Micro-Internships: The Next Generation of Interns

Micro-internships offer college students an opportunity to complete small projects in place of a more traditional longer-term internship. Micro-internships consist of projects that require the student to work between five and forty hours over a span of a few days to a few weeks. These students are often compensated, similarly to freelance work, and given the opportunity to get a sneak peek at a potential career path. Micro-internships provide an opportunity to those who might not be able to follow the path of a traditional summer or semester-long internship, opening the door to minorities and low-income college students. While this program is most useful to the student, it is not without benefit to the organizations.

The University of Chicago’s micro-internship program has partnered with organizations from small businesses in Chicago to Microsoft and Apple. They have found that the student is able to experience real work through small projects such as copy-writing, project management, HR and business strategy, while the organization is able to benefit from the projects and vet future employees. To date, the university has more than 500 students enrolled in the program and companies report that the relationship with the university has allowed them to create a larger, more diverse recruiting pool.

One of the major benefits of micro-internships and a large reason they have spread to more than 150 schools across the U.S. is their ability to allow access to students that may otherwise miss out on internship experience. This creates a larger, more diverse hiring pool when the organization is looking to hire college graduates. Employers often report more long-term success than seen in previous, more traditional, internship programs.

With more than 51% of successful college graduates attributing their success to their internship experience, it is no mystery why this trend has caught on. Building a relationship with a university and creating micro-internships does not just provide an opportunity to a student but allows the employer to expand it’s hiring pool, accomplish tasks, and cut costs. Micro-internships are often less expensive than traditional internships, decreasing costs and allowing employees to spend less time preparing for and guiding interns.

These opportunities have shown success for companies and students throughout programs across the United States. Research shows they do not only create more effective interns, but create an atmosphere that attracts young workers — workers who are often more productive, loyal, and satisfied. The first step to take in creating this program at your organization could be as simple as contacting area schools. Learn what expectations and requirements they have for micro-internships and see how your organization may be able to participate. And, as always, be sure to establish clear policy and procedure before beginning to work with your “micro-interns.”

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