5 Steps To Creating A Better Internship Program

As college students prepare to kick off their summer with the hope of landing an internship, there’s still time for your company to design an intern experience that’s worthwhile for both them and you. When it goes well, there’s nothing like mentoring a person who has the passion for learning more. When it doesn’t go as well? There’s a reason for it. It usually comes down to the company’s lack of planning, not so much the intern candidate.

Here are four signs that you’re about to offer up a lousy internship experience:

• You see interns as “grunts.”

• You feel they should just be happy to have an internship at all.

• You don’t know what they’re going to do but you’ll figure it out.

• You feel they should be broken rather than taught.

Wow, where does a young mind sign up for that experience of giant ego and rampant disorganization? The fact is, one bad internship could sway a person unnecessarily from a career path they’re actually made for.

Fortunately, here are five key points associated with offering internship experiences that will start your program on a path that’s a lot more rewarding for all parties.


Step One: See them as real team members, not “extras.”

This is a big step because it forces you to aim higher for a candidate who is expected to demand more of themselves and contribute to your company regularly. I didn’t suggest to give an intern the exact same responsibilities as anyone else. I’m saying to give them the opportunity to collaborate with staff while creating and presenting their work — real work — to others. What can you unload that challenges them but something you can still evaluate?

When you do this, some beautiful things tend to happen: First, you demand more of the student and if they rise to the occasion (as they often can and have), they give you a tremendous effort back. Second, they never forget the trust you had in them, not to do the work singlehandedly but at least to be involved and contribute as part of a larger team.


Step Two: Write their role description.

I know it seems crazy, but some internships have no structure. The intern shows up and hangs out to see if anybody needs any help. Don’t believe me? Yours truly had that from an internship. Part of this lack of definition might have something to do with the fact that the people hiring them just wanted an intern who could “help out when the situation calls for it.” Whether you’re talking about a job or an internship, writing out the role on paper gets everyone quite literally on the same page about what is and isn’t entailed.


Step Three: Find out what their goals are.

This is what sets apart ordinary programs from better ones in my opinion. Beyond the fact that they want to “learn a lot,” dig deeper and press your candidate to give you one to three very concrete goals they want to achieve during their experience with you. And hold them to it, although it’s something you both work toward and monitor the progress of, too. When it’s more customized to the intern’s goals, it’s hard to find two experiences that are exactly the same.


Step Four: Determine what your goals are.

What’s your purpose or gain for adding them into the fold for a few months? What do you get out of it? It might be a fresh perspective on regular challenges, a good way to evaluate a potential employee (if not now, then a couple of years down the road) or even as a tactic that fits in with what your brand stands for.

Think about how your role is going to change a bit, too. These are young minds that crave feedback. Are you or others on your team going to be in a position to regularly give it in a meeting, at lunch, in the course of your day? Or will you be hardly ever around?


Step Five: Decide whether it will be paid or unpaid.

Let’s agree that if you’re in a position to pay an intern, you should. But what if your company genuinely can’t swing that, financially speaking, and students are still interested in an opportunity?

Press on with an unpaid internship program. And don’t let the critics of this practice dissuade you.

There are some people who believe the only internships that should exist are paid ones because otherwise it creates a system of “haves” and “have nots.” I have news for those people – if some small businesses are forced to do paid internships, they may be forced to do away with the program altogether, which punishes all student candidates. That’s not a solution.

If you do an unpaid program, you should still think of the small but meaningful things you can do to make the student’s life easier financially, whether paying for their gas money, lunches now and then, reading materials and more.

Personally, I think the value of a solid internship program is underrated. These opportunities become a fantastic marketing tool for the brand – after all, when the student returns to school, who is your former intern going to tell about his or her hopefully positive experience?

That’s right. A pipeline that may include your next potential intern.

Read more: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120530/BLOGS06/120539991/5-steps-to-creating-a-better-internship-program#ixzz1xEvH6DI6
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