Today’s college students and recent graduates know the road to landing an entry-level job is paved with internships. As they prepare to enter the professional world, they seek internships to gain practical work experience, interpersonal skills and networking opportunities.
Internships are a two-way street; they benefit employers as well. An intern can help you complete projects you may not have been able to do alone. With an extra set of hands, you can focus on the bigger picture and be more successful at work.
With over a third of college students taking on internships at some point during their undergraduate years, you have no shortage of candidates. But if your intern has a bad experience, you can bet everyone in their program will hear about it. This could keep you from attracting the best candidates down the line.
There’s no magic formula for developing a successful internship. Every intern is different, and so are your needs at the time you employ them. You may have a better rapport with certain interns than others. Regardless of who your intern is at the time, you should treat every single of one of them with professionalism and respect — not like lackeys. They can be a huge asset to your team if you give them the chance.
To help your interns be both productive and successful with your team, you’ll need to dedicate focus to these four areas of their internship.
1. Their work environment
Whether you work in a highly-structured corporate culture in or a laid-back startup, make sure your intern feels included. Introduce them around the office and let them know who pulls the strings for office supplies, IT help, etc.
You can also help them feel included by inviting them to meetings. Even if they’re just a fly on the wall, meetings will give your intern a deeper insight into the projects they’re working on and what your job is like. Since they’re probably looking into jobs similar to yours, these meetings can help them get a better sense of what to expect in their future.
2. Their day-to-day tasks and work
Interns expect to do the grunt work. They come in knowing much of what you need them to do will be tedious low-level work.
Nonetheless, you should balance out the tedious with the exciting. If you give them a lot of data entry, you should then give them the opportunity to do some hands-on work, too. Be sure to communicate the importance of they work they do so they don’t feel like they’ve spent thirty hours creating an Excel template that will never serve useful.
Don’t assume your interns have certain knowledge. Different programs teach different skills. Your intern may not have the same set of skills as your previous intern. Give them training on what you want them to do so they understand the project and exactly what you want. This will save you both time in the long run.
3. Their team
Once your intern meets everyone on the team, make sure they understand everyone’s roles. Make it clear to them and your colleagues who they report to. Otherwise, you risk your coworkers dumping work onto the intern and overwhelming or confusing them.
You should always know what project your intern is working on so you can help them prioritize tasks. Make it clear early on that they should let you know if they start to feel overloaded or are struggling to meet deadlines.
4. Their rewards
If you can afford to pay your interns, you should. (Click here to tweet this piece of advice.) Even if it’s a stipend at the end of their internship, payment can go a long way.
Showing your intern you value their work is a huge boost to their self-esteem and will make them want to work harder. If you can’t afford to pay them, offer non-monetary rewards. Whether it’s taking your intern out to lunch once a week or simply creating fun projects for them to work on, show them they’re valued. It’s not just the right thing to do; you’ll also contribute to their success and job satisfaction.
When you hire your next intern, remember some of these suggestions to help boost their productivity and to keep your program’s good reputation so you can hire quality candidates for years to come.
By creating the proper environment and assigning relevant projects, you can help your intern do their best work. By giving them a proper understanding of your team and rewarding them appropriately, you can ensure a smooth and fulfilling internship for both parties.
What are some ways you guarantee successful internship programs?
Katherine is a Public Relations major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with hopes to move to Austin, TX to work at a public relations agency upon her graduation in December. To see more of Katherine, visit her blog, follow her @kattals and connect with her on LinkedIn.