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How To Create A Successful Internship Program For Your Business

internship program

For students and young professionals, internships are excellent way to gain insight into an industry of interest. Summer or semester-long internships often serve as a launch pad for professional development, linking enthusiastic young people with mentors. Internship programs often do not require experience, coursework, or full-time commitment, and the best programs will feel like a rigorous, face-paced, apprenticeship.

For companies, an internship program has many potential benefits. It is a way to complete projects that are not related to the core business, allows managers to vet potential future employees, generates “buzz” about the company, and provides full-time employees with the opportunity to develop management skills by leveraging and collaborating with interns.

The key to a successful internship program is ORGANIZATION. By developing a concrete and robust plan of action and communicating expectations clearly and regularly to employees and interns, the experience can be incredibly rewarding for all parties.

Below are some important steps that can help you structure an internship program that is meaningful, manageable, and worthwhile.

The key to a successful internship program is ORGANIZATION. By developing a concrete and robust plan of action and communicating expectations clearly and regularly to employees and interns, the experience can be incredibly rewarding for all parties.

1. Create a Plan

Before you do anything related to your internship program, you will first need to make a plan. Think about the following:

-Timing

  • Start and end dates
  • How often do you expect them to be in the office, check in with mentors?
  • DO: Make an internship schedule

-Expectations

  • Clearly state your expectations for interns regarding behavior and deliverables, and what they can expect from you.
  • DO: Publicly display expectations and hold yourself and your interns accountable.

-Tasks

  • What projects will interns work on? What have you wanted to accomplish but just haven’t had the time?
  • Can these tasks be handled independently? Or will they require constant oversight?
  • DO: Make a list of all tasks on which you think an intern could work

Review this plan with your team, and ask for their input. For example, on what specific projects could they use support? Is it possible to complete these tasks in the time given? What are achievable milestones?

For an idea on how to structure a successful internship program, check out the G&R Internship Program Plan Template here: Program Plan for Selected Interns

2. Find Interns

Once you’re happy with your internship program plan, you’ll need to find interns!

Depending on the size, scope, and maturity of your business, there are two major strategies for finding suitable candidates:

  • References from friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Applications from anyone who is interested.

However you decide to market your internship program, always remember to do the following:

  • Interview every promising candidate. If a personal friend or relative applies, you may want to ask a colleague to conduct the interview.
  • Review the program plan with everyone you interview. Ask them if they’re OK with the workload, expectations, and deliverables.
  • Ask questions that measure cultural fit as well as skills necessary for specific tasks. Does their skill set match with your list of tasks?

3. Create a Structure

Once your internship plan is in place and interns have been selected, it is your job to create a structure within which your interns can both work and learn. This is an internship after all. The goal is training and development, not just free/cheap labor.

Before your interns come in for their first day on the job, think about how to maximize both their output and education without taking too much of your own time.

Below is a list of few things you could do to better structure the internship experience:

  • Create special email addresses for each intern using your company email server.
  • If you use Google Drive or Dropbox, create a special folder for each intern where they can keep documents they are working on. You will be able to see drafts of everything they are doing in real time, and can provide feedback.
  • Create an Intern Work Plan. This is a high level schedule showing achievement benchmarks for interns. (See template here: Intern Work Plan)
  • Create an Intern Tracker. This is a lower level “to-do list.” Later you can look back at this document and see everything an intern has worked on or been asked to do. (See template here: Intern Tracker)

4. Host an Orientation & Check-In Regularly

On the first day of the internship, it is a good idea to host an orientation. This could take thirty minutes or an entire day, depending on the situation. Make sure you go over the internship plan a second time and show interns the structures you have set up for them. Show them how to use their company emails and where to save their documents.

If you have done everything right, your interns should be set up to work independently to reach the goals you have set together and with mentors. In order to make sure you are all on the same page and that everyone is happy, it is important to check-in with your interns on a regular basis. This does not need to be every day.

One best practice is to ask interns to submit a weekly report of their activities. Here is a template: Weekly Report.

5. Set Aside Mentorship Time

In order for interns to learn about the company, it is important to set aside time for mentorship. If you have the resources, it can be very beneficial to spend dedicated time training your interns. These sessions should cover topics outside of their everyday tasks. For example, help your interns understand how to give an effective presentation.

One best practice is to include mentorship sessions in your orientation schedule. Assign employees to match up with interns and guide them through their Intern Work Plan. The pairs should work together to decide dates for each project. Mentors should also encourage interns to set specific numerical goals.

One best practice is to include mentorship sessions in your orientation schedule. Assign employees to match up with interns and guide them through their Intern Work Plan.

6. Optional: Final Presentations

To bring things full circle, required presentations at the end of the internship program are a great idea. This helps you, your team, and your interns appreciate how much they have accomplished. It also provides an excellent opportunity for reflection.

7. Two Thoughts About Balancing Gender in your Internship Program

i) One major obstacle to the entrance of women into internship programs, especially is a lack of female candidates.

DO: If you want your program to have a balance of male and female interns, we we HIGHLY recommend, you will need to make an effort to recruit women. Keep in mind that the only requirement for a great intern is enthusiasm, a thirst to learn, and a good work ethic.

ii) Given the gender imbalance in business in Bangladesh, your female interns will likely be mentored by men. Many men are not comfortable or accustomed to working with women, and might struggle to communicate effectively or give adequate guidance.

DO: Create and communicate the program structure to interns and mentors before the program begins. This will help neutralize issues around gender bias as expectations and deliverables for all interns and mentors are the same, regardless of gender.

DO: Solicit input from team members about projects to assign interns. Doing so can help create buy-in from employees, and allows everybody to focus on achieving specific goals through collaboration, regardless of whether the team is made of men, women, or both.


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