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The beginning days of an internship are often its defining days. When you give interns their first tasks, you are signaling what can be expected in the future. If you give them nothing or very little to do, it sends a message that this job will be easy — and boring. Interns don’t want that, and of course, neither do employers. The organization of your internship program will probably be the single most important influence on an intern’s impression of your organization, and thus the chances that he or she will come back. So how do you “plan for success?”
Many students are unfamiliar with the activities, environment, and objectives of business and industry. Even though your interns may have worked part-time to support their education, these experiences may not have exposed them to organizational politics, the need for confidentiality, the importance of teamwork, or the profit-making orientation of business. Including an orientation session as the beginning of the intern training process emphasizes the partnership and commitment to internships in your workplace.
The sooner your student interns understand what your organization does and how it operates, the sooner they can assume assigned responsibilities and become productive. You can communicate this information in several ways:
The success of an internship depends on the partnership between representatives of the organization, the college, and the student. These three parties need to agree on the conditions of the internship, the responsibilities of each party, and the reporting requirements. The site supervisor is the critical link. You guide your interns by providing direction and feedback. If a problem occurs, you counsel the students and contact the faculty supervisor, when necessary.
Review your program goals. The nature of the program and the activities should directly relate to these goals and will assist you in creating and maintaining a structured meaningful internship experience.
As an intern supervisor, you use all the skills necessary in any effective supervisory relationship:
Additionally, the students will look to you as a mentor who will assist their transition from the classroom to the work environment. Since the internship is an extension of the learning process, you will need to provide opportunities to bridge the two experiences.
We suggest that you meet with your interns regularly to provide feedback concerning their performance. During these meetings, the students can:
At the same time you will have an opportunity to coach, counsel and reinforce positive attitudes and performance.
Anticipate that you will have some interaction with your students’ internship coordinator through telephone calls/emails, on-site visits, and written evaluations. Internship Coordinators will help you find a solution if difficulties occur (intern attendance or punctuality problems, low motivation, unsatisfactory work, or personal conflicts). Also, you should get in touch with the Internship Coordinator if the internship conditions must be altered, such as a change in supervisors, delays in the availability of data needed by the students to complete an assignment, a strike by unionized employees, transfer or termination of an employee involved in the interns’ work, or other unanticipated changes.
Encourage your interns to keep a portfolio of work accomplished during the experience. This will help fulfill the students’ academic requirements and provide them with a sense of accomplishment. In addition, it will give you a basis to discuss their professional growth. Specific work documents to include in a portfolio might be any of the following:
In addition to spontaneous and informal meetings, you can use the Employer Evaluation Form to evaluate your interns’ performance at the midpoint of the internship, so the students know where they stand. You should consider the quality and timeliness of the work produced to date, ability to take and follow direction, work habits, and areas needing growth and development. This information will also provide data for the final evaluation and serve as a reference point for the students’ subsequent performance. Two employer evaluation forms are required for the IU Southeast Internship Program.