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7 Ways to Build a Successful Internship Program
Reading Time: 5 minutes
At CBM, we love our interns! A big thanks to Marissa Norwood, our newest content intern. For a this blog post, she decided to discuss how her internship has affected her professional career and advice she can offer to both interns and business. Way to go Marissa!
With the fall semester starting up, many companies bring in new students or graduates to intern at their company. Your organization might have an established internship program or just recruited its first intern. Either way, interns expect more than the typical “grab the team coffee” tasks and expect to learn from your team and business.
Interns provide critical support to companies, large and small, and have the potential to become an essential team member. According to NACE’s 2014 Internship & Co-op Survey, “40 percent of the class of 2013 graduates who took internships were hired for full-time employment by the organization at which they interned.”
For companies looking to start an internship program, or who want to recruit top talent, internships require some proven practices and a bit of experimentation. At Chatter Buzz, the internship program engages, educates, encourages and enables interns to rise to their full potential. Now managed by Chatter Buzz Media Business Controller Angela Cotto, herself an MBA candidate, the internship program serves as a model for other small to midsized businesses looking to provide an enriching learning environment while potentially nurturing future employees.
Read on to see how to create an awesome internship program for your business:
- Find the right fit
Companies should provide an opportunity for interns to showcase their abilities before they’re offered the internship. An assigned project gives them a chance to get a feel for the type of tasks at your company and you’ll see if their skills fit the internship role. When I was interviewed for my internship at Chatter Buzz, I was asked about my writing style and some of my past writing projects. As I discussed some of the writing assignments I’d done, it made me feel accomplished and ready to take on this internship. In particular, the two interviewers and I talked about my online writing samples because they had read them from my social media accounts and blog.
- Start with an intern orientation
When your interns come through the door, is your business ready to take them on? On the first day of the internship, you must communicate your company culture and expectations to interns. It’s a good idea to start with an orientation. Angela Cotto has a key insight when it comes to nurturing interns. “When developing an internship program, think in terms of how you’d train employees. Start with one intern and develop curriculum before expanding the number of participants in the program” she commented. It’s important to set up necessary accounts for interns to use during the program and guide them through it during orientation and provide a designated space for them to work in. Personally, when I have a space to immerse myself in work, I’m able to get more accomplished.
- Allow interns to branch out
Provide training in different specialties and departments other than the area interns are working in. Allowing interns to flourish and branch out will allow them to acquire more skills. That being said, interns should be encouraged to learn as much as they can to use their newly developed talents anywhere in their field of work, not just what tasks that will work around your office. I’m the content intern at Chatter Buzz, where I write blogs for clients and Chatter Buzz. However, I’ve had the chance to work along with the SEO specialist Drew Abreu and help them implement SEO tactics.
- Make room for mistakes
The intern process is a learning experience for everyone. Students make mistakes in school and then learn from them. As a company, create an open door policy for your interns where they can ask questions and discuss their assignments. Open communication with concrete advice makes interns feel more encouraged to do their work, rather than discouraged when they mess up an assignment.
- Schedule check-ins
It’s important to ask interns how their internship is going and see what else they want to learn. Whether it’s monthly or during the middle of the semester, take a half-hour or so to speak with them. Provide specific feedback on their work so they know where to improve and where their strengths are.
- Work side-by-side
Give interns the opportunity to be a part of the team with quick stand-up meetings, team projects, and brainstorm sessions so they can understand how the rest of the team communicates. An internship program is designed to benefit an individual’s experience, but it requires teamwork. All are important facets of a real work environment. Give them an opportunity to work side by side with the employees and other interns. This will increase the productivity of not only the interns but the office overall.
- Set them up for success
This could be considered the most critical of all pints. When creating an internship program, you should set them up for success. Provide professional workshops to build their resume, lunch-and-learns, department shadowing, and real client work. Provide them with networking opportunities and show them how to utilize those connections to the best of their abilities. An internship program provides interns with new talent and tools that may qualify them to participate in a job interview tomorrow.
Remember, it takes time to find the best internship program for your business. “Establishing and maintaining the internship program is time-consuming but rewarding,” reiterated Chatter Buzz’s Business Controller, Angela Cotto.
Responsibility also lies on the intern to ask questions, seize an opportunity, and ask for more work if they want it. As an intern, I feel most useful when I am helping other people with projects after I’m done with my assigned work. It feels more rewarding and I’ve learned more in the process.
Marissa is the content intern at Chatter Buzz and a UCF student. You can read more of her great work on our weekly Feminist Friday blog.
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