Keys to a Successful Internship Program

Keys to a Successful Internship Program

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Internships can be a valuable experience for an intern and the organization they serve, but as an employer, you have to play your cards right. Developing interns is crucial, as it not only serves as a springboard for them into the workforce, but it creates an opportunity for them to become a valuable asset to your company. 

At the same time, a complacent or underdeveloped internship program can encourage wayward or disengaged behaviors, and the last thing you want are disgruntled interns who depart with a negative experience and sully your reputation on the Glassdoors, Indeeds, and other job search engines. 

Small businesses are in a unique position to give interns the exposure they need to be invested in your company and its culture, and core values. In this post, we discuss the keys to a successful internship program.

Pay Your Interns

If time is money, then people deserve to be paid for their work. Compensating interns not only makes them feel more valued but also helps them be more valuable. As noted by U.S. News & World Report, a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers bears this out:

“Students who have had a paid internship are much more likely to have received a job offer than those students whose work experience has been in an unpaid internship,” according to the report, which also found that  65.4 percent of the class of 2014 who had completed a paid internship at a for-profit company received a job offer before graduating.

That rate has increased in the last six years. 

Onboard Your Interns

Just as you would with a new-hire, having an orientation and onboarding your interns will establish expectations and set them up for success. Having an intern program coordinator role is a good place to start, since they outline how performance is evaluated and identify markers for success. This individual will manage your interns and hopefully build a program that positions them to have a collective learning experience. 

Set Goals

At the conclusion of their program, interns should be able to easily answer the question: What have I learned? In order for their takeaways to be positive, it’s a best practice to assign specific projects and track their progress along the way. An analogy is a character arc in literature. In good stories, the protagonist usually changes for the better by the conclusion. By the end of their work, an intern should feel a sense of fulfillment, having completed something that they learned from. 

Keep in Touch 

In a perfect world, you will have a full-time job opportunity to offer a great intern. If that’s not the case, it’s smart professionally to stay in touch with good talent. Providing a positive experience for them plants the seeds for future opportunities. Additionally, it teaches them and hones your networking skills.

A solid internship program acts as a boot camp for young talent, and with the right planning, you can groom them to be the next business leaders in the market. 

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