While internships are indeed a pipeline for fresh talent and new faces around the office, internship programs (like interns) often need a push to get going. Once that push has been given, it can turn your internship program from competent to great and from an opportunity into a process that delivers consistent results.
To be most effective, the nurturing process should start before the internship itself begins. Getting your interns up to speed on your organization, and conducting a thorough vetting process will set appropriate expectations and prepare them well to start off on the right foot. So, how do you do this exactly?
Tip #1: Prepare Interns for Success
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 addition to seeking candidates that study a relevant field, have job-related skills, or even have previous experience to bring to the table, you’ll also want to look for interns that have certain soft skills and personal traits that make them easy to train and pleasant to work with like determination, good problem solving skills, and open-mindedness.
Explain what a typical day might look like for your internship candidates. Does your interviewee have a lot of questions along the way? That may show your potential intern is inquisitive and ready to learn. Ask your candidates about their goals after graduation. Have them tell you about classroom experience that would help them do the job. Find out why they want the internship. Are they eager to learn or are they just checking a box for their resume?
Preparing your interns for success starts by choosing the right interns for the job. If you need good communication skills, make sure your interviewee speaks well, explains herself clearly, and brings a writing sample or two. If you need someone more analytical, give them a problem to solve. Leave the room for 10 minutes while she comes up with a solution and then discuss. Find out her thought process. Are her critical thinking skills in line with what you are seeking?
All of the questions you ask in your internship interview should be designed to efficiently locate the interns that are really passionate about the field and have the necessary skills, traits, experience and open-mindedness to be a good fit.
Tip #2: Run an Intern Orientation
Having an orientation for new interns is the best way to establish clear expectations early on 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.
Even if you are a small organization, orientation is a must. Orientation can be a big group session or a simple conversation between intern and supervisor, but it shouldn’t be swept aside just because you only have a few employees.
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.
Want more help on improving your internship program. Download our free Employer Guide that can teach you tips on writing more interesting internship descriptions, show you how to set up a learning contract, discuss legal considerations for bringing on internships and more.