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Strategies for a Successful Internship Program

Preparation

Meet with your intern prior to the start of his/her internship to discuss expectations and logistical details.

  • Provide the student with employment documentation, such as an employee handbook or other list of workplace policies and requirements.
  • Discuss guidelines for evaluating student performance and the internship program.
  • Share your expectations and goals for the internship and get the student’s perspective. This discussion will help in the development of a learning contract (more below).
  • Address logistical issues such as transportation, parking, hours, work space, dress code, pay, preparation materials, and class requirements.
  • Provide research and background materials to the intern so that the student can learn as much as possible about the organization in advance.


Orientation


To help your student intern start off on the right foot, plan orientation activities for his/her first few days on the job.

  • Welcome and introduce the intern to the staff. Provide a tour of the facility and introduction to his/her work space.
  • Explain the office environment and routines (breaks, lunches, hours, flexibility, and standards). Try to give the student a feel for the organizational culture.
  • Provide the student with an organizational chart or staff list with phone numbers.
  • Identify a back-up supervisor or support person who can answer the intern’s questions if his/her regular supervisor is unavailable.
  • Review organizational and employee policies and explain any confidentiality issues and procedures.
  • Identify and discuss main projects. Ensure that the student understands his/her responsibilities and has all of the resources necessary to get started.
  • Discuss reasonable check points to evaluate projects (set regular evaluation meetings, be clear about deadlines, procedures, expectations, and be specific about end stage reports or presentations).
  • Inform the intern of departmental or staff meetings he/she is expected to attend and provide time during those meetings for the intern to report progress of his/her project(s).
  • Develop a learning contract that specifies the expectations of the supervisor and the student and includes measurable learning objectives. This will provide clear direction for both the supervisor and the intern and serves as a communication tool throughout the internship.


Throughout the Internship

  • Introduce the intern to other business functions and staff members. This enables him/her to fully understand the organization and potential career paths and allows the student to better consider how his/her work contributes to the organization. Areas in which the student intern may be included are staff/departmental meetings, seminars, special lectures, speakers, client meetings, networking meetings, and professional conferences. Students want to gather meaningful experiences AND learn as much as they can about how their academic training translates into professional work and various career options.
  • Revisit the learning contract in order to monitor the program. In addition to providing the student feedback on his/her work, ask the student to evaluate the internship program and his/her experience. Evaluations should take place throughout the internship, not just at the end, so improvements can be made along the way.
  • Assignments should be paired with mentoring/supervision to ensure that guidance is provided and the internship moves at an appropriate pace.
  • Have additional assignments and projects planned in case the intern completes tasks early.


Conclusion

  • Arrange for intern to present results of his/her project to staff or other professionals. This may include publishing an article in company newsletter or on the website.
  • Schedule a final evaluation to review the student’s performance and to discuss his/her evaluation of the internship experience at your organization.
  • Complete any necessary paperwork for academic requirements and consider writing a letter of recommendation for the student.
  • Keep in touch with the student about full-time job possibilities with the organization.

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