Tips for Building a Successful Internship Program

Fri, Jun 15, 2012


If you run your own business, chances are you’ve had weeks where there’s just too much to get done and not enough hours to do it all. It happens to all growing businesses; it’s just the nature of the beast. Thankfully, there are ways to spread and lighten the load that don’t require hiring new permanent staff. Hundreds of colleges across America graduate thousands of young adults every spring, and each one of them is looking for a leg up in their prospective careers. Most of the time, seniors or graduates get that first hands on experience through an internship. Companies run internships during the summer or during ongoing semesters, bringing in groups of hard-working, eager part-time workers to learn on the job while adding serious value to your office. If you’ve never run an internship program at your company don’t fret. It’s very easy to do, and will bring back a huge return on your invested time. Here are a couple quick tips to get you started building a successful internship program at your company.

Your first step will be to reflect upon exactly what you are looking for in your intern program. That means not only the type of worker you would like to bring in, but what your goal for the program is. You’ll need to make sure that there are projects around the office that can be handled by an inexperienced student. That doesn’t mean they have to be brainless projects. The students that approach you for an internship will surely be studying a major that applies to your industry, and can bring a great deal of skill to the table. But the tasks you give them should not rely heavily on previous experience, or the interns could end up lost. Also, do you have enough projects that will take enough time and effort to keep a group of interns busy for a whole term? You’ll be able to give them some of the more tedious tasks, but there should be aspects of the project that are creatively challenging and fulfilling as well.

Next, you must put in place a manager for the program. It doesn’t have to be a new employee, but can be someone internal as long as they have a bit of time in their schedule. Interns take a great deal of management. They simply don’t know enough about the work and the industry yet to always know what to do next. Make sure whoever the manager is, they enjoy working with students, have an aptitude for teaching, and can also help you track their overall progress. The manager should be organized, be able to juggle several different schedules, and welcome the challenge of working with an inexperienced group.

Finally, you’ll advertise your internship and then spend a great deal of time screening potential interns. Remember, you shouldn’t just take anyone. You’ll want to find students who are eager to work hard, but are also interested in the specific culture of your business. They’ll need to embrace your company’s mission and goals, and be willing to represent them through their work. Advertising internships will lead to hundreds of applications, and you may only need a couple of people for the positions. Interview all the ones that have the right education and experience, but keep an eye out for the students that seem like hard workers that can also be flexible when necessary.

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