While internships are indeed a pipeline for fresh talent and new faces around the office, internship programs (like interns) usually need a push to get going.
Once that push has been given, though, it can turn your internship program from competent to great and from an opportunity into a process that delivers consistent results.
Ways to Improve Internship Programs
What makes a great intern and how can you nurture those qualities to get the most out of your internship programs?
It actually all starts before the internship itself when employers get interns into the swing of things with a thorough vetting process and intern orientations designed to quickly bring interns up to speed.
Tip #1: Prepare Interns for Success
Interns are obviously a great resource for employers to draw on when it comes to rounding out research for a project coming down the pike or putting a few more hands on deck. It takes some work, and vetting, to get there though.
What are the chief things that employers should be screening for when it comes to finding those interns that are a cut above the competition? In short, keep an eye out for certain character traits like determination and open-mindedness, job-related skills and relevant experience that interns are bringing to the table.
You should be tailoring your intern interviews to quickly filter out the top candidates for the job – and the ones most worthy of receiving an eventual full-time job offer.
Some typical questions to draw out these things would be: can you tell me about your background in the field and volunteer experience?; what do you expect to take away from this internship?; how did you initially become interested in this company; and, what goals would you like to realize after graduation?
All of these questions are designed to efficiently locate the interns that are really passionate about the field and have the necessary enthusiasm, experience and open-mindedness to make it happen.
Tip #2: Run an Intern Orientation
Having an orientation for new interns is an awesome way to establish clear expectations early on and subtly – and perhaps not so subtly – let interns know what’s expected of them if they’re to succeed in their new role.
Interns should know from the outset the short- and long-term goals of the internship and how this internship fits in with the company.
Orientations should make the company ethos clear, if it isn’t already, and clue interns in on what they need to do to meet future performance evaluations, daily responsibilities required to successfully carry out the internship, and important company policies to always bear in mind when speaking with superiors and employees as well as present and future clients.
In the orientation you also want to outline a blueprint for how intern supervisors can facilitate the internship experience in a way that enlarges, rather than detracts, from your business resources.
Tip #3: Set Up a Mentor Program
A mentor program is essential for getting (and keeping) everything off on the right foot.
When mentors first meet with their interns they should be supportive yet set up clear and practical expectations that both nurture an intern’s development and abet contributions to your overarching organization.
One of the things that mentors don’t often think about – but actually play a huge role in the success of internships – is making sure that the mentor’s schedule is aligned with the interns.
If there are days when mentors or interns are underused or super busy, then your schedules need to align accordingly to make up the difference and synergistically reap more from the mentor-intern relationship.