5 Tips to Developing a Successful Internship Program

By Jen Fagan

Generic FroggyYou’ve hired an intern, now what? Apart from relevant skills, employers usually seek someone with personal values, characteristics and personality traits that will lead to the company's success. Learn how to develop a win-win opportunity internship program. Following these tips just may increase the likelihood that your intern could be your next full-time employee.

1. Develop an Internship Program Agenda
Thinking about your internship needs in advance is necessary for a successful internship program. Things to consider include: workload and the availability of intern projects, staff support, office space, and financial resources. In most cases, you should post internships at least seven to ten weeks prior to your expected start date. This will allow sufficient time to screen and select appropriate candidates and allow the student to enroll in credits within their school. Create an internship handbook similar to your organization’s employee manual. Include guidelines and procedures to familiarize them with your communication processes. Outline effective learning objectives and set measurable goals for the intern and your organization.

2. Make Sure They Feel Welcome
Provide your intern with a warm introduction to your organization. Remember this may be their first time working in an office environment. Communicate necessary policies (i.e. work hours, dress code, safety, etc). Acquaint them to their work space and environment by conducting an office tour and introducing them to co-workers. Assigning a new hire check list is one way to familiarize them with the team. Whenever possible, try to include the intern in organization events such as staff meetings and allow opportunities for networking.

3. Assign Meaningful Projects
Students are seeking opportunities that will stimulate them and provide real world experience. It is important to assign challenging projects and tasks. Measurable assignments will help you leverage their strengths. Always have additional assignments available in case an intern successfully completes a project ahead of schedule.

4. Be a Mentor
It is imperative that interns are provided with a mentor. If you do not have an internship coordinator, ensure that someone on your team can serve as a mentor. This may require considerable time but the investment will be worthwhile. Be sure to plan ongoing weekly meetings to stay up-to-date with the intern’s progress and encourage questions to be asked. An internship can be a mutually rewarding experience if guidance is provided. In some instances, you will learn a great deal about yourself and how you can do your job better!

5. Stay in Touch
Your organization may not be in the position to hire an intern immediately, but it is crucial to stay connected. This allows interns to be in sight and in mind for future employment possibilities or refer future interns or employees. Ideas to stay in touch are sending company newsletters and updates, encourage them to keep you updated with their progress and achievements, invite them back for a mini-internship in between long breaks and possibly hold intern reunions at the office.

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