Making an Internship Program Valuable

Joe Weinlick
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An internship program can be a valuable asset for your company — it's an affordable, low-commitment way to increase the workforce and give you the chance to evaluate potential new employees. If you're looking to attract the best talent, be sure that your program also has tangible benefits for interns.

Create Community

Participants in an internship program naturally gravitate together, creating a community and a positive support system. Extend these relationships to full-time employees by scheduling social outings for interns and staffers. Sponsor team lunches, form a sports league or set up a mentoring program that connects interns to employees with similar experience. This process creates a welcoming atmosphere and establishes valuable professional contacts that can benefit interns long after they graduate and enter the working world.

Develop an Onboarding Process

Starting an internship program is intimidating, but you can ease interns' fears with a thoughtful onboarding process. Keep in mind that for many interns, your office might be the first introduction to the professional world. Start them off right by setting clear expectations, introducing point people and explaining company communication standards. Set up email accounts and server logins, and talk about meeting etiquette. These boundaries create a sense of security and help interns understand how they fit into the workplace, so they can become productive in less time.

Assign Projects

Many young people choose an internship program to learn new skills and gain experience in a specific industry — not something that can be accomplished with a summer spent getting coffee. While some busy work is inevitable for interns, you can help them get the most from the experience by providing real-world tasks. Assign interns to work on small pieces of your current projects. Ask computer science majors to work on a section of code, or allow graphic design majors to design an online ad or Pinterest post. When they prove themselves, add more responsibilities. At the end of the summer, the interns can leave with new portfolio pieces, and your company can use their work products to point out new employees.

Assess Performance

At the end of an internship program, it's important to conduct a performance review. Sit down with each intern and his mentor, and discuss how the program went. Talk about the intern's strengths, and gently point out areas for improvement. Where appropriate, offer a letter of recommendation or provide contact information for a professional reference. Then, ask how you can improve the program for future interns. This meeting closes out the summer on a positive note and gives both parties an opportunity for open communication.

An internship program can be a powerful experience for your employees and interns. By planning ahead, communicating effectively and providing real-world projects, you can build a program that attracts top talent.

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