Help Plan for Field Work Term
The reality that your student, who may have just left home for college, now has to find a six-week internship may sound daunting. Keep in mind, students rise to the challenge every year, and the skills they learn in the process serve them well after graduation.
While we expect students (not parents) to take on the responsibility of securing a Field Work Term (FWT) position, there are many ways in which parents can help empower students to succeed.
Ask About Field Work Term
Bringing up FWT in a casual and open-ended way helps students to keep FWT planning on the forefront of their minds. Resource pages for finding a FWT position are excellent aids to help your student understand strategies and tools for finding an FWT.
You can be very helpful to students as they try to imagine what they want to do over FWT. Recommend they read the FWT and the Plan Process overview to get a framework for thinking about their FWT trajectory. Suggest ways they can think broadly about areas to explore as well as places where they can gain certain kinds of experience. We recommend offering this support without directly telling them what to do. You can also encourage students to log into Bennington’s career resource platform called Handshake, where they will find a database of hundreds of internship opportunities. If your student needs help making the most of Handshake, have them schedule a Handshake support session with our Career Development staff.
Talk About Budgeting, Housing, and Logistics
Let your student know how you can help financially over FWT and what they will need to do themselves. When students have a realistic idea of the constraints, they can frame their searches within them. Students can go to Funding Your FWT for more information and use this FWT budgeting worksheet to help them plan. It's okay if a student does not do a big FWT abroad every year. In fact, it often makes sense to complete a couple of modest FWTs to build the skills necessary to make the most of a “dream FWT” later on in their education. About half of first-year students secure positions in their hometowns and live at home for their first FWT. Others secure low-cost FWT housing through personal contacts and relatives or sublet/rent as a group. Some employers offer housing in exchange for a job or can offer suggestions about inexpensive housing options in the area. Additionally, the Field Work Term Office has compiled an FWT Housing Guide, which provides general tips on securing housing, and lists specific housing resources in 10 major U.S. cities, including New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.
Let Them Do It
If you know of a great lead, have your student both research the organization and contact the site directly to learn more. If you want to put in a good word for them, no problem, but be sure they do the legwork to land the position instead of you landing it on their behalf. Encourage them to research online and find potential sites to reach out to. Going through the process of doing the research and networking with people is just as important as completing the FWT, so we want students to be fully engaged in this process. The career resource guides provide templates, tips, and even call scripts to make contacting employers seem less daunting.
If your student is having particular difficulty in their job search, it's important that they meet with an FWT staff member as soon as possible. We can provide greater assistance and support the earlier we know about the issue. Meeting due dates factors into a student’s final FWT assessment. Students having difficulty with their search who are promptly in touch with the FWT Office about their situation, and who are working with the FWT Office to address the difficulties, can avoid academic penalty.
Don’t Offer Them a Job
It can be tempting to offer your student a job with your company as a back up, especially if they are struggling to find something or started their FWT job search late. Remember, this is an opportunity to explore working with other people and trying new things. Additionally, it's a conflict of interest, as employer evaluations help determine an FWT assessment and become part of a student’s permanent academic record. As such, sites where students are working for a parent or for a parent’s direct report are not FWT eligible.
Refer Them to the Field Work Term Office
While it's ultimately a student’s responsibility to secure their FWT position, the FWT Office is here to help. We offer a number of services, including FWT prep workshops throughout the term, bi-weekly walk-in hours for quick questions, and appointments bookable on Handshake. Although we do not place students directly, we have hundreds of positions posted through our office and we can help students through any part of the FWT search process.
Help Them Prepare
Once they land the job, especially if they are new to the world of work, discuss with them some workplace readiness essentials that can help them more easily anticipate new demands when switching from student to employee. They can also review Professional Expectations and Workplace Norms for additional insights.
Troubleshooting Over Field Work Term
Whether this is your student’s first Field Work Term (FWT), their last, or somewhere in between, you’ll probably hear about their successes and challenges being a part of the professional world.
Bennington students go all over the country, and the world, to work for organizations as diverse as our students’ interests. This can be exciting and nerve wracking for parents, particularly if your student is struggling in the work environment. While most students have a positive FWT experience, almost everyone faces some challenges at their site. Most are typical struggles for new professionals, such as learning the office culture, understanding expectations, and finding a balance between what they prefer to do and what needs to be done. Occasionally, however, more difficult situations arise.
Family members can be the first people students reach out to when they have questions about the work world or are not sure what to do in a particular situation. You can be a great resource by listening and encouraging them to problem solve. A good first question is, “Have you talked with your supervisor about your concerns?” Learning how to initiate a conversation with a supervisor, bring up concerns in a diplomatic way, and advocate for oneself appropriately are some of the most valuable skills students can develop over FWT.
You can also ask if they’ve contacted the Field Work Term Office. We are here throughout FWT to answer questions, help students navigate difficult situations and, when appropriate, mediate or intervene on the student’s behalf. We ask students to let us know if any problems or changes occur with their jobs or housing as soon as possible so that we can be of the greatest assistance. Student can also review these tips for handling challenges at work. FWT policies and requirements can be found in the FWT Handbook. A student’s final FWT assessment is partially determined by their ability to meet the 200-hour requirement and by their employer’s evaluation of their work. Students anticipating difficulty in either of these areas who are promptly in touch with the FWT Office about their situation, and who are working with the FWT Office to address the difficulties, will likely be able to avoid academic penalty.
The Field Work Term Office is open Monday–Friday, 8:30 am–4:00 pm during the Field Work Term period. Please feel free to be in touch with any questions.