An in-depth interview with JCU’s Center for Career Services to answer questions about internship and job opportunities.
By Matilde Pozzato / Matthew staff || Edited by Sara Segat
As a Matthew board member and current intern through the Center for Career Services, I interviewed the Center’s director Professor Salvatore and Office Coordinator Federico Virzo, to address student questions and doubts about the center and make the community more aware of how to get an internship or a job through this office.
To build a strong CV, having at least one internship experience during undergraduate studies is crucial. Future employers – as well as graduate programs – are interested in candidates with experience in the job market and who have tried out different activities outside the classroom.
Currently, the Center has more vacancies than candidates for internship and job positions.
The John Cabot Center for Career Services, located on Critelli’s first floor, is a free service that helps students and alumni find internships and jobs. The office is run by four JCU staff members: Marketing Professor Antonella Salvatore, who has been the Director of the Center since 2011; Federico Virzo, the Office Coordinator; Giorgia Tamburi, the Events Coordinator and Career Counselor; and Operation Support staff, Joanna Ramos. Services offered include the revision of job applications, CVs, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. The team also helps with creating personal branding and preparing for job interviews. They often hold webinars on different topics related to internship and job opportunities, and they have also recently launched the platform Jobiri, which uses AI to help students build their CVs and cover letters while also simulating interviews and offering a wide range of how-to videos. Today, the center networks with 750 companies offering a wide range of internships to JCU students and jobs to graduates.
Some students, however, had reported to me that they did not necessarily “enjoy” their internship or what they did with the company they interned with. According to Professor Salvatore, this is not a negative thing. On the contrary, she said she is glad that students can gain experience, and if they did not like what they did – as long their relationship with the company remain professional and polite – it means that they learned what not to look for when applying for future jobs. She also explained that it is impossible to list all of the activities that will be done in job contracts, so it is normal to do unexpected tasks.
What criteria do you use when selecting companies?
When Salvatore started working at the Center for Career Services, JCU only had 50 partners. The reputation of JCU’s Career Services is one of the best in Europe, according to Professor Salvatore. Today, companies generally reach out to the center and ask to join the JCU network. The Center for Career Services runs a background check to verify companies’ reliability and, if the check is not satisfactory, they schedule an appointment directly with the organization. In general, companies need to be interested in working with interns who are students, by caring for them, training them, and performing well. Moreover, partner companies participate in the JCU Career Fair that takes place three times a year, the last one being on March 31, and they often hire JCU students who, in a few years, come back to JCU as representatives for that same company.
How does the Center for Career Services assist JCU students who are struggling in their internship?
They meet with the student immediately and try to understand what the problem is. Usually, it is about miscommunication between the student and the employer, which the Center tries to address. It can happen that a certain student and a certain company are not a good match, but that is not a problem: the internship can be interrupted. So far, they have never had to cancel a partnership with a company. However, everything makes the experience, and when students have a problem it can be an opportunity for them to learn how to speak up and ask for a change of tasks, hours, or whatever they need.
How do you retrieve feedback from JCU interns?
Companies and students evaluate each other at the end of the internship, but if companies are new at JCU there will be a mid-semester evaluation, especially if the internship is for credit. The evaluation is based on the students’ soft skills, while students evaluate the companies based on their experience and what they learned. The intern will be able to see the evaluation received by the company, while the company will not see the evaluation received by the intern unless they consent to it.
A very common doubt from students doing internships is why they are almost never paid (there are a few exceptions). I would say that we all students believe that unpaid work should not exist, and we feel like being paid in experience is not enough and may make us feel unworthy and neglected, not to mention that when you are 20-something years old you probably have the desire – and maybe even the necessity – to make some money for yourself.
To this concern, Career Services provided some insights. Firstly, students who are doing a for-credit internship cannot be paid because it would mean they are being paid for their credits, which cannot be the case. Second, the Italian government endorses unpaid curricular internships for undergraduate students as companies already have to invest time in their training and pay for insurance. Legally speaking, undergraduate internships are not required to be paid in Italy, but the same situation exists abroad.
The Center for Career Services said they understand students’ feelings towards unpaid internships and agrees that they deserve to be paid, but also invites the students to be aware of the monetary costs that companies have to sustain to make internships possible and to adapt to remote internships and students’ schedules. Moreover, once the contract is signed, the companies have to pay for the insurance even if students do not show up to the internship, which is a risk they have to take. Salvatore said that, while she understands students’ concerns, an undergraduate internship should not be seen as a way to earn some money. However, the center does offer some paid internships for students, which are not-for-credit.
Do you keep track of alumni after graduation? For example, do you know how many alumni have found jobs after graduating?
Yes. In 2014 the Center started a database to keep track of JCU graduates. They reach out via LinkedIn or contact them directly to inform them about job opportunities. In this way, the Center can provide the university with statistics on how alumni are performing after graduation. Moreover, the Center for Career Services supports alumni years after graduation and helps them in reaching their professional goals. The center’s alumni newsletter Jobs and News is sent to graduates with information about job opportunities.
According to Career Services, the feedback they receive from students is 99% positive and they remain open to listening to students’ doubts and complaints.
As a student, while I understand the points made, and while I know that it is not Career Services’ fault that most internships are unpaid, I still believe that it is worth advocating to change the non-paid internship situation, as not every student can afford to go to university, do an internship to showcase on their CV for their future, and also maintain a paying job.
If you are doing an internship and you are not happy with it, or if you would like to start one and are not sure how to, make sure to reach out to the Center and take advantage of this opportunity offered at JCU. As previously stated, the Center has more vacancies than candidates, and Professor Salvatore explained that if spots are not filled, the companies and the Center stop collaborating because of the lack of demand from students.
Also, if you are afraid that once your internship starts you will be abandoned, don’t be. The Center for Career Services ensures to check on the company and the interns along the way.
If you would like more information on the opportunities offered by the Center for Career Services, keep an eye out for the emails they send weekly about webinars, internships, and jobs available. If you are interested in a position, follow the instructions in the announcement on how to proceed; as a rule of thumb, you usually need to send Career Services the information (usually your CV and cover letter) listed in the announcement, and they will follow up with the next steps. You can reach out to the Center directly through their email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can also schedule an in-person appointment with one of the staff members.