Your business can benefit from a well-crafted internship program while enhancing the career potential of a college student. Doing a poor job will affect your brand, your reputation and possibly get you sued.
1: You are here to help the intern.
The right reason to offer an internship program is to help the career of someone just starting out and giving them skills that can last a lifetime. Structure is important. Giving the student a well-defined role will keep him or her happy throughout the program. At knoodle, we feel our job is to enhance the intern’s skills that will make him or her more employable. We work with them on building a portfolio of work that they take with them when they leave. The intern can be helpful in providing a role for your business and may have talents you currently don’t have.
2: Develop a relationship with local colleges, trade schools and universities
Almost every one of these institutions have a mechanism to pair interns with local businesses. This allows them to give their students real life experience while learning academically. Some have job fairs or job boards where the internships can be posted. Contact the dean or chair of the department that is most closely associated with your business. Offer to be a guest speaker at related classes. This can be a great source of interns. At knoodle, two of our team members teach at the Art Institute of Phoenix, which brings serious interns every semester. Get involved and sponsor programs.
3: Treat the Intern like an employee, in our case, that’s like family!
You want the intern to know what their responsibilities are and that they are accountable- while they are learning new things. You want to give them a taste of the work place so that they are ahead of the game once they enter the work force. If you have a dress code, it should apply to them. If you have staff meetings, gatherings or employee activities, they should be encouraged to attend. They do not answer the phone, file and get coffee. Each intern deserves a good environment and meaningful work.
4: Assign every intern a mentor
At knoodle, each department head is responsible for his or her interns. They train, assign tasks, and mentor them through the semester. Each intern works alongside the staff and is just as important as any team member is. Our Vice President of Creative Matthew Wilson works side by side with a graphic design intern. He also oversees the video intern and adjusts the editing while over his shoulder. Sandra Baumunk, our Director of Client Services works with a research intern alongside the marketing director. An unhappy intern can walk directly into my office through my open door anytime. This has never happened.
5: Focus on the positive
It is fine to give the interns constructive criticism but always stay positive. We are here to build them up and give them confidence. Praise them in public. Feature them in newsletters. It is perfectly fine to introduce them to clients. The best part of internships is that you are also building future employee relationships with your company. We often hire our interns when positions become available. Positive re-enforcement goes a long way in keeping them as long term employees. And better yet, they will tell their friends about what a positive experience they had at your company. Don’t forget, they have the power to review the experience. We have had interns deliver positive reviews via social media.