These days internships aren’t about making copies and fetching coffee. With a great internship program, your company can attract top talent, and that top talent can make measurable, positive contributions to your business. What could be better than that?
In order to make this happen, managers and supervisors have to put in the work to ensure the intern has a meaningful experience. When supervisors set clear expectations and create an atmosphere where interns are comfortable and engaged, they’ll be more likely to make a lasting impact. Best of all, they’ll gain valuable skills and experience, too.
There are many ways to go about creating a top-tier internship program, so let’s dive into the some of the most important elements.
Clearly Outline the Internship Requirements
A top internship program starts out with the job description and requirements. Is there going to be administrative work? How many hours are you looking for the intern to complete? How much is the intern expected to contribute on the job? These are all questions that should be answered in the job description and interview process, but those aren’t the only places you should be talking about job requirements.
Few employees do well without any direction, and that’s especially true for a student that has never had an internship or worked in a 9-5 job setting. That being said, even if the job requirements have already been laid out in the job description or interviews, it may be beneficial for both the intern and supervisor to have a conversation once the intern in the office.
By having a conversation early on, any questions or doubts can be answered and the internship can start on the right foot. Interns want to do well, so employers that define their work expectations and assignments are setting up interns to be positive contributors when working on company projects.
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Add Value to Their Internship Experience
The job market is competitive for young people these days. As a result, interns are looking for real experience that they can list on their resumes and will give them a leg up after graduation. If you want to attract the best of the best, you need to offer real value to your interns. As we said, no more hiring interns solely for coffee runs and making copies.
A good way to add value to an internship (aside from giving them real work to do) is to set up Q&A sessions with company executives or management from other departments. Through Q&A sessions not only can interns learn more about the company, but they can even ask career-oriented questions, like how those executives got to where they are today.
Another great way to create a learning environment is to host lunch-and-learn meetings. This doesn’t have to be fancy—you just need some pizza and a speaker. Lunch-and-learns facilitate the learning process for interns by teaching them the necessary skills for the job or general industry information.
Performance reviews are a good way to give your intern feedback on their work and give them a chance to bring up any questions or concerns they have had with the internship thus far.
Set up performance reviews with your intern at least a couple of times during their internship. This way, the conversation can continue in case something new needs to be brought up or discussed. They may even have ideas to make the internship program better.
When giving feedback, don’t forget the ultimate goal: helping these interns grow and learn. It’s not about outlining mistakes or a laundry list of ways to improve. Don’t forget: they’re likely new to this kind of feedback.
A good way to go about handling intern critiques is the sandwich method. Let the intern know what you like about their work and what they’re doing well then sprinkle in some constructive criticism.
Social Fun and Intern-Only Gatherings
Offering opportunities for your student interns to participate in social gatherings is a great way to make them feel like a part of the company. When interns get the chance to network and talk to others in the company, then they can get to know the people they’re working with, which opens them to a more relaxed and collaborative work environment.
Offer some intern-only social events too. This way, interns from across all departments can have a chance to meet each other. The intern will feel more comfortable knowing that they have friends in the company. Intern gatherings are especially helpful if your interns are coming from all over the U.S. and don’t know anyone in their new city.
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Helping interns find a mentor means giving them access to more people in the organization than their direct supervisor. . A mentor is a person your intern feels comfortable with and can go to when they have questions about the internship, professional development, the industry, or anything else that may come up. Mentors should be volunteers in your company (Don’t force anyone.) that have the time to dedicate weekly meetings or coffee breaks with their mentees.
This is also a great way to get some of your lower-level employees involved in the internship program and start preparing your top-performers for management. On top of that, pairing an intern with a junior-level employee creates a more comfortable space for them to ask questions.
Encourage Your Interns to Ask (a Lot of) Questions
Last but not least, encourage interns to ask questions. For many of your interns, this may be the first time that they’re in an office setting. Even if they have a few internships under their belt, they are still relatively new to the working world, so they’re bound to have questions.
If interns feel that they can’t ask questions either from not having trust in their supervisors or from the fear that they’ll be thought of as incompetent, then they may not be able to execute their tasks to their full capacity. On the other hand, interns that feel comfortable and encouraged to ask questions will likely perform better because then they are confident in their task the first time around.
After all, interns are at your company to learn, and asking questions is the best way to do that. Once the internship ends you want your intern to feel prepared to go into a full-time job or maybe even to become a top performer at your company. By having a great internship program, your business has the opportunity to guide young professionals to be the type of employees your company would want to hire. So don’t forget, these tips are just a starting point—how you set up your internship program will be specific to your company and its needs.
Want to read more about building team and a strong company culture to support them? Check out similar blog topics here.