How to Create an Internship Program

by Susan Mullin

With spring just around the corner and summer close behind, now is a great time to start thinking about internships. Interns help manage tasks that may otherwise fall through the cracks during a busy time of year. Below, you will find five ways to create an effective internship program for both you and your interns:

internship program

Hold a thorough interview process

You wouldn’t hire a new employee without thoroughly vetting them first, right? Of course not. When you put your intern candidates through an organized interview process, and check their references, you can learn about more than just their background and experience. You can discover what areas of the company they are most interested in, what programs they are familiar with, their technical skills, what classes they are currently taking, and how they can be applied to their work with you. You can also use this information to design a program that is specific to their interests.

Rotate departments

By creating an interdepartmental internship, you allow your intern to sample everything your company has to offer. In addition to the areas in which they specifically express interest, be sure to allow them time to shadow and assist on projects in other departments as well. In the end, they may walk away interested in a new direction or field. Enterforce explains that departmental rotations also benefit your employees. They allow them to gain experience training younger staff, remind them of company protocols and procedures, and allow multiple departments to benefit from additional support during the internship season.

Lunch and learn

Help from interns during the busy season is key, but it is also vital to ensure that your intern is taking something away from their experience, not just doing coffee runs. A great, easy way to do this is by just having lunch! Designate one day every other week during which your interns can share lunch with a new department lead. This helps them learn about a new department, what goes into running it, how the department lead got to where they are, and more. This also is a great way for interns to feel comfortable asking questions in a more laid back setting and can improve their communication skills when speaking with senior staff.

Performance reviews

Performance reviews are necessary for all positions as they allow employees to become aware of job strengths and weaknesses—and identify areas of possible improvement. While most of us are quite familiar with this process, your interns are just starting their professional journey, and a review is important information for them to learn early on. A review, which should be given at the end of a rotation, should go over their strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement, as well as their feedback on the rotation. Overall, this will help them learn how to accept constructive criticism as well as positive feedback.

Help them walk away with more than experience

As you reach the end of your internship season, you can help set your intern up for future success in important ways. Be sure to offer college credit or even a stipend for their work. Additionally, you can write your intern a letter of recommendation for the next step on their journey—applying for their first job. Keep in mind that your company could even get some free word-of-mouth promotion at local colleges from students who come back to school with positive internship experiences.

Interns can significantly contribute to your department and having them on your team can be a rewarding experience for you, your staff, and, of course, the interns themselves. By using the five tips above, you should be well on your way to developing an effective internship program.

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