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WorkMonger Education Careers Blog: How to Craft a Great Summer Internship Experience

How to Craft a Great Summer Internship Experience

This summer, don’t let the heat drag your performance down.

As the temperatures rise and the days lengthen, you may find that you need an extra set of hands around the office.

Instead of hiring full-time seasonal employees for summer support, why not bring on an intern instead?

This can be an ideal, cost-effective way to keep productivity high. It also allows you to help train and mentor a potential hire. Yet, for this initiative to be effective, you can’t set up a workstation, cross your fingers, and hope it all goes well. So, what makes a good internship?

The best internship programs keep the intern top of mind and make sure they’re equipped with the right resources. If you need help setting up or improving your internship program, you’re in the right place. Today, we’re taking a comprehensive look at this approach, giving you step-by-step details on what to do before, during and after the experience.

Ready to learn more? Let’s take a look!

Before the Internship

You’re eager to get started on this effort, but don’t jump the gun. Set aside time to map out what you want out of the internship. Determine what you need from this program to add value to your organization and your intern.

Here are the top three steps to take before your intern steps foot in the door.

1. Determine the Purpose and End Goal

First, take a look at your organizational design. What areas are weak and need backup support? Which departments are expanding and have growing needs?

Use this data to help drive performance forecasts. Evaluate the current capacity and output across your departments. How will an internship help with speed and efficiency?

Set a timeline for the internships and key tasks for every day. Make sure they align with and impact your greater organizational goals in a positive and proactive way!

2. Prioritize Value to the Intern

Your internship program should bring value to the intern and instill a sense of pride and work ethic.

One way to achieve this aim? Don’t be afraid to challenge your interns a little!

Ask them to take on real duties and responsibilities, especially ones that apply to their future plan of work. This looks great on a resume and helps them hone their craft.

It also adds a sense of purpose to their work and ensures they don’t spend eight hours a day grabbing coffee for the crew. Make sure they’re digesting the right material. The knowledge they acquire during their stint should be:

  • Transferable to other roles
  • Attractive to future employers
  • Informative as they reflect on their future career path

Looking for a way to ease the onboarding process? Ask current employees to step up and help serve as their mentors. Then, once you’ve confirmed the hire, ask your new intern to help craft their own experience.

3. Set Expectations Early

Communicate clear expectations with the intern before the first day.

Organize all key information into an email and send it with plenty of time for the intern to read and digest.

Include key points to remember such as their start date, end date, who their manager is, attire, the start time of day, typical end time, what to expect on their first day, and more.

This sets a welcome tone and also establishes day-to-day guidelines at the onset.

During the Internship

You’ve crafted a plan, found the perfect fit and you’re ready to hit the pavement running. Take a breath and a step back first.

Planning for an internship program is one thing. Seeing it through to successful completion is another. Here are a few ways to get yours off on the right foot.

1. Set Specific Goals

As soon as the internship starts, hold a meeting with your new intern. Together, lay out all your plans and expectations for your time working together. Don’t forget to ask your intern what their goals and objectives are for their time working with you as well.

Don’t be afraid to get too specific. In addition to monthly tasks, also outline weekly and even daily responsibilities. Discuss team delegation, current workloads and any issues that crop up.

As you discuss, make sure the intern understands that this isn’t busywork. Rather, explain how the activities on their to-do list play an essential role in your organization. After all, people perform higher-quality work when they understand the purpose behind their work.

Research shows that around half of U.S. workers feel unappreciated. Make sure metrics from your team don’t make their way into this statistic. Highlight the mission-critical functions of the role and praise every job well done.

2. Schedule Check-Ins

During the internship, schedule routine check-ins to monitor your intern’s progress and address any concerns. During each check-in, answer any questions, monitor learning progress and offer advice for improvements.

3. Establish a Feedback Schedule

Once everyone is up and running, remember that your work as a supervisor is far from over.

Create a feedback schedule wherein you can share your observations and field any inquiries. Make this plan a formal part of your official organization documentation.

Then, make every effort to be timely with your commentary. Don’t leave interns in the dark on their strengths and weaknesses. Timely, professional, concrete, and actionable feedback results in real change.

4. Give Explanations as Needed

One thing to remember is that, in most cases, your intern will be unfamiliar with the way your organization works and might not know how to use the printer, access company files or use the group messaging platform.

Don’t assume that the intern has prior knowledge of any system, equipment or software resource. Take the time to train them on everything they need to know and check back frequently to see if any issues have arisen. If you need to, you can even set specific hours aside during your workweek to address concerns and help explain tricky concepts.

5. Keep Morale Up

Your intern is much more than a warm body sitting behind a desk because you need someone in the graduate office.

A few ways to express this sentiment?

Grant access to in-house networking opportunities. Invite your intern along on company lunches and to the end-of-semester potluck. Check in with them to see how they are progressing towards their personal goals for the internship (which you are already aware of due to your conversation at the beginning of the internship).

Encourage your interns to reach out to people in roles that they are interested in and request informational interviews to learn more about their day-to-day work. Establish a norm that team members know they should agree to such requests.

Remember, this summer internship is a crucial milestone for your interns. It will set the precedent for how they see “the real world” after graduation. So make it an inclusive, positive and transformational experience.

By taking the time to invest in your interns, you set them up for success. Think about the time someone invested in you. How did it make you feel when that person took you under their wing? When they went above and beyond to show interest in you, your goals and your future? Not only did you feel special. You also wanted to show your appreciation by working hard and giving your projects all that you had. Pay it forward by creating the same atmosphere for your interns.

After the Internship

There’s a chill in the air and everyone is heading back to school. The internship is coming to a close, but there’s still work left to do.

In an ideal world, you’d turn right around and hire the intern on the spot, especially if their skills match any current vacancies you have.

Yet, there are a myriad of reasons why this may not work. In most cases, the timing is off. Your intern may be headed back to college for instance.

Here are a few next steps to take to make sure everyone gets the most out of this experience.

1. Create a Community

Do you have an alumni association where past interns can connect? If not, it takes mere seconds to start one on social media.

Here, interns can discuss ideas, share job leads and network to make valuable connections. Who knows? It might help you identify future performers who would make a great asset to your temporary team!

Creating an online community is primarily useful for large internship programs where there are enough interns to sustain a valuable community online. In smaller programs, it makes more sense for the organization team members to stay in touch with the interns directly.

2. Stay In Touch

Industry data shows that 60% of internships lead to a full-time job offer. Even if the timing isn’t right to bring your intern on right now, it’s important to keep in touch for down the road.

Invest in your intern to help them with their career goals, even if those goals don’t lead them back to your office.

Exchange contact information and check in with them from time to time. During the fall, ask how their job search is going and see if you can help. Then, let them know when you’ll have enough insight to know if you’ll be able to make them an official job offer or not.

If you’re unable to make a job offer, continue to maintain an open door policy with your interns.  Let them know they can reach back out to you whenever they like and that you’d be happy to help.

3. Wrap Up with Confidence

As mentioned above, don’t skimp on the offboarding process. Use this time to offer genuine advice to the intern. Recognize areas of growth and offer support for areas of weakness.

You want your interns to turn right around and recommend your program with confidence to their peers and family members.

To make this possible, offer to be a reference for your intern. Success often hinges more on who you know than what you know, and your nod of approval can make a world of difference.

Create the Best Internship Program Today

Everyone could use a little backup support in the office. We hit busy seasons, life gets hectic and it’s hard to juggle all of our responsibilities.

This is where an intern comes in.

As long as you pair interns up with mentors, invest in their development, set clear goals, provide meaningful work, and monitor all progress along the way, you’ll develop an effective internship program that creates the kind of experience that draws top talent back year after year.

You’ve got your best internship program in place. Now, are you looking for candidates and interns you can trust? Or full-time members to join your team? We’ve got you covered.

Our platform sorts through scores of Big Data to simplify and take the guesswork out of the recruitment process. Let’s chat to see how we can assemble your dream team!

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