How to Build a Successful Internship
We have entered an era where remote work is becoming common. COVID19 has expanded remote internship options. Taking the time to create a meaningful internship program can yield significant results. In my past internships and current internship with STRATA9, I’ve been able to learn through trial and error what habits and best practices create the best results. After all, internships exist to provide individuals with opportunities to contribute impactfully to a company but also learn, grow, and develop professionally. In this article, I compile a list of tips to help supervisors and companies build successful internships, especially for young professionals in their first one or two positions.
Scope internship projects clearly and concisely. Before announcing your internship, take the time to identify the right supervisor, project, and scope that can be realistically accomplished by a motivated intern. Discuss the projects in detail during interviews and ensure clarity and understanding of all applicants.
Have dedicated time to discuss the internship project(s). It is important to set up weekly check-ins with the intern to discuss progress on their project(s) and to do list. To make these meetings more efficient, encourage the intern to create agendas beforehand, take notes during, and create updated to do lists after. Furthermore, encourage questions and general curiosity. Make sure to provide constructive feedback on what the intern is doing well and how they can improve.
Offer more. One thing that has been so beneficial for me in an internship is always saying yes to any new opportunity. Whether this means attending an interesting webinar, writing a blog, contributing to a project outside of the main work of the internship, or frequently asking colleagues how I can support them in their work, saying yes and pursuing new opportunities often means you can contribute and learn as much as possible in your short time with the company. On the supervisor side, it is important to offer these kinds of opportunities to interns.
Stay focused on the bigger picture. Even if they spend a significant chunk of a day sending emails or in meetings, regularly remind the intern of the mission and vision of the organization as the end goal for all the work they do.
First, provide opportunities for the intern to get to know colleagues outside of work. Encourage the team to set up one-on-one calls with interns, and get to know them as people, not just as young coworkers. Talk about interests, hobbies, areas of interest, future goals, and pets.
Offer meaningful mentorship opportunities as much as possible. This is an extension of getting to know interns personally. Set up meetings once or twice per week with the intern, especially as a supervisor(s) or other leader in the organization, to talk about professional development. This can be a wonderful opportunity for the intern to network, talk to leaders in their field, and understand your individual pathway to where you are. As you and your colleagues have more experience in the professional world and in your fields of interest than the intern, you can help them navigate these new waters, guiding them in creating the careers they want.
Intern Do’s and Don'ts
Consider interns as personal support staff or assign tasks that don’t align with assigned projects
View the intern as separate from the rest of the company
View the intern as less than a colleague
Silo the intern into the internship project
Provide unpaid internships
Provide the intern with on-the-job training, like with Excel, Salesforce, or other internal systems
Include the intern in department, team, and company meetings
Treat the intern as a full member of the team
Offer professional development opportunities, like seminars or allow them to sit in on activities outside of their assigned projects
Pay your interns a living wage
- The best places to post internship positions include LinkedIn, Handshake, and university-specific career boards.
- “How to Recruit and Hire Interns” - https://resources.workable.com/tutorial/hiring-interns
- “A Strong Case For Why You Should Pay Your Interns” - https://bit.ly/3yuyoYR