A Student’s Perspective: A Discussion About How to Engage with Potential Interns and Volunteers

Guest post by Shayna Holle, Intern for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Iowa and student at Simpson College

ShaynaHolle.jpgI was recently involved with YNPN as a student panelist for one of their series discussions entitled “Afraid to Ask: Creating Quality Learning Experiences for Students.”

From a student’s perspective, I think it’s great that young nonprofit professionals in the Des Moines area are hungry to figure out how they should be approaching students and the most effective ways to do so. Not only does this series benefit YNPN members, but it also benefits students. As you all desire the best intern for your organization, we desire to be the best intern for the organization that’s right for us. That is something I truly believe. However, sometimes it can be difficult to find that perfect fit.

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So, how do you find the right candidate for your organization? 
I think it starts with generating a detailed and specific position description. Every potential intern or volunteer should be able to gather a sense of the position or opportunity. Generating desired tangible outcomes for the candidate to see is crucial. It’s also important to provide more description than what you think is necessary. Don’t compromise what you’re looking for in a potential intern or volunteer by not listing the qualifications you desire and the tasks you want completed. Because just like you, we also want to get the most out of our experiences and opportunities.

Besides specificity, I think it’s extremely important to be aware of and to utilize your connections with local colleges and universities.Think about anyone and everyone you have interacted with at Drake, Central, Grandview, Iowa State or Simpson. Connections are vital. Being a student at Simpson has allowed me to establish and develop valuable relationships with my professors and other faculty members on campus. When someone on campus approaches me about an opportunity, nine times out of 10, I’ll apply for it. My professors know me; they know my qualifications, experience and skills. When they approach me, it’s because they believe I’m qualified and that I would be a good fit for whatever position it might be. As young professionals within the nonprofit world, you’ve been exposed to how influential and instrumental networking actually is. Utilize your experience and knowledge and become connected to the schools in the area in some way, whether that’s through professors, students or other faculty members.

As a soon-to-be college graduate, I can speak from experience that I wish more nonprofit organizations would be proactive about reaching out to colleges and universities when opportunities arise. So many students, just like myself, are passionate about making a difference and being involved with organizations who advocate for those who aren’t able to do so for themselves. College students are eager to establish lasting impressions, and I believe nonprofits are the perfect place to begin.

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