Summertime in the world of work is usually when you find relaxed dress codes, shortened work weeks, and extended vacations. It is also the time where companies set aside time to bring up the next generation of the workforce – interns!
Like most leaders, you believe in the value of an internship program. Your company has probably put college students to work over the summer, with the intention of training them and hiring them into full-time roles once they graduate. The concept has been around for ages, and most organizations have some form of early career program. Some of the standard elements include going to college career fairs, interviewing on site, hiring the top students, having the interns work on a special project, then sending the kids back to school in the Fall. This is all o.k., but more can be done to ensure an outstanding intern experience and a return on your investment! In addition to the standard fare, try incorporating these items into your program.
Orientation – Welcome interns into their summer roles by providing them with valuable information about your organization to help get them acclimated. It may seem elementary, yet orienting your interns will give them context to the work they’ll be doing for you. Share with them the history of your company, an overview of products and services, who your customers are, the organizational strategy and objectives, safety and security protocols, confidentiality, company jargon and acronyms, and a facility tour.
Mentoring – As the manager you can supervise and coach interns and have your program be good. What will set you apart from most is providing the student with a mentor! This person can be a high performing co-worker and/or someone who has recently completed your company’s early career program. The mentor can support the intern by answering questions, helping navigate through the organization, serve as a role model and can provide you with insight regarding what they have observed through the intern’s stay with your company.
Networking – The work experience is vital to the success of an early career program. An enhanced program includes activities during which interns can step away from the work and be social. Including networking events where students can get to know one another and can share their experiences can help your program stand out. Enabling interns to build relationships with one another adds to their summer experience and gives them more reason to want to work for you and your organization. The intentional connecting can be facilitated through a lunch, an outing to a local sporting event, or learning events designed specifically for interns.
Evaluation – Just as you have ongoing performance discussions with your regular employees, you should evaluate the work of your interns. Informal evaluations can be done during project updates, through the mentor/mentee relationship and during one on one meetings. Formal performance reviews should be done midway through and at the close of the internship. These should mirror your annual performance review program and serve as a way for you to review the internship, progress made, completion of objectives and determine whether or not the intern did well enough to earn a full-time job on your team.
Transition – Don’t just collect their badge and computer and send them off with a handshake! Make sure the intern knows their status – will they be returning next summer? are they being hired on full-time after graduation? Once they have accepted your job offer, be sure you have exchanged contact information and make arrangements to stay connected throughout the school year.
The time you invest in your interns will pay off for both you and the student. Offering them the chance to learn about your company, develop affiliations with a mentor and a network of their peers, have their performance evaluated in a realistic work situation and giving them the opportunity to transition back to campus with a job offer in hand will be sure to set your program apart.
Make it a great summer!