Build a Great Internship Program

Do you think that having interns is just about getting your work done without having to shell out big bucks? Think again!  A strategically developed internship program can help you effectively manage your workflow to accomplish immediate business objectives, while finding new team members to grow your business and accomplish future goals. So, here are a few ways to run a meaningful and productive internship program.

1.  Build for the future

Your internship program is a year-round recruiting tool. Recruiting is a laborious and expensive process and let’s face it – things don’t always work out once a candidate is hired. By viewing your interns as potential future employees, you have an ongoing pipeline with the ability to “try out” candidates for skill match and more importantly, organizational fit.

2.  Make your interns feel like part of the team

It’s tough enough to come into a new work environment. Don’t make your interns’ social experience at the office more awkward or intimidating than it has to be. Introduce them to your staff members and have them spend time with as many of them as possible during the first week so that they feel comfortable moving forward. Encourage your team to invite your interns out to lunch as well. Do not forget about your interns — it’s on them to show initiative, but it’s on you to make them feel at home.

3.  Don’t baby them

You hired your interns for a reason; you believed in their abilities to not just work, but learn on the job and make a positive impact on your business. So, don’t be hesitant when assigning work. One of the best ways to integrate your interns into the work environment is to start them off with an assignment on the first or second day, just like everyone else. Even if their first pieces of work aren’t spectacular, compliment them on a job well done while constructively helping them understand how it could be improved. This will reduce your interns’ initial anxiety, which is an understated struggle when it comes to getting work done in an internship.

4.  Give them a final project

You don’t want the internship to feel like a class, but at the same time, your intern should have something to show for their time with you other than a line on a resume. Set up a final project that they can have for their portfolio. Try to make the project interactive and involve other team members. This is another good way for your interns to not just get to know the employees, but also pick their brains and watch them at work. Don’t wait until the end of the internship to assign the project. Instead, assign it once the intern is settled, and you have an idea of what they can do. The project will also provide a way to ensure your interns always have something to work on, even on slow days.

Internship programs often do not fulfill the ideals of the manager or the intern. But if you take the time to build an internship program strategically, and devote the necessary time and resources to finding, selecting and training your interns, you will set yourself up to benefit in the present and in the future.

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