Internships are an important learning tool for undergraduates. They give interns an opportunity to experience diverse work environments as well as to gain invaluable professional skills. We’ve compiled some suggestions for a successful internship experience for interns.
Well-Defined Job Descriptions
It is important for interns to have a clear understanding of their employer’s expectations of them during their internship experience. Having a clear, concise, and accurate job description will allow interns to have a better understanding of your organization’s needs and objectives as well as the demands that may be placed on them.
If you’d like to change the job offering during the application process, please contact Ann Curtis so she may update your online job description. It is also important to communicate this change to applicants you are actively interviewing. Also, we encourage you to thoroughly review your applicants’ resumes as sometimes employers change an internship description based on a student’s talents, or past experience (i.e. photography skills, computer programming experience, etc.)
Productive and Supportive Work Environment
A supportive work environment is important to allow the interns to be as successful as they can be during their time with your organization. Many of the interns are self-starters who will require minimal supervision but it is vital that they feel comfortable and supported. For some of the interns this will be their first experience away from home or the campus.
Before the first day – Put yourself in the intern’s position. The intern is arriving in Louisville just a day or two before the job begins. What does the intern need to know to get to work? Does the intern have directions to your office? It is important to communicate everything the intern will need to know to start their summer successfully, i.e. dress code, parking pass, office hours, etc. Also, if your organization requires a drug screening, please be sure to set it up well before the intern arrives.
On the intern’s first day – Give the intern an office tour, introduce the intern to staff, and share the organization’s philosophy as well as any office policies. The more the intern feels welcome, and part of the team, the better the experience will be.
Another component of a good internship is providing an environment where the intern feels productive. Projects that are challenging, yet achievable, and that provide opportunities to solve problems, incorporate creativity, and experience intellectual rigor are ideal. Summer internships are short in length of time so your intern should feel like he/she will be able to reasonably complete assignments by the end of the experience.
It is also important to make sure you have enough work for the intern for the entire ten-week period. It is common for our interns to accomplish 2-3 times the amount of work you’d expect, and often our interns hit a five-week slump, having finished the work expected of them, and looking for projects to delve into during the last three weeks. Our goal is to have the interns engaged up to 5 p.m. on the last day of their internship.
Conscientious and active supervision and mentoring
Effective supervision begins with a willingness on the part of the employer to also consider the summer as a mentoring opportunity, sharing both time and experience. The effective mentor must be a role model, counselor, and leader demonstrating appropriate attitudes, behaviors, actions, and responses.
Working with our interns to explain what behavior is appropriate and inspiring the intern to meet and exceed his/her goals and expectations is vital.
Also, because the interns are unfamiliar with the area, feel free to let them know about any fairs, festivals, concerts, etc. coming up in the community. We plan a large number of events, but by mid-summer, we like the interns to explore the area on their own, and we don’t always know about every event in the area.
Wrapping up the summer
During the last week, we encourage you to sit down with your intern and reflect about the summer. Celebrate the intern’s contributions to the organization’s efforts. Consider offering a letter of recommendation. Have the intern write a letter to a future intern, explaining valuable insight about the organization, lessons learned, etc. Often, these exercises bring awareness and gratitude of all the hard work accomplished over the summer. You may want to have an informal office celebration so staff members can also express their positive reflections about the intern’s contributions, professionally and personally.