How To Start an Internship Program At Your Company
By Lauren Berger, “The Intern Queen”
Attention Employers! This blog is written just for you. I get hundreds of employers contacting me each week and asking if they can start an internship program. The answer is, YES! I put together a few tips for companies trying to launch internship programs.
How to Launch an Internship Program
- Pick An Internship Coordinator. If your company is big or small you should have one person that is in charge of your internship program. I would suggest giving this responsibility to some sort of assistant or junior level position. If your receptionist or office secretary is a high turn-over job, give this responsibility to someone more permanent. This person will be in charge of collecting resumes, promoting the position, sorting resumes, coordinating interviews, and providing work and space for the interns.
- Outline Your Program. Ask yourself and other employees what you want to accomplish by starting an internship program. Create a mission statement. An example could be “The Intern Queen Internship Program provides students with a hands-on experience. I show them how a start-up is run, the daily tasks that go into managing a business, and have them help out with brainstorming, necessary organizational and administrative tasks, social media, press releases, and marketing campaigns while taking their future interests into consideration and providing each student with a personal mentor and guide throughout the duration of their internship.”
- Make each task beneficial for both parties. I suggest each company make a list of the types of tasks that interns should be asked. Before making this list, think about the “double-sided benefit” of each task. Each task delegated to an intern should serve two purposes: 1.) The task should be of assistance/benefit to the employer. 2.) The tasks should be of benefit for the intern to learn how to do. They should be able to find this useful in some manner for their future.
- Acceptable Tasks. Employers must assume that most interns come into the workplace with little to no prior experience. Therefore, any filing, copying, phone answering, database sorting, cold calling, pitching, sitting in on meetings, faxing, typing up reports are all acceptable tasks for intern. Internships have a bad reputation of being all about making coffee and running personal errands. Every once in a while, a personal errand or a coffee is necessary to make something in the company run smoothly. For the sake of your company’s internship program and for the sake of the intern, try to keep the personal errands and coffee runs to a minimum. Interns are definitely a convenience in the office but try to assign them to tasks that are mutually beneficial. Having an outlined list of company “acceptable intern tasks” will help make sure that all employees understand what they can and cannot ask of their interns.
- Offer School Credit. Many internships are unpaid and that is the nature of the word. Unpaid internships are fine as long as College Credit is offered. The big misconception about college credit is that the company needs to do something about it. College Credit actually lies in the hands of the student and their specific career center. Before interviewing a student, ask them via email if they can receive some sort of college credit or transcript recognition for their internship.
The student will have to ok it with their career center at school and then will provide you with an answer. I encourage to you make sure students can get some sort of credit/recognition before you interview them. Once the school tells the student that they are able to receive college credit for the internship, the student will bring in papers for the company to sign. Depending on the school, the papers might consists of a company summary, biweekly evaluations for the employer or student to fill out, and usually some sort of “end of internship” evaluation for the employer to sign. This is the school’s way of keeping track of the student and making sure they are attending their internship. Companies should advertise that they are providing college credit for students interning at the company.
- Know your intern’s goals and strengths. During the interview process, make sure your internship coordinator asks the student’s if they have any work-related knowledge of the internet, programs, social media networks, etc. Many students have already incorporated different social media sites into their lives. They can easily bring this knowledge and use it as an asset to your company. Many companies rely on interns to run their social media campaigns and profiles. It’s also important to know where your interns want to go. If they are really interested in PR, put them in your press department. If a student tells me they want fashion, I give them all fashion related clients and projects to work on.
- Select Your Dates – Be Specific. To keep your company organized, and your internship program in control, set some company internship dates. I always have the internship coordinators I work with set up 3 folders in their inbox: Fall Resumes (to be looked at July 15th), Spring Resumes (to be looked at October 15th), and Summer Resumes (to be looked at March 1st – 15th). They can properly file each resume into the corresponding folder until those dates. This is so they don’t get caught up looking at resumes all day long. I suggest running Fall Internships from September 15th – December 1st, Spring Internships from January 15th – April 1st, and Summer Internships from June 1st – August 1st. These are approximations of course. I suggest always bringing interns in on a Tuesday or Wednesday for the first time, never a Monday. Things in the office tend to get crazy and the interns get ignored on Mondays.
- Block Schedule Your Interviews. Have your internship coordinator block out 2 hours in one day to schedule a few different internship phone interviews. I always encourage people to do phone interviews first. For the summer, phone interviews are often times the only interview because many students are traveling to the locations for the summer. Phone interviews can tell you if you can really communicate with the intern. If they cannot hold a phone conversation, that is not a good sign – don’t waste your time bringing them in for as in-person interview.
Article originally posted on InternQueen.com.