Harness the Power of a College Internship Program

Start a College Internship ProgramMore than just free help, a college internship program can boost the overall productivity of your office. Just remember free isn’t really free. A successful college internship program takes advance planning and time to manage. Still interested in beginning an internship program? Here’s some helpful advice to get you started.

Start Your College Internship Program by Connecting with HR

Your human resources department knows the laws and liabilities related to using interns and volunteers. HR can help you recruit or set up a program with a nearby college. And, often they can provide tools for everything from onboarding to assessment. Leverage their expertise!

Assess the Support an Intern Can Provide and Be Realistic

Before you start a college internship program, formally outline the type of work assignments that an intern can effectively support. And, make sure the assignments are mutually beneficial. You won’t have a program for long, if you can’t offer a quality experience. Consider assignments that add value to existing projects. Can the intern shoot photos, design flyers, write feature stories, or create a series of posts for a program or service area? Be sure to ask your staff how an intern can support the work they do. Also discuss staff roles like training and oversight that will be needed in working with an intern.

Be Selective – Pick the Right Intern

Even when an internship is for college credit, be selective with who gets to work for you. Require prospective interns to meet with you or give you a call. Ask about skills and work experience. And, most importantly, what the prospective intern wants to learn from you. Ask for writing or other relevant samples. Is it a match? Making sure the fit is right will minimize some of the time you spend to supervise.

Onboarding Your Intern and Planning Ahead

Plan on giving the intern a few days to learn about the organization, visit with staff members, observe your operations. They need to understand what you do and how you do it in order to be effective. Always start out with a meeting to set expectations and explain how oversight will work. Cover anything important about your organizational culture. Find great tips for onboarding at CareerBuilder.com.

Once an intern settles in, have a list of initial assignments. Take time to explain each fully. Provide any resources needed. Match assignments to the skill set the intern offers. If an intern wants to learn new skills, determine what is needed for instructional purposes. Do they need to connect with a staff expert for training or is there an instructional resource that you can offer?
Spending time to plan ahead will result in a more positive experience for both your office and the intern. And, the result will be a growing and successful college internship program.

What You Offer Instead of a Paycheck

Remember, you and your staff will be mentoring the intern. Take is seriously. In a recent video, Leadership educator John Baldoni explains the important role of a mentor. You are shaping the future of a soon-to-be young professional. The quality of the mentoring experience can result in long-term success for your college internship program and positive word-of-mouth for your organization.

You should also strive to offer a real-world work environment. The intern should be treated like any other staff member by participating in staff meetings, training, or pitch sessions. You should edit an intern’s work in the same manner and turn-around time as any other staff member. And, find ways for the intern to share ideas and perspectives on projects.

For more insight on managing interns, read Josh Spiro’s advice on Inc.com.

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