Would You Like A $10,000 Cup of Coffee, or a Proficient Employee? Management Tips for Making Your Internship Program a Profitable InvestmentSeptember 29th, 2011
When you think of having interns in the office, do you think of young people whose main job is to fetch coffee and make copies? Then think again. If your company is going to invest the money into implementing an internship program, then you need to invest the time to make sure it’s worthwhile for both the interns and your company.
The companies with the most successful internship programs treat interns as actual employees rather than gofers, giving them significant responsibilities related to their field of study. Companies like Deutsche Bank, Hallmark, IBM and National Instruments treat internships as extended training programs. If successful, the internship rewards both the intern and the employer. Many interns who are given proper training and support excel in their roles and are then offered full-time positions.
Start Them Off Right
The key to a successful internship program is training. Not only do interns need to know how to work with the equipment and software they’ll be using, but they also need to understand the ins and outs of their department and the overall mission of the company. They need to know about things like the company’s dress code and what to expect when working in a professional environment. Many college students need a crash course in business conduct, such as how to talk to management.
Orientation sessions should take place during the interns’ first 2-3 days on the job, then ongoing training and mentorship can happen throughout the semester. Ask various managers to hold short intern meetings to share the day-to-day experiences of their own jobs and discuss their career progressions. Set up shadowing programs, where interns can “shadow” a particular manager for a couple of days, to see first hand how different teams work together and how decisions are made.
Is Your Organization Ready?
Before you create an internship program, be sure it can really work for you. In addition to the time it will take, consider:
- Is there real, meaningful work for the intern? While some interns may be willing to do grunt work all day, most want more out of the experience – they want to learn real skills and feel that they’re making a genuine contribution your organization.
- Are the skills and responsibilities you’re looking for appropriate for an unpaid intern? If you are trying to fill a gap in your workforce that requires a lot of expertise or confidentiality, you’re better off hiring someone.
Where Can You Recruit and Hire Interns?
Contact your local college or university, most of whom are looking for student placements. But don’t take just anybody. Recruit and interview interns just as you would any other employee, which can make the difference between finding a great intern and ending up with a bad match for your organization.
Provide the college or university with complete internship descriptions. Think about each skill and/or position you need. Although you may want an intern to fill several roles (e.g., marketing and communications), prepare an internship posting for each separate skill or position. Your posting should include:
- what an intern will do with your organization
- what expectations you have of the intern (including skills they need to have)
- what experience and skills they will gain as a result of the internship
Interns can help your organization expand and grow without increasing your budget. But interns are more than free labor; they can also contribute their creativity and energy. If you provide the opportunity, they can provide your company with valuable assistance.