Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Developmental Interactions for Business Students: Do They Make a Difference?

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Developmental Interactions for Business Students: Do They Make a Difference?

Article excerpt


Internships, mentoring, and collaborative projects are three forms of developmental interactions that students can use to acquire knowledge, gain advice, and get support to guide them through the transition to post-college life. The current research used data from undergraduate senior business majors and a cohort of alumni 3 to 5 years after graduation to examine the short-term and early career outcomes of such developmental experiences. The results suggest that, compared with not having developmental interaction experiences, (a) being mentored leads to more psychosocial support in the short-term and more career development, business knowledge, and psychosocial support once a student has graduated and is working for 3 to 5 years; (b) engaging in a collaborative student project leads to more career development, business knowledge, and psychosocial support; and (c) doing an internship results in more career development support, more job satisfaction, more career satisfaction, more organizational commitment, and faster promotion rates. These findings suggest that making multiple developmental interactions part of a management education curriculum can help students better prepare for the working world.


internship, mentor, developmental interaction, management education


Picture today's college student. Many are strapped with loans, anxious about finding a job in a recessionary economy, and, at the same time, eager to show the world what they can do. According to recent studies, these students (particularly undergraduates) are looking to mentors, their professors, and individuals in the marketplace for guidance, advice, skill development, and support. Current estimates suggest that about three out of four students (slightly more than 75%) complete internships before graduation; compared with about 1 in 36 students in 1980 (or 3%), this represents a significant shift in how students are preparing for the world of work that awaits them (Coco, 2000;, 2000). Mentoring, too, has been shown to enhance student knowledge, learning, and motivation--assisting in the academic-to-professional life transition, offering a way to develop skills for the real world, and opening doors to individuals who can help their careers (Barker & Pitts, 1997; Hezlett, 2005; Mehlman & Glickauf-Hughes, 1994; Mullen, 2008; Schlee, 2000; Smith, 2007; Sorrentino, 2006-2007; Soucy & Larose, 2000). Despite these findings, researchers suggest that there is limited data available on mentoring college students (McDonald, Erickson, Johnson, & Elder, 2007; Schlee, 2000) and that there is an increased call for the types of experiential learning that can come from out-of-class interactions with business people, real-world applied projects, and internships (Navarro, 2008).

BizEd, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business publication, has published numerous articles on the need for these types of experienced-based learning opportunities that mirror the workplace--ones in which business students can move beyond the classroom to interactively develop skills, perspective, understanding, knowledge, and savvy for the realities of the corporate world ("A Mentor Program," 2007; Bisoux, 2007, 2009; Gupta, 2005; Posner, 2008; "The Future is Now," 2008). Three ways that students can acquire such knowledge and gain needed advice and support to guide them through the transition to postcollege life is through relationships with mentors, internships, and applied projects where students work closely with a faculty member or on an actual real-world business problem as an unpaid, informal "consultant" to a firm or organization.

In essence, these experiences fall under the umbrella of developmental interactions, in other words relationships or experiences that push individuals to grow, that enhance learning or personal development, and that offer developmental support (Douglas & McCauley, 1999; Eddy, D'Abate, Tannenbaum, Givens-Skeaton, & Robinson, 2006; Reynolds & Brannick, 2009). …

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