Summer internship season is here and with that not only comes a lot of pressure for students, but also a lot of pressure for companies to hire and train interns and create beneficial internship programs. It’s important for these programs to be taken seriously, prioritized, and constantly be redeveloped to make them great experiences for both the students and the employees of the business. Here are eight ways to create a strong internship program for this summer.
1. Lock them In ASAP.
If you don’t have your summer interns hired, make that a priority in the coming weeks. If you can post your internship, interview candidates, and make your selections by early/mid-May that is going to be ideal. Many companies have already given out their internship offers and have locked in their candidates so you want to get moving on this ASAP.
2. Make sure your posting reflects the position.
Companies typically use the same internship posting for years and years. They never go back to actually read the posting to make sure it reflects the work that the interns are currently responsible for. Make sure that you update your internship listing before each semester so information is accurate. Students are expecting the internship to be what it’s advertised as. Oftentimes, students complain that their internship isn’t what the listing said it would be -- definitely an avoidable problem.
3. Assign an internship coordinator.
At large companies with HR departments, this isn’t an issue. But many small businesses will task a few different junior or entry-level employees with recruiting and hiring the new intern class. Oftentimes the responsibilities are unclear and working with interns is never really established as a priority. The role of internship coordinator shouldn’t be an ambiguous title. Determine who is responsible for the intern program and make the description of that role clear. When bringing students into your office, the program needs to be structured and safe for them. Remember, whenever there are students involved, there are parents involved as well.
4. Set specific dates for internship milestones.
Every internship program should have a clear start date, end-date, mid-way evaluation and a final exit interview. These dates should be set on the calendar before the internship starts. Anyone who plans to interact with the interns over the course of the summer should try and attend these evaluation and interview sessions.
5. Create a company process for intern tasks.
How will your company determine what the interns do? If employees want an intern to help them with a specific task, how do they request that? I recommend sending around an email that clearly outlines the process for requesting intern assistance two weeks before the interns start. Employees should outline the tasks they need help with and the learning objectives associated with each task. Interns should be getting a supervised learning experience, they shouldn’t just be seen as an extra set of hands.
6. Make sure the intern schedule’s make sense for business.
At my company, we start work at 8:30 a.m. We don’t schedule interns to start their hours until after 10 a.m. We do this on purpose because we know that our team needs a moment in the morning to get organized. If we have interns starting at 8:30 a.m., they will just be sitting around unless they have leftover tasks to work on from previous days. We also make sure that our interns take breaks at 1 p.m. when we go to lunch and wrap up by 4 p.m. -- we do this because we don’t want to leave them unsupervised when our team takes lunch. If an intern’s availability doesn’t make sense for your team, I’d suggest not hiring them. This will end up being more work for you to cater to their schedule.
7. Create an executive lunch series.
An added value for your program is to create an executive lunch series where once a week your company sponsors an intern lunch (make sure you have budget for this) and you invite executives from different departments to speak to the interns, explain how they got started, and discuss their role within the company. You’ll find that this not only benefits the students but also motivates your employees as well. For many organizations, employees enjoy opportunities to mentor interns and younger employees. Schedule this lunch series before the internship begins to ensure you have a speaker who is available every week.
8. Make the program a priority.
There is a major difference in the experience a student gets from a company that makes their internship program a priority and a company that doesn’t. The student can easily tell how important the internship program is to a team of employees right away. You must filter the message from the top down that the internship program is a priority. Not only can this program be used to better structure your team and be more efficient in the office but it’s also an extremely effective recruitment tool. The goal is that in the future you can hire from your intern class instead of having to hire completely new employees that may or may not fit your culture. These interns will already be trained by your team, they’ll have an understanding of company processes, and they will be less of a risk than an unknown hire.
Remember that these internships have the ability to impact young people for the rest of their lives. Encourage your team to act as mentors for these students. I’ve been in the internship space for seven years now and I’ve seen the long tail effect of these programs. Students leave internships more confident and experienced than when they started. The internship experiences they have at your company will enable them to pursue the career path of their dreams.