A successful internship does two things. It creates a valuable learning atmosphere for the intern, and harnesses fresh talent, ideas and skills for the business at large. But the symbiosis doesn’t happen by magic – it takes blood, sweat and tears (of joy).
You’ve been through the rigmarole of creating a company profile and job description and conducting an interview, and the lucky soul is champing at the bit to knock your socks off. Yippee! The real fun starts now.This fun takes the form of effort on both sides, and a solid structure put in place from the start.
There’s no point in attempting to plan out every day of your intern’s time – and indeed, putting their initiative to the test is a thing you could and absolutely should do. But thinking ahead as to their learning schedule, how you’re going to increase their responsibility and what (if anything) they can eventually have ownership of will benefit your company as much as it will benefit the intern. Feel that blissful sensation, right there between your shoulder blades? Yep. That’s the fingernails of mutual back-scratching coming your way.
Designing the internship
It’s obviously impossible to map out an internship blueprint that will suit the workings of every business, but by bearing in mind the following factors, we hope to construct an internship template you’ll be able to mould to fit your company.
If you’re a tl;dr kinda person – there are three different stages you should hopefully be able to work through as the internship progresses (in potentially cyclical stages depending on what’s being taught, rather than three huge chunks of time). These are LEARNING, SHORT-TERM PROJECTS and LONG-TERM GOALS. Except that you should totally carry on reading till the end now, because a kitten-shaped surprise awaits you. Promise.
Your intern will be eager to gain new skills, learn new programmes and generally submerge themselves in the working atmosphere of your company. Whether it be from initial observations, shadowing, being given some research to do or attending workshops based around your various practices, you will need to allow them time to learn. This is probably the most time-consuming section of the internship from your point of view, as at this stage there is very little effective work your intern can complete without your input. But this stage isn’t about you, or even your company; it’s about giving your interns the skills they need in order to benefit the company at a later point.
2. Short-term projects
Giving your intern short-term, end-to-end projects (putting together short presentations, daily goals that can be evaluated and critiqued, exercises that test and stretch the things they have learnt) will not only ensure that what you are teaching them sticks, but it will give them a real sense of achievement.They’ll gain an understanding of your company practise, the level of skill you expect and a sense of confidence in their abilities – exactly what you need when putting them to work on larger company tasks.
3. Integration into long-term goals
Once your intern has been boosted by the success of smaller projects, you should be in a position to integrate their work into the running of your business. At this point you will be aware of their skills, the things they know and the aspects of the company they feel the most passion for, and you’ll be able to leverage their work accordingly. It’s at this stage that the intern may be of the greatest value to your company, as they’ll be bringing together what you have taught, their natural talents and the confidence to go beyond what it expected of them. In short – hopefully, you won’t want to let them go.
Beyond this basic structure, there are many things you can do that will ensure that your team and intern click. Try and incorporate as many of the following things into your internship plan, and success will rightly follow…
The above sections are compulsory if you really want your intern to attain maximum productivity over a course of months. The below points are highly recommended; the more of these you can cram into your plan, the better. Dig deep and dredge out the shoehorn if necessary.
1. Weekly review
You should aim to check in with your intern every day if possible, but putting a regular time-slot in the diary to go through the week’s tasks (ideally pre and post) is mandatory. Not only will it give you a chance to fully brief your intern on what’s going on in the business, their work schedule and priorities for the week, it’s an excellent opportunity for feedback from both sides. It’s a chance for you both to discuss what’s going well, how they’re delivering on what you’re expecting of them, and any changes that need to be made.
2. Daily schedule
For an intern who wants to be as valuable as possible, there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling unsure of what you’re supposed to be concentrating on. Though it’s not realistic (nor particularly desirable) for every day to have the same structure, having some idea of what they should be focusing on from day to day will make sure their time is used effectively. It’s also worth having the intern shadow a colleague for a day or two – someone in a similar job function – to help the intern acclimatise and get familiar with the inner workings of the business.
3. A mentor
It’s vital that your intern knows who it is they should go to for help and advice. Who this person is will be defined by the intern’s role in the company, and the internal structure as a whole. This person should be one that works closely with the intern, and has the time to conduct regular reviews and assessments, but has the power to change their responsibilities should the need or desire arise.
4. Their goals
It’s sensible to get your intern to make a list of things they would like to achieve whilst with your company at the start of the internship – whether it be programs they’d like to learn how to use, types of projects they’d love to work on, or even events they want to attend. Using this document, you’ll be able to map out exactly how and where in the internship they’ll be able to reach their goals and what the benefit for the company will be in return.
5. Opportunities to shine
At the bottom of it all, your intern will want to prove their innate brilliance. Once they’ve learnt the ropes, it’s up to both of you to provide opportunities to do that. Presenting to the rest of the company, taking risks with allowed responsibility and allowing them the room to go above and beyond what is expected from them – it’s all part of having an entrepreneurial intern in your midst. Expect more from them then you’re technically allowed to expect, and see what happens.
Ah. Parting is such sweet sorrow! At the end of the internship, it’s best practice to meet with your intern to review the process (irrespective of whether or not you offer the intern a permanent position): this includes what has been achieved, what new skills your intern has in their arsenal, how they’ve helped the company grow, as well as potential areas for improvement and evaluation of where things could have gone smoother. Your intern will almost certainly ask for a reference after your time together has ended, so a meeting to solidify their achievements will help you to get ahead of the game.
Now, we’re well aware that a promise is a promise, so how about those kittens?