
Lastly, I considered the feel of my interaction with my potential supervisor in our phone interviews. Feeling comfortable with the interpersonal “fit” was something very important to my search. Through my search, I found what job responsibilities you might have in housing can be quite diverse over the summer. With choices ranging from residence director to conferencing coordination to operations point-person, the emphasis of your time within the same department can be spent in entirely different areas. Choosing the areas I was most interested in was very helpful to narrow my search as well. The way I decided what was most important was by asking myself how I would like to grow from my internship experience. I realized I could either spend my summer in one of two ways – I could continue working as a residence hall director (which I know I already loved) or to expand into an area I’m not familiar with (for example facilities). In interest of broadening my skillset, I chose to do the latter.
After taking all of these questions into consideration, I had considerably narrowed my search, making what started out as a huge database significantly less daunting. I was then able to confidently apply to several positions with the outcomes I intended in mind. I also reconsidered many of these questions when deciding which of several offers to accept. After being offered a position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham through Capstone On-Campus Management, I knew I had found a great match. It boasted of being a privatized company working in conjunction with a public university, was in the region I was interested in, on an urban campus, offered experience working in facilities and operations, the compensation was competitive and both my perspective coworkers and the wider Birmingham community promised a great summer both professionally and socially.
This is how I made my internship decision and am very glad I did. For any readers, either supervisors or fellow housing professionals/interns, are these similar to the questions you asked yourself when searching for a position? Is there anything I missed? I would love to hear how others approach their search process. Like everything in this internship, I hope this selection process will prepare me well when I begin my search to work full-time.
Lisa Maroni is the ACUHO-I Intern for Capstone On-Campus Management and University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Housing and Residence Life in Birmingham, Alabama. She is originally from Detroit, Michigan and completed her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies-Business at Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw, Michigan. After completing a year teaching English in Korea and Taiwan, Lisa began her Master of Education program in Counseling-Student Affairs at the Northern Arizona University in the fall of 2011. She is serving as a Graduate Assistant Residence Hall Director in a Freshman Connections residence hall there as she finishes her degree.