10 BEST PRACTICES FOR INTERNSHIP PROGRAMS
Are you thinking of hiring a summer intern? If so, here are few best practices you may want to consider before bringing them on board:
Best Practice #1: Provide interns with real work assignments.
This is the most important item to ensure your program’s success. Interns should be doing work that is challenging, related to their major, valuable to the organization, and able to fill the entire work term of the internship. You can guarantee that hiring managers provide real work assignments by checking job descriptions, emphasizing the importance of real work assignments during a manager/mentor orientation sessions, and communicating with interns frequently throughout the work term.
Best Practice #2: Designate an Intern Manager
Interns need a go-to person to answer questions, clarify directions, and lend advice. Having a dedicated manager for your intern program is the best way to ensure that it runs smoothly and stays focused on your criteria for success. If your program is not big enough to warrant a dedicated full-time staff member, an excellent solution is to put your human resources representative in charge of the internship program.
Best Practice #3: Hold orientation sessions for all involved.
It is important that everyone who will be part of the internship starts with the same expectations and role definitions. For this reason, hold an orientation session for managers, mentors, and students. This is time well spent, the effort you put into orientation sessions will pay off throughout the program.
Best Practice #4: Provide interns with a handbook and/or website.
Whether in booklet format or presented as a special section on your website, a handbook is a great guide for students, answering frequently asked questions and communicating the “rules” of the office in a warm and welcoming way.
A separate intern website serves many of the purposes of the handbook, but has the advantage of being easy to change. You can use your web page as a communication tool, with announcements from the college relations staff or even articles of interest written by interns themselves.
Best Practice #5: Offer scholarships or stipends.
Pairing a scholarship or stipend with your internship is a great way to recruit for your internship program, especially if you are having difficulty attracting students with specific skill sets. Attaching a monetary value can increase your pool of candidates with the desired qualifications.
Best Practice #6: Offer flex-time and/or other nontraditional work arrangements.
Students mention flex-time as one of their most-desired features in a job/internship.
Consider a student’s typical campus day: a varied schedule that includes classes, work and social time. You can understand that the traditional Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workweek would be a big adjustment. A flexible internship schedule can help students feel less constrained by an unchanging routine.
Best Practice #7: Support an environment for growth.
Provide the intern with the direction, resources, and support necessary to successfully meet or exceed the requirements of the internship. Provide internal and/or external recognition of student work.
Encourage the student to build a professional network. After all, a successful internship is one that can lead to another opportunity within the organization or the industry. Invite members of your executive team to speak to interns for a career development and role-modeling experience. One of the greatest advantages of student internships is having access to accomplished professionals in their field.
Best Practice #8: Encourage team involvement.
Invite interns to participate in training programs and social events, and provide opportunities for networking with company executives. Encourage interns to network among themselves to share experiences. Include interns in company-sponsored events, or host an end-of-program event like a golf outing or luncheon with upper management.
Best Practice #9: Invite career center staff and faculty to visit interns on site.
Some internship programs, especially those that are very structured on the university side, make visits by career center staff a priority. Most of them, however, do not, which leaves career center staff and faculty members with little or no opportunity to see the types of experiences their students will be getting. By inviting representatives to your site, you can build a better working relationship, which can lead to more student referrals, enhanced campus visibility, and increased flexibility on the part of the school. If no opportunity exists to meet at your site, make an appointment with career center staff on campus to discuss your company and your needs regarding internships.
Best Practice #10: Conduct exit interviews.
Whether face-to-face or by phone, a real-time exit interview conducted by the intern manager or human resources representative will allow you to gather feedback on an intern’s experience and assess his/her interest in returning, either through another internship or for a permanent position. Have the student fill out an exit survey and bring it to the interview to lend structure to the conversation.
Information courtesy of NextGenIntern.com