6 Tips For Running a Successful Internship Program

Each summer, a new group of fresh-faced, eager and energetic interns take over company cubicles and break rooms. While this new summer staff can give your startup an extra set of hands and a lot of energy, figuring out the right way to put them to work for your business while giving them a positive experience can be tricky.

Here are six tips to ensure greater success with your internship program this summer:

1. Make mentoring interns a priority

Helpful mentors are often the key to a successful internship program. Stranding your intern without a point person isn’t fair to the intern, and isn’t productive for your company either. Make sure each intern has at least one person that they can turn to with any questions.

For this to work, each mentor must be aware of the expectations for the job. Estimate how many hours per week should be dedicated to working with the intern, and reassign the mentor’s other workload if needed. This way, your employees will truly feel like the intern program is a priority, and won’t try to hide each time the intern needs help.

2. Be upfront about their job prospects

Most likely you will have covered this topic and set expectations during the hiring process. If your intern is looking for a permanent job, let them know upfront if one is available or not at your company. If you are not planning on hiring right away, that’s okay. However, you’ll need to make sure your intern(s) are walking away with new skills, experience and connections that will help them land a full-time job.

3. Engage them in a long-term project

At the end of the summer, interns should have completed a major project that adds value to your company and can be added to their resume. Keep in mind that the millennial generation wants to dive right in with a challenging and meaningful project (they’re less apt to “pay their dues” than prior generations).

Assign a long-term project with an end-of-summer goal. This project should give the intern an opportunity to acquire and practice a variety of skills. For maximum success, you should establish weekly check points, where you can review their work and provide guidance as needed. You want to avoid the scenario where an intern’s eight-week project is completely useless because managers failed to address major issues until it was too late.

If you are not sure about your interns’ abilities and interests, you can start off with an orientation project that lasts about 1 to 2 weeks. This will let you gauge each intern’s strengths and weaknesses, and tweak their master project accordingly.

4. Keep them busy

Not every second of the intern’s day must be filled with meaningful, major projects. No doubt your business has hundreds of mindless tasks that an intern could tackle between projects or while waiting for mentors to provide feedback. These tasks should be easy to work on in bits and pieces, and not require much assistance – for example, company mailings or data entry.

Create a master list of these tasks that your interns can independently refer to whenever they don’t have anything else to do. Your employees will appreciate having this busy work lifted from their shoulders and no one has to wonder if the intern has anything to do.

5. Provide frequent feedback

Internships are learning experiences and there’s probably no one more eager to grow and learn than your millennial intern. Many internship programs include a structured performance review at the mid-point and at the end of the summer. While these formal reviews can be helpful, the overwhelming majority of millennials prefer real-time feedback so they can adapt and learn as they go forward.

For this reason, you’ll need to give your interns both praise and constructive feedback throughout the summer. You can institute weekly check-ins, so interns always know where they stand, what they’re doing well and what they need to improve. More importantly, a simple “thank you,” “nice job,” or honest feedback on the spot can make all the difference for motivating interns.

6. Wrap it up right

At the end of its summer intern season, eBay hosts a big summer showcase event where interns present their projects to peers, managers and executives. Not every summer internship program is at the same scale as eBay, but you should still recognize your interns’ growth and contributions before they leave you. For example, interns could present their projects in a department meeting or you could put together a group lunch celebrating the interns.

Since millennials care deeply about personal development, it’s important to have some kind of an exit interview. Reflect on what the intern has done over the summer and discuss their future plans/vision. Be honest, yet supportive, about their strengths and weaknesses, and advise them on areas they should improve before entering the workforce full-time.

Lastly, give interns a chance to be honest about their experience in your internship program. You’ll not only gain important information on how to run things more effectively next year, but showing how you value your interns’ opinions can go a long way toward recruiting them to your company when a job becomes available.

Source: mashable.com