‘Be Careful About What Is Out There About You’: Employers Talk Digital Presence, Workplace Etiquette with NCHS Interns-To-Be


NCHS Senior Internship Program Participation

Graduating YearNo. InternsClass SizePercentage
* Source: New Canaan High School College & Career Center


A director of executive recruiting at a Fortune 500 investment and insurance company told a room full of New Canaan High School seniors on Tuesday morning that she’s required to Google-search prospective employees prior to hiring them.

David Dayya, a NCHS senior who will participate for the final month of this academic year in the popular Senior Internship Program, at a workshop for the program in the Wagner Room at NCHS on March 15, 2016. David will intern with New Canaan nonprofit Filling In The Blanks. Credit: Michael Dinan

David Dayya, a NCHS senior who will participate for the final month of this academic year in the popular Senior Internship Program, at a workshop for the program in the Wagner Room at NCHS on March 15, 2016. David will intern with New Canaan nonprofit Filling In The Blanks. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Hartford does formal background checks on everyone it hires, Stephanie Scoon said during a workshop for this year’s participants in the NCHS Senior Internship Program, “but believe me we do go on social media as recruiters.”

“We are required to do so, to see what that person’s online presence looks like, and it has prevented us from moving forward,” Scoon said during the workshop, held in the Wagner Room at the high school. “So please, just remember: Be very careful about what is out there about you.”

She addressed about 165 NCHS seniors participating in “SIP,” as the Senior Internship Program is known—an opt-in program overseen by Sue Carroll of the NCHS College & Career Center that sees students apply for and, in nearly all cases, find placement for the final month of their academic career here in an area business, working as an intern in lieu of attending class.

David Dayya, a participant in the program this year, said he applied for SIP in order to expand in-class, “theoretical learning” on campus to “the real world.”

“Sort of apply a practical application to what we are learning in school and start finding out more about what it’s going to be like to have a job,” Dayya said during a break in the workshop.

He’ll spend the final month of his NCHS career with Filling In The Blanks, a nonprofit organization launched in 2014 by two local women that helps ensure area students whose weekday meals are obtained through vouchers at a school cafeteria also have enough to eat when school’s out (weekends and summers). The organization works with other nonprofits and already has garnered a strong support system, including a dedicated NCHS extracurricular club.

“I want to do something with public service, but for a job I may not have an opportunity to do something nonprofit-related,” Dayya said when asked about the match. “And I want to see how it works, the business component to managing it all.”

This year, despite a significantly smaller senior class, the number of students participating in SIP doubled (see the chart at the top of this article for a look at the program’s startling growth since launching five years ago).

The interactive workshop included group exercises and sessions on Digital Presence and Employment (led by BJ Flagg, principal at Nurenu, an integrated brand marketing agency with offices in New Canaan and New York City), Workplace Etiquette (Scoon), and Resume Creation (led by Susan Lenci and Linda McGann, NCHS counselors).

Flagg underscored that companies’ interest in social media reach is important though they’re on social “in a completely different way” from the teens.

“One of the biggest challenges that you’re going to have in order to get your next opportunity, is understanding the social atmosphere that they are actually working in,” Flagg said. “One of the biggest things is understanding the technology that they use, and understand how you are going to be able to communicate with them.”

Older office workers likely will be more apt to communicate in person or through email than by texting or by using a social media platform, Flagg said, and it’s critical for new workers at any company to “understand your fellow employees.”

Anticipating much of what Scoon would say later, Flagg also encouraged the students “take a social inventory” in the next two weeks—to look for themselves through search engines and on social media platforms in order to understand what prospective employers are seeing about them online prior to an interview.

An employee’s presence and the way he or she communicates with others ends up being far more important than technological know-how or the details of someone’s education or past work experience, Scoon said.

A large portion of the workshop was dedicated to exploring specific, and often uncomfortable, work scenarios—for example, where to turn if a supervisor tells a dirty joke or otherwise makes an employee uncomfortable (in this case, Carroll is always available to consult), whether it’s appropriate to discuss funny things that happen at work on social media or specific product launches, or whether work computers can be used for non-work-related communications.

The students told Scoon, who led the session, how they would handle given situations and received feedback from her and fellow seniors.

For situations where the interns find themselves with downtown and perhaps bored, Scoon encouraged them “to seek out somebody in the office and say is there anything I can read or do to help you out.”

‘The more that you are engaged and interested and the more you learn through your own efforts, the more this is going to stand you in good stead,” she said. “I cannot say this enough—I’ve worked in HR and recruiting for a long time—and it just surprises me all the time about how these little experiences that are maybe just a few weeks long early in people’s careers end up being a great platform that they leverage going forward to find their next steps. So you might be surprised about how this experience might set you up for a further experience in terms of a summer job and other activities beyond that. So really the more you can be engaged and involved and curious while you’re there, the more you will get out of it and the more pleased and rewarded you will be by the experience.”

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