4 Steps to a Successful Internship Program

The other day I asked my intern Mark Robinson, a rising junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, to pick up a package for me from the mailroom and hang some flyers.

He willingly did it, and said to me, “Wow, that’s the most interny assignment you’ve ever given me.”

Intern at computer

Mark Robinson gains valuable experience through his internship. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I took it as a backhanded compliment since the rest of the time he’s been creating videos, writing copy, attending meetings and learning about working in a global environment.

“I have opportunities to create products and give feedback,” he said. “There’s never a moment when I don’t have something to do.”

When offering internships, it’s good to treat interns as part of the team by enabling them to contribute and gain experience.

Here are a few steps to ensuring a student has a successful internship:

Treat the student as a valued employee. While I know I’m providing them with an opportunity to learn, I often learn many things from the students as well. Ask them to attend meetings and offer opinions.

Assign them real work. Before I even consider bringing an intern on board, I consult with my team and we develop a list of assignments. If we don’t have enough work, then we don’t hire an intern for that semester. At the end of a semester, I want the intern to have work product, whether it’s a press release, a story for the internal newsletter or developing a campaign plan.

Provide feedback on the work. I provide feedback to team members so it makes sense to provide feedback to an intern. I take it a step further and always offer to review the student’s resume. I can help them with the right words to use and the structure. I review lots of resumes so I know what stands out.

Interact with others. Don’t limit the intern to only interacting with one person. For each assignment Mark has, he has a different “boss.” This enables him to meet more members of the team and learn different work styles. He also learns about different career paths.

Mark will leave us in a few weeks. He’s headed to the University of Botswana. His life goal is to be a foreign correspondent. Interning with an international organization this summer gave him a taste of what to expect. He also learned about team effort, accountability and cohesion.

He benefited from the internship and so did the company. It’s a win-win and that’s what a good internship program should be.

5 thoughts on “4 Steps to a Successful Internship Program

  1. Interns are vital to our recruiting business. We hire students who are exploring opportunities in corporate communications, PR, marketing, advertising, marcom etc. Often, they don’t know what they want. The exposure to a search firm gives them the inside view or behind the curtain of what it takes to get a job in these fields.

    Every day, at lunch, we eat together and turn the conference table into a living lab for lunch and learn. Wed iscuss hiring trends, interesting news, cultural literacy, insights on interviewing, the job market and views from the recruiter’s desk. These sessions are lively and engaging.

    All interns must present an article for analysis (forces the interns to read), a PowerPoint presentation, summary of what they have learned, writing samples etc. We treat our interns as extensions of the staff team and hold them accountable for results.

    These students represent the next generation of talent. We are committed to their success. We mentor our interns and they practice reverse mentoring so that we can all learn from each other. We also have fun!

  2. Roger Hudak says:

    Interns are like student teachers that I’ve had. Some good, some terrible. The most important lesson to be learned is the teamwork aspect of the experience. Working well with others toward a common goal as well as contributing on an individual basis will help the intern come realize if they really want to do this for as a vocation. In my business, the kids were are most important product.

  3. I had the pleasure of working with Mark in an undergraduate teaching assistant program at VCU this past academic year. I was incredibly impressed by both his work ethic and creative problem solving. He’s passionate about his work and it shows. It’s great to see a company recognize the value of student interns like Mark. Great post!

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