Creating the Perfect Internship Programme
For the majority of young adults, an internship represents that first step, the initiation phase where you go from being a student to a professional worker. Internships are meant to help young people apply what they’ve learned all their lives and apply them to the real world. It has become a bit of an urban legend, that an internship at a respectable organisation means more than the actual degree.
However, reality has the tendency to prove us wrong most of the time. In the past few years, numerous internship programmes have come under intense scrutiny for being a very legal way of exploiting young people by paying them close to nothing, if they actually decide to pay them anything. Then again, it must be said that not every organisation looks to take advantage of young adults and offer them internships where they are being used. You might be one of the lucky ones who can say that your internship programme was meaningful both professionally and personally.
Ideally, it is best to recruit interns that are geographically close to your base of operations. Drafting young people from local universities is just common sense. Alternatively, if you recruit someone from a different location to work for a summer, it is highly unlikely they will return to you for a full-time job if you offer them one.
There are a number of factors that must be weighed in when it comes to recruiting the best and offering them the best conditions to thrive.
Firstly, it is highly recommended to recruit early in the year. If you plan to organise a summer internship, if you start looking in the spring then all the best talents are already taken. Fall seems like the ideal time to start recruiting if you wish to have the best possible students available. Obviously, this requires being proactive as an organisation.
Secondly, make their first day amazing. Keep in mind that they are most likely nervous about their first day and they didn’t sleep too much due to their anxiety. Some of the following things may help ease them in: someone greeting them as soon as they come in, make sure their offices are properly set and ready to work and take them to lunch. Furthermore, if you will have interns in various departments try and create opportunities for them to meet. This can be easily done by creating training and social sessions for them in order for them to get more accustomed to their surroundings.
- Offering your interns actual work
Everyone is scared of going to an internship and all they will have to do is deliver coffee. Some of the best ways in which to offer them meaningful work is to assign a project that will impact the way business is done. Give them the possibility to present their ideas and solutions in front of the executives and shareholders. You will be surprised how many good ideas may come from someone who is new in the place of business. More often than not, interns’ ideas are being implemented and have something extra to add to their CVs. Moreover, it gives the manager a clear idea of who they can recruit full-time after they finish their studies.
- Continuous feedback
Although it is fairly important to offer your interns meaningful work, it is as important to give them continuous feedback. Do not drop a project on them and then check their work in their very last day. For example, L’Oreal offers ongoing feedback considering it an integral part of the development of all their employees, either temporary or full-time. And that is not all. Interns have the possibility of providing feedback as well. L’Oreal considers that there should always be a dialogue between interns and managers, thus leading to better engagement levels and productivity.
In an article from the New York Times, it has been brought up to everyone’s attention that there are violations of labour laws when talking about unpaid internships. A few of the rules that are in place at the moment state that the internship should be related to an interns’ academic capabilities, interns should not displace full-time employees and that the company cannot obtain any immediate advantage from an intern’s work. In layman terms, internships should benefit interns, not organisations. All in all, the criteria mentioned lead towards the idea that internships should be financially compensated. After all, a successful internship must be a win for everyone involved in the process.
- Closing time
Request a summary of your interns’ experience at the end of the programme. This is a win-win situation for both parties. The interns have the opportunity to reflect on their experience and what they have learnt, whilst providing you with valuable information on how to improve office relations, communication, etc.
If there are interns who have impressed during their time at your organisation make sure to make them offers for a full-time position before they go back to school. This is a crucial step because not only does it offer you with a young and consistent new employee but it may also drive other interns in the future to seek your programme.
In their last day, offer them a small token of appreciation. It could be a keychain, a hat or a coat with the company logo on it. If he or she had a great experience within your organisation they will wear it proudly (plus, a little bit of advertising goes a long way).
Most companies think that when interns leave that is a job well done. This could not be more false. It is essential you keep in touch with them. Managers should make sure that whoever worked the closest with an intern touch base on a monthly basis. It is also important for interns to know that the work they have put in the projects they have been assigned is developing nicely.
Finally and this is more food for thought than anything else. Just think about how you would like to be treated if you were embarking on your first internship experience. You know very well what the difference is between being treated as an equal or as a ‘servant’. By applying just some of the ideas discussed in this article your organisation will see an increase in demand for students to come and take your internship programme.
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