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?”
- Explain the Mission of the Organization
- Explain the Organization Structure
- Outline Organizational Rules, Policies, Decorum and Expectations
- Define the Intern’s Responsibilities
Developing Partnership and Commitment
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:
- Take your interns on a tour of the facilities and introduce them to the other employees
- Give your interns company materials to read such as newsletters, annual reports, an organization chart, or memos from the CEO
- Encourage your interns to spend break and lunchtimes in places where employees gather
- Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with them
- Give the interns opportunities to observe (or participate in) professional meetings
- Allow the interns to interview company personnel
- Encourage the interns to walk around and observe others at work
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:
- Providing leadership
- Developing and training
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:
- Report on the status of a project
- Ask questions
- Learn how their work is contributing to the organization
- Participate in an evaluation of their strengths
- Discuss areas needing growth and development
- Get a sense of what kind of work lies ahead
At the same time you will have an opportunity to coach, counsel and reinforce positive attitudes and performance.
Communicate with Internship Coordinator
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.
Have Students Keep a Portfolio
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:
- Job Description
- Company Newsletters
- Financial Reports
- Performance Appraisal
- Displays & Exhibits
- Survey Reports
- Citations and Awards
- Press Releases
- Cost Analyses
- Program Outlines
- Research Report
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.
- Maintain an open channel of communication with formal and informal meetings
- Keep the interns busy and directed towards their learning objectives. Students rarely complain of overwork, but they do complain if they are not challenged
- Provide opportunities for increasing responsibility
- Encourage professionalism by assisting the interns in developing human relations skills, decision-making abilities, and managing office politics
- Remember that you are a role model
- Develop connections
Evaluating the Intern’s Progress
- Review your organization’s goals as well as the intern’s goals and requirements on a regular basis. In the beginning of an internship, more frequent meetings may be helpful to both you and the intern.
- Evaluation processes may differ and may be formal or informal depending on your organization’s culture and structure. There are similarities that both interns and internship supervisors have in the evaluation process.
- Review the intern/job description that was developed and determine if progress is being made.
- Review tasks and assignments and clarify expectations.
- Determine if assistance or training is needed to help the intern be successful.
- Ask the intern to evaluate his/her experience and allow the opportunity to offer feedback and voice concerns as well as successes.
- Written evaluations may be helpful if your organization would like to consider hiring interns.
- Written evaluations by both intern and employer can also provide the opportunity to publicize the success of your internship program to management and to potential interns.