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Implementing successful internship programs
Internship programs not only benefit college students looking to gain experience, they are a huge opportunity for businesses to find smart people that bring enthusiasm and fresh ideas to the table. At LinkUp we really love our interns, whose intelligence, drive and hard work are a great asset, especially since we’re experiencing such high growth right now.
LinkUp’s internship program is rather unique. The foundation of the program focuses on hiring really smart college students and allowing them to decide what projects they want to work on. In May we hired four interns – Tally Erickson (Swarthmore College, Penn.), Lucia Radder (Northwestern, Ill.), Erich Wirtanen (Iowa State), and Mitch Lentz (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mass.).
Based on their interests and the projects created by the departments, Tally and Lucia are working with the marketing department, while Erich and Mitch are working with IT. The unique perspective and helping hand they provide is extremely beneficial, and in return they gain the experience they need to kick-start their careers.
Some organizations haven’t had the best luck with internship programs, and others may be hesitant because they believe implementing one is simply too much work. In order for your business and the interns to get the most out of the experience, consider these tips for creating an effective internship program:
1. Offer a real, PAID, learning opportunity
You’ll find the brightest, most energetic interns when you offer a real learning opportunity that is paid. Making coffee and filing folders isn’t enough – start interns working on fundamentals and increase responsibilities from there. You may be surprised at how willing they are to work and learn, and provide the organization with innovative ideas.
2. Set challenges and attainable goals
Interns want to be challenged and put their skills and education to the test. It’s important to have interns work on projects that provide a challenge, but be sure the goals are attainable. Too lofty goals will lead to frustration for both you and your intern; too simple ones will lead to boredom.
3. Don’t micromanage
Interns are grown adults – you shouldn’t need to babysit. While training and ongoing monitoring is necessary, micromanaging every aspect of their days isn’t a good use of time for you or them. Set expectations clearly and keep on open door policy – with the right candidates, the rest should fall into place.
4. Show appreciation
Did your intern work through lunch to help you make a tough deadline? Did he offer a really unique idea during the company meeting? Did she come in early to make sure your presentation was perfect before your big pitch? Give kudos where it’s due – interns need to know when they’re doing a good job.
5. Be flexible
If you hire the right people, they will be productive and perform to expectations. There’s no reason you shouldn’t offer them a flexible schedule when possible – interns enjoy opportunities to work from home, take days off, or leave early when necessary, just like your full-time employees.