Your company is growing, you reckon you need a brilliant intern, but you’re not sure how to go about create a process that is beneficial on both sides. Fear not, we’re here to help. Take a look at our guide to running an internship, and put a splendid scheme into practice with the minimum of stress.
Obviously there is no such thing as ‘one’ perfect internship template. All companies are different, culture varies from team to team, and it’s important to find a structure that suits you. But by bearing in mind the following factors, we hope you’ll be able to construct an internship overview you can mould to fit your company.
In very basic terms, there are three different stages you should be able to work through as your internship progresses (in potentially cyclical stages depending on what’s being taught, rather than three huge chunks of time):
Your intern will be eager to gain new skills, get experience and generally submerge themselves in the working atmosphere of your company. Whether you get them shadowing, researching, observing or attending courses, seminars or workshops – 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
Amid the madness of the start-up day-to-day (something that can seem quite overwhelming to a new recruit), it’s very satisfying, as well as comforting, to be given short, end-to end projects and tasks that have a a clear start and end point. 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 start to understand your culture, the level of work 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, as well as aspects of the company they feel the most passion for and hopefully 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.
As well as adhering to the basic 3-step rule, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you, your intern and team work smoothly and happily together. We recommend including as many as the following things as you can:
– A weekly review
Putting a regular time-slot in the diary to go through the week’s tasks is vital. 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. It also gives a sense of regular structure that can often be lacking in the fluid start-up culture.
– A 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 focussing on day to day will make sure their time is used effectively.
– A Mentor
It’s important that your intern has someone they can go to with any issues or questions they have – and it might not be that this person is their direct manager (that’s up to you). It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone they have contact time with every day, but someone who can give them the opportunity to sound out any issues, and to give them boosts of ideas, expertise and confidence.
– Their goals
At the start of the internship, get your intern to make a list of things they would like to achieve whilst with your company. This list may very well change as they learn more about your culture or what areas they are most interested in, but it’s good to have something solid down on paper to refer to, which you can tick off or amend as the internship goes on. It’s vital that your intern feels their needs are being met, and that you as an employer can feel that you are providing the skill-set you advertise.
– 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.
– A retrospective
At the end of the internship, it’s a good idea for the direct manager and intern to meet purely to review the internship process – what has been achieved, what new skills your intern has developed, 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 only help in the construction of it. You may also use this opportunity to get down on paper (via a survey, or however you want to address it) some feedback on your company as a whole.
By Natasha Hodgson, Enternships Community Manager
Photo credit: Vlad Gherman