Your Key To Success: Internships

For those college students straddling the fence and not quite committed to jumping into the ring with an internship, you might want to consider some of these benefits.

The number one being that employers frequently tell applicants fresh out of college that the most important factor in their resume is actually their previous internship experience. That’s huge!

Your Key to Future Success

Internships are a key that opens a lot of different doors. One of the things that really impresses college students about internships are their ability to make previously abstract concepts real-world experiences.

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For some this can be a completely overwhelming experience but more often than not it vindicates their passions and reasons for choosing the major that they did.

Test Your Mettle

On top of that, internships let students know that they’re really cut out for their chosen field. Internships provide the impetus to keep pushing ahead and put their classroom experience to the test.

This can be invaluable: Before an internship you might have a purely academic way of seeing the industry and the career laid out in front of you; an internship helps put everything in sharper focus and home in on aspects of the field that fit your interests and skill set.

What we mean by this is that before an internship you might just know that you’re really interested in, say, psychology. Once you go onto the internship for, say, school psychology though, you’ve really narrowed down the search; going even further, maybe a subfield within school psychology like psychometrics, achievement testing or applying behaviorist concepts in the classroom seems to be the most efficacious way for you to make your voice heard in the field.

Internships can also help light the path for you and facilitate a career that you can be proud of – as Paul McCartney once said – when you’re sixty four.

Honing Your Networking Skills

Another huge benefit of spending time on an internship is that that time forms the bedrock of a long list of future contacts. You can draw on these contacts, and expand on your networking skills in general, during an internship.

Having a litany of contacts is really important because these contacts that you’ve built through networking can absolutely be your key to future symposia and insider associations that will further help bolster your career.

On top of that, meeting a lot of people puts you in contact with another professional that can vouch for you – a.k.a., say hello to a stellar letter of recommendation.

Latch onto an All-star Mentor

An internship can even open the door to finding a perfect mentor to guide you through (and around) many of the obstacles that would plague another intern going it alone.

Mentors provide you with the peace of mind to explore this new territory without ever feeling like you’re getting lost or overwhelmed by the experience.

Acting as guides, mentors can clue you into evolving industry best practices so that, once you dip your toes into the professional day-to-day of fieldwork, you can hit the ground running and know exactly what to do.

As if that weren’t enough, mentors can give you the inside scoop on the people that you should contact to jumpstart your career and the must-see symposia and more immediate practicum experiences that you’ll need to grow.

Who knows? The right connections from a mentor or the people you associate with every day through your internship could blossom into a full-time gig with the company. You’ll definitely be prepared well enough and the timing will be perfect to take the plunge!

Build an Internship Anyone Would Be Proud Of

Getting an internship program in full motion can feel truly daunting initially and a bit like herding cats.

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It’s hard to even know the first step to take on the journey to create an internship, let alone know when you’ve arrived at a program that you can be proud of.

Understanding Your Business’ Needs

Companies thrive when their employee engagement is high and when employees feel like they can exercise spontaneous creativity and that their voice is being heard.

An internship program actually serves and bolsters many of these intrinsic qualities to a thriving organization. You can infuse a fresh set of experiences, perspectives and learning backgrounds by taking on a few summer interns, and those same interns can eventually become full-time hires who combat employee turnover.

Your current employees are also more engaged when they’re proactively shaping the next generation of leaders, which is exactly what internship supervision and mentorship programs are designed to foster.

Below are a few steps that you can start following today to have a respectable internship program tomorrow.

Evaluate Your Current Position

It’s important that companies internally poll a few simple questions before jumping headfirst into an internship program. Questions like:

  • What’s the optimal number of interns to take on given our company’s needs over the coming year?
  • What kinds of projects am I going to be assigning interns?
  • Are interns going to be paid? How will interns be compensated for their time at the company?
  • Can my company afford to have an intern manager?

Those are all great questions to ask early and often since they’ll inform the kinds of things that you’ll be screening for when you take on interns as well as the resources that you’re willing to dedicate to an internship program at your company.

Plan for the Unexpected

You might have more demand during a certain quarter – or perhaps you’ll have a shortage of full-time employees capable of meeting the demand of your customers.

You need to plan for this in advance and consider taking on extra help from interns during these saturated demand periods.

It’s also good to achieve the right balance between getting the most out of your interns and, in turn, considering how the internship is going to shape your interns’ future development.

Create an Intern-centric Orientation

Once you know more of what you’re looking for, then try creating a handbook for interns that lays out a few ground rules and establishes expectations ahead of time.

You could even try supplementing that with a website that features a FAQ section on internships at your company and/or puts interns in contact with one-time interns who’ve already completed an internship with your business.

Ask the Tough Questions

Make sure that you understand the minimum wage, safety best practices and workers’ compensation laws in your state before embarking on an internship program. If you are planning to offer an unpaid internship, you should make sure you understand that your program will pass the Fair Labor Standards Act 6-point test for unpaid internships.

You might discover that either compensation in the form of income, college credit, or both is more of the norm in your industry.

Set Your Dates and Supervisors

Aside from laying down ground rules and establishing roles for interns and supervisors, creating a schedule around the interview and orientation processes can put you well on your way to an internship program worth bragging about.

Make Your Internship Dream A Reality

It’s often said that next to your major in college, the single most important factor for your later employability is your internship experience.

Fortunately these two things go together more often than not – Your courses and concentration helps determine the best internship and the internship furthers your studies and hones your future career direction.

Finding Your Dream Internship

In light of the fact that recent research shows about half of college graduates are underemployed or straight-up unemployed and about 70% of companies with 100 or more employees end up offering full-time positions to one-time interns, finding your dream internship starts with being tenacious and throwing your hat in the ring.

You already know that the companies worth working for are taking year-round intern help and that you stand a very good chance of increasing your post-graduation employment prospects by hopping onboard with an internship.

Going about getting your dream internship might prove a challenge, though, until you rack up the necessary experience, learn how to butter up your resume to stand out from the pack, and streamline your interviewee skills to make a serious impression.

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Racking Up Experience

That sounds easy…but wait…where do you get experience from anyway? Is it something that just falls out of the sky right into your lap? Maybe clicking your heels three times?

In fact, you get experience from joining clubs and organizations in your field of study and by making connections among other students to scout out the hottest internship opportunities.

It can be a bit of a paradox at first – getting experience to get experience. The idea of preparing for an internship so that an internship can “prepare” you for life in the “real world” is a hard thing for some students to grasp, but the ones that do end up grabbing the most coveted spots on the internship circuit.

Associations, Clubs and Volunteering

If you want to stay competitive, then you should really be looking into national associations as well as clubs, organizations and even volunteer opportunities in your community.

These all can make the difference, especially if you’re in a dead heat with another applicant, because it says that you’re serious about your upcoming internship and you’ve put in the time. Speaking of time, it also indicates that you have good time management while doing wonders for your resume.

Polishing the Ol’ Resume

There’s a fallacy out there that there’s one uber resume – ONE resume to rule them all, if you will – that will get you an interview at any internship. A kind of gold-plated resume that’s indestructible to rejection from any future employer.

Yeah, that actually doesn’t exist.

What does exist, though, and what’s in your control is creating a resume that’s calibrated to what the gatekeepers behind your dream internship are looking for. Pay attention to what kinds of experiences that matter most as well as skills that they’re looking for in candidates. In all likelihood, you’ll have to tailor your resume to each opportunity you apply for. One size most certainly does not fit all.

Also ask around to find out if there are any prerequisite courses that can improve your chances and see if you can spot common attributes in people who’ve already been taken on at that company.

Hone Your Interviewee Skills

You might even want to practice with someone to get this down (check with your career office – some offer mock interviews to help you prepare). Be prepared to do some research on the company you’re interested in and show your enthusiasm for the internship that you’re applying for. Make it clear that you want this internship and definitely bring your own questions to ask at the end – that shows real initiative!

2 Weeks To A Better Internship Program

The reason that internships are so popular right now is that they’re a win-win for employers and interns. On the intern’s side, they’re dipping their toes into professional waters and gaining networking experience that they can carry onto the shores of a new job.

For employers, internships are obviously far from a raw deal since they, in turn, receive additional help around the office and an enthusiastic supernumerary eager to carry out any assignment that crosses her path.

When everything runs smoothly, employers give interns the chance to ply their trade – if only for the summer and provisionally – and those same employers can train the next generation for success.

More often than not employers are, indeed, so impressed with the incoming crop of talent that they extend a full-time job offer once the internship concludes.

How to Improve Your Internship Programs

There are, though, cases when internships don’t go exactly as planned and that job offer isn’t immediately forthcoming. When this happens the experience is sometimes looked back upon by the student with a mixture of frustration and regret and the employer scratching her head wondering, “what went wrong?”.

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Applying Structure and Learning Goals

To sidestep that whole scenario make sure that your next internship program has structure to it from start to finish. Develop a set of daily and weekly goals to carry your program though from Day 1 to completion.

And if you’ve been running internships in the past, make sure to retain more of what worked and scrap or re-calibrate the rest; if this is your first one, then keep a running tally on what’s working.

At the end of the internship interns will usually be pretty straightforward with you and say what they liked and what they may have changed.

Develop SMART

Columbia College says that the best way to ensure objective learning goals is to follow the SMART system and develop goals that are: specific; measurable; attainable; results-focused; and, time-focused. When learning goals are specific that means that they have a solid operational definition and can also be measured.

Learning goals throughout the internship should obviously also be attainable and down-to-earth so that interns can actually reach them and expand on their classroom learning. And making sure that learning goals are results- and time-focused is also an asset to your business since you always want to get the most value from your “employees” and time is money, right?

Include More Supervision and Mentorship

Supervising the successful completion of learning goals and mentoring interns are two interconnected means of immediately streamlining your internship program. Responsive supervision that’s attentive and compassionate without being over-bearing is what you’re after here.

Without supervision, wouldn’t it be hard to tell whether interns were staying on track and meeting their (and your) expectations? And if interns are missing the mark, shouldn’t someone come in and establish a fresh set of learning goals and reshuffle the deck? You bet they should, and that’s where an experienced supervisor comes in.

Especially when you’re dealing with a mentor, try to match the intern’s and mentor’s backgrounds up so that you can strike just the right balance between personalities and minimize any resistance.

Intern’s Learning Goals and Your Needs

Remember when we were talking about learning goals being results-focused? Well, why not make those results congruent with your organization’s core needs so that you, at once, provide the intern with new experiences and allow your business to flourish?

When done right, internship programs allow your business to grow by freeing up your staff’s creative energies and infusing the workplace with even more enthusiasm.