Create Successful Internship Programs
Personal View: How to create successful internship programs
by Rosemary Keener
This summer, I’ll be headed back to my alma mater to celebrate my 15-year college reunion (go Dayton Flyers!), and it has me reflecting on the internship opportunities I had during college that influenced my career and where I am today.
My first internship helped shaped my vision of the impact human resources can have on an organization, while my second internship allowed me to put my vision into practice (and eventually grew into the first 10 years of my HR career). What these two internships had in common is that they were strategically planned and executed with purpose. I was not stuck in a room filing (although I did my fair share) and instead was given opportunities to apply knowledge and develop critical thinking in a business setting.
If your organization is planning to bring on interns for this summer, make sure your internship program is strategic and impactful. Remember you’re building the future, today.
As we enter the summer “internship season,” I’d like to share some advice on how to get the most out of your internship program:
Initial planning includes assessing needs and opportunities. Has your organization been wanting to explore a new initiative or solve for a problem, but has lacked the bandwidth to research? Consider tasking an intern with research and development. Remember, it is critical to also identify an internal owner who is invested in the internship and initiative.
Get on Handshake (the job and internship platform) or attend face-to-face on-campus events. Don’t skimp on the interview process. Treating an intern just like any other candidate gives them valuable work experience (and it never hurts to practice your interview skills).
Once you’ve developed a plan for your intern, be sure to put as much emphasis on preparing for that person as you did in planning for them. Make sure you have a solid day one outlined, with a desk, resources, and agenda ready to go. After their first day, be sure to prepare for them to be successful, thinking ahead to plan for downtime, events, and feedback. Don’t forget to use this opportunity to cover logistics with your intern, too. Make sure to ask about any college requirements they may have and be ready to complete the necessary paperwork before their internship is over.
When it comes to feedback, just because someone is an intern doesn’t mean they don’t want or could not benefit from receiving and giving feedback — quite the opposite. Make sure you have a clear feedback loop. Feedback should include two critical components — an assessment of the intern’s performance and an assessment of the organization and experience. Interns often have unique insights into an organization, given their short and learning-focused tenure. When you sit down with your intern to both ask for and deliver feedback, be sure to ask them what is going well and what areas the organization could improve.
Say ‘see you later’
It’s important to remember with internships that the exit is as important as the experience. When an intern and organization part ways, they are not saying goodbye, only seeing you later. Maybe your intern is a full-time hire down the road. Even if they don’t join you down the road, they are also a connection to their peers. Their experience will shape their peers’ opinions of your organization. Be sure to have a final performance assessment, allow the intern to showcase what they’ve learned, and conduct a formal exit interview.
After your intern has left, don’t forget to wrap up as a leadership team and identify things that went well and areas of improvement for next summer. After all, the start of planning time in the fall will be here before you know it.
Rosemary Keener is an HR director consultant with ConnectedHR.