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5 Tips for Developing a Great Internship Program

Ambitious people leading creative business

Contributed by Ella Jane Dantzler

Every company wants great interns. The ideal intern is motivated, ambitious, has a positive attitude, and can execute with equal enthusiasm on a coffee run and a high-level research project. However, achieving this perfect medium is often not just contingent upon hiring the “right” intern, but rather the way you structure your internship program. Here are a few tips from our experience:

  1. Communicate your company’s mission and vision FIRST THING. 

Just as you wouldn’t hire a high-level executive without first making sure he/she understands and aligns with your company’s mission—you want to bring that same standard to the training of your lowest level employee. Block some time to explain to them the company’s history and vision. Their grasp of your company core values will become quickly evident in the work they produce and the quality of their experience in your program.

  1. Explain projects in person. 

It can be so easy to get caught up in the whirl of a busy day and email quick requests with little explanation or context. For the first few weeks when bringing on a new intern, take the time to explain each project first in person and then send a brief recap/follow up email with the instructions. The quality of work received from interns is almost always equal to the amount of effort/investment put in from the employer. This personal interaction is not only valuable for building rapport with the team, it also allows for a deeper understanding of the purpose of a project, rather than limiting it to a shallow transactional request.

  1. Give them difficult problems to solve.

Many internships are based around what can often feel like “busy work” but is actually of great value to your company. Even though you might understand the importance of the task, make an effort to frequently allow them to try their hand at a higher-level project or task. Ask their input on an important issue you are trying to resolve, let them sit in on a meeting with a client, etc. After all- the purpose of an internship is to let them get a taste for what they would be doing if they did end up working in this field—make sure they are getting to truly experience it!

  1. Show them the results of their work.

Rather than the quick “Thank you!” email in response to a completed task, take the time to follow up and show them how their work fits into the bigger picture of what you do. If they spent hours completing research that went into a quarterly report for a client, forward them the completed report and show them the tangible results of their labor. This will bring a greater understanding of their importance in the process and therefore a sense of satisfaction and purpose the next time they’re researching.

  1. Engage/have fun!

Let your interns know how much you appreciate them! Consider having an “Intern Appreciation Day” once a quarter where you treat them to lunch with your team and allow them to ask questions about your industry and interact with employees in different roles. Many interns are unpaid or working another part time job to pay for school- remember to acknowledge their efforts and thank them for their time.