Applying Agilities with Micro-Internships

    According to our 2024 Student Sentiment Survey, 75% of students are seeking to explore career opportunities, reflecting a lack of clarity when it comes to understanding what industries, roles, and potential employers are available to them. Some students already have a clear sense of their strengths and are trying to determine where they can best be applied in the workforce, while others are still trying to figure out what their strengths are. For many, the best way to find these answers is to actually try new things, but this is often easier said than done. In the same survey, about half of respondents found on-site requirements, low or unpaid roles, and strict availability requirements to be barriers to even applying for opportunities, and these are just some of the most common challenges. For some early career talent, like recent Pittsburg State University graduate Ricardo Luna, there are even more challenges to navigate when it comes to securing experience. Thankfully, the Kansas Micro-Internship program and Agile Work Profiler not only provided Ricardo with a chance to explore and better understand his strengths, but was also the first step to securing a full-time role in Kansas.

    Struggling to Start

    In the Fall of 2023, as international student Ricardo Luna was conducting his job search and preparing for his December graduation, he was also struggling with a lack of experience. The International Development / Computer Information Systems double major knew the importance of engaging in real-world opportunities, and had made multiple attempts, but was having a hard time securing any roles outside of academia.

    “During my time at Pittsburg State, I was a tutor and grader, which was all I really had. I was landing job interviews, but the lack of experience outside of academics kept me from moving forward.”


    Unfortunately, Ricardo’s challenge is not uncommon for foreign talent studying in the United States. Ricardo shared some of the challenges international students like himself face when trying to build experience.

    “It’s challenging to find an employer that’s willing to trust foreign labor. There tends to be a preference for domestic students, and if you do find work as an international student, you need to go through CPT or OPT, and sometimes employers are cautious about going through that process.”


    Thankfully, that same semester, Ricardo also came across a flyer on Pittsburg State University’s campus promoting Parker Dewey Micro-Internships. Ricardo thought the name was catchy, and decided to visit Career Services to learn more.


    A Foot in the Door

    During his visit to Career Services, Ricardo learned more about the Micro-Internship concept, and the ways Pittsburg State University was spreading the word about the Kansas Micro-Internship program to students as well as sharing the program with Kansas-based employers. The paid, professional nature of the projects, as well as the fact that they were open to international students, were immediately appealing.

    “I thought - what a marvelous opportunity, especially for international students.”


    After his visit, Ricardo began applying, ultimately securing his first opportunity on a project posted by one of his professors. Ricardo then took care to visit the international office and request the proper permission and permit, securing CPT that made him eligible for that first experience.

    While hopeful, Ricardo shared that he had initially been a bit skeptical of Micro-Internships, wondering how impactful such short-term experiences could possibly be. He was pleasantly surprised.

    “It turns out that collaborating for a shorter amount of time actually makes it more meaningful than a traditional internship. There’s a lot of communication to make things work, and being able to become that close with a supervisor in a short period of time made it very compelling.”


    Ricardo also shared that he was quickly struck by the differences between an academic experience and an outside professional one, developing a better understanding for why those interviewers had been so keen on seeing non-academic work experience.

    “Due dates exist for both assignments and Micro-Internships, but the culture of a school and the culture of a business are so different… School is just an assignment that ends in a grade. With Parker Dewey, there’s a deliverable that’s a return on someone’s investment.”


    Understanding Agilities

    Ricardo also benefited from seeing his results from the Agile Work Profiler, an assessment tool that is required for candidates of any Micro-Internship project funded by the Kansas Micro-Internship Program. The Agile Work Profiler is an online career assessment developed by The DeBruce Foundation, who funds the Kansas Micro-Internship program in collaboration with the Kansas Department of Commerce and Board of Regents. In 15 minutes or less, the tool provides the user with a ranked list of their current strengths and interests - or Agilities - as they relate to the workforce.

    “It was a very interesting thing for me because I had never heard about it before Parker Dewey. The concepts were familiar from my Business Professionalism classes, but as an assessment, it was particularly helpful.”


    Ricardo shared that taking the assessment also reminded him of a conversation he had had on a plane not long ago. The person had told Ricardo that people often try to make careers out of their passions, but that people and their passions are constantly changing. Instead, Ricardo’s travel companion urged Ricardo to create a career out of his talents. The man’s words stuck with Ricardo, and echoed in his mind as he reflected on his top Agilities according to the Profiler: Innovating, Developing Others, and Serving.

    “The Agile Work Profiler made me reflect on the natural gifts I have. Having that knowledge of where my strengths lie has helped me figure out what types of opportunities I’m a good fit for. I’m now able to consider opportunities in a more holistic fashion.”


    This new perspective benefitted Ricardo as he continued to apply for more Micro-Internship opportunities on the Parker Dewey platform.


    Exploring Opportunities in Kansas

    As Ricardo weighed what Micro-Internships to apply for, his newfound focus on his Agilities helped him keep an open mind. This shift changed the way he thought about Micro-Internships.

    “I started to think of it as an opportunity to immerse myself in that mindset of producing and learning from successful people. I’m absorbing so much… It’s an amazing transfer of knowledge and wisdom.”


    He also began to consider opportunities that may not have initially appeared to be related to his majors, but still gave him the chance to innovate, develop others, and serve. 

    In the beginning I was only focusing on software development and web design, but now I’ve realized that I can take my Agilities and apply them to any industry… The way I see opportunities has changed, and I’m more open to learning about different fields.”


    As a result of this attitude, Ricardo has been selected for over half a dozen Micro-Internships, the details of which have ranged from automating product delivery processes to building websites and enhancing marketing campaigns. 

    Ricardo has also appreciated that the Micro-Internship projects have given him opportunities to familiarize himself with more Kansas-based employers, and help those companies grow.

    “Most of the businesses are willing to leverage technology to improve their operations and be more efficient or build their presence. They’re on their way up, and as a Micro-Intern, I’m getting to help them grow while gaining experience in a lot of different areas.”



    Using Micro-Internships as a Stepping Stone

    Ricardo continued to make the most of his Micro-Internship experiences, but was also very pragmatic when it came to his long-term expectations.

    “I originally thought of Micro-Internships as a way to learn and understand the corporate environment in the United States, not so much as something that could lead to a full-time position. I figured in the worst-case scenario, I’d build experience and a network, and grow as a professional and as an individual… If I was just focused on full-time opportunities, I would be missing out on the full range of what you can get out of this platform.”


    That stated, Ricardo began seeing the positive impacts of these experiences on his resume almost immediately after securing his first Micro-Internship opportunity. 

    “A month or so before graduating is when I got my first Micro-internship, and all of a sudden I was able to get more interviews.”


    In fact, Ricardo attributes the full-time role he ultimately secured to his Micro-Internship experience. Thanks to the Kansas Micro-Internship program, Ricardo was aware of the program’s goal of retaining young talent in the area. With this in mind, Ricardo made a list of chamber member companies that were hiring, and did something rather unorthodox in today’s job market - he put on a suit, printed out his resume, and one-by-one, visited the companies on the list.

    In the course of this endeavor, Ricardo met with a number of interesting companies, but there was one in particular that stood out - a farming system dedicated to eliminating food deserts by creating hydroponic farms. The mission resonated with Ricardo, and he ended up securing multiple rounds of interviews for a role with the company, including an interview with the owner. This was when Ricardo saw the connections he had made through his Micro-Internship play a crucial role in his job search.

    “Local businesses in Kansas are very collaborative and they all seem to know each other. The owner who was interviewing me knew one of my Micro-Internship supervisors as well as one of my professors.”


    As you may have guessed, both the former supervisor and the professor enthusiastically recommended Ricardo, and it was these personal recommendations that made it easy for the company to select Ricardo for his current role as an IT Business Systems Developer.



    Having had such positive Micro-Internship experiences, while also being able to help local companies grow, Ricardo had a lot of great advice for companies and students alike. For companies, Ricardo stated that the benefits are clear. 

    I’m certain that companies can benefit from Micro-Interns, not only because they get the opportunity to work with young people, but also because it brings fresh, innovative ideas to your business. Sometimes young talent is overlooked, but this allows companies to hire values and attitudes for a project and see if it’s a fit that can be trained. Consider Parker Dewey as a pipeline to hiring marvelous talent that you may be missing on other platforms.”


    For the best experience, Ricardo also encourages companies to be specific about what they want, set clear expectations, and make sure the Micro-Intern has the resources and context they need to be successful. According to Ricardo, once you’ve done those things, the next important step is to trust the student or recent graduate you’re working with to try things.

    For students and fellow recent graduates, Ricardo emphasized the importance of communication and organization.

    “Be transparent with how the project is going and communicate with your supervisor, so if it’s not what they’re looking for, there’s time to readjust. Go into conversations with a mindset of understanding and growth, instead of taking things as a critique.”


    As for organization, Ricardo uses Trello to organize his Micro-Internship tasks, taking care to determine milestones and also making it easy for his supervisors to know exactly where he’s at in a project. Ultimately, he encourages his peers to find an organizational system that works best for them, but to make sure they are indeed organized.

    Most importantly, Ricardo encourages his peers to get on the Parker Dewey platform and start applying if they’re not already.

    “You don’t recommend something that you don’t believe in, but the experience I’ve lived with Parker Dewey is quantifiable, so I’m happy to recommend it. I lived it and I know how powerful it is.”


    We hope that students and recent graduates, both international and domestic, take Ricardo’s advice!

    ​​Are you a Kansas-based company in need of talent that can innovate, develop others, and serve like Ricardo? Post a Micro-Internship today, or join us at our next informational webinar for a demo.