5 steps to a smooth summer internship program

By Diane Sofranec, Managing Editor

Internships are a win-win for the students who land them and the companies that offer them.

While interns gain valuable professional experience, the companies they work for get a unique opportunity to mentor workers who are about to launch their careers.

Handshake_640x427But that’s not all. An intern can bring a fresh perspective to your company’s way of doing business. Students with technological skills and social media savvy can share their knowledge and enthusiasm with employees who are slow to embrace all that the Internet has to offer. Plus, interns who make meaningful contributions to your company become ideal job candidates when employment opportunities arise.

But before you put out a call for help, take these five important steps:

Determine exactly what an intern can do for you and your company.

Do you and your colleagues have a full workload because you’re not working hard or smart enough? Is a special project putting the squeeze on your time and talents? If you have a surplus of meaningful work, consider hiring an intern. But remember, you’ll have your summer intern for only about three months, not indefinitely.

Aim to make a lasting impression.

Assign tasks that will provide your intern with new skills and capabilities. Add your intern to the team in charge of a special project at your company. Assign your intern a task that must be completed by the end of summer. That way, your intern will come away with an accomplishment or two to include on a resume.

Develop a detailed plan.

Create a list of daily or weekly duties for the entire summer. Make sure it includes more than fetching coffee and making copies. You’re not hiring a trained monkey, after all. Match the tasks to your intern’s interests and field of study. Incorporate performance reviews so you can offer guidance and measure your intern’s progress.

Designate a mentor.

Appoint a trusted employee to work with your intern. Give your employee the authority to answer questions, assign tasks, and approve timesheets. Choose a good role model who will demonstrate appropriate office behavior. Patience and a desire to help are important qualities, too.

Carefully consider compensation.

Interns often are paid for their services. The amount usually depends on the complexity of the duties or the status of the student. High school students may receive minimum wage or less whereas college seniors may be paid more, for example. If you don’t plan to pay your intern, learn the law the U.S. Department of Labor enacted under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

With proper planning, an internship can be a rewarding experience for all involved. Contact the guidance offices at your local high schools, colleges and universities to see how your company can get involved.

Diane Sofranec has more than 25 years experience in B2B media. She is managing editor of North Coast Media’s Pest Management Professional magazine, and enjoys working with the interns NCM hires every summer.

Photo credit: flazingo_photos via Foter.com / CC BY-SA