9 Tips to Building a Successful Summer Internship Program

Student girls doing internship in company

Over the last twenty years, we’ve had many interns join us at TeamBonding. The vast majority of them ended up making significant contributions to our business in one way or another — from helping us hone our team building event offerings to building out our social media presence. A few of them even went on to join our team full-time.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that internship programs, when done right, have huge symbiotic benefits for both the intern and the host company. With the help of the internship experts at College Recruiter and Scripted, we’ve compiled some tips to help you get the most out of your summer internship program.

1. Know where to look and what to look for

Finding internship talent is easier than ever. Thanks to sites like College Recruiter, ScriptEd and Internships.com, employers have access to a virtual marketplace of interns with all types of backgrounds, skills and experience.

However, before you try to identify the best talent, you need to know what it is you’re looking for. Ask your employees where they need the most help then make a list of necessary qualities an intern will need to get the job done. This will make it easier for you to find the right fit.

While you may be thinking exclusively about college students, Kate Holzman of ScriptEd says employers should consider high school students! While many programs are designed for college aged students, high school students can also make great contributions to an organization,” she notes. “The potential impact of an internship on the life of a high school student can’t be overstated; the right internship can open up a whole new path.”

2. Identify strengths & harness them

Too often, host companies underestimate their intern’s capabilities, assigning them menial tasks that don’t offer any opportunity for growth and have no real benefit to the company.

You hired your intern for a reason. Whether it’s something she said during the interview, an experience he had on his resume, or a connection that made you want this person to join your team, your intern possesses strengths. Harness them.

3. Empower them to be problem solvers

Invite your interns to sit in on meetings and customer service calls. Encourage them to build relationships with clients and give them projects that they can own. Not only will you be helping them build critical problem solving skills, but with many interns returning to their host organization for full time jobs, you could end up glad you did.

Steven Rothberg, President & Founder of College Recruiter says, “Employers should probe candidates during the interview phase. It’s one thing for a student to be a liberal arts major and another thing for that specific student to be able to think critically.”

Scripted recommends “encouraging interns to ask themselves, ask Google, and ask a friend before going to a manager with a question.”

4. Integrate interns into company culture

Every successful company has their own culture. Whether it’s shown through weekly social events, CSR initiatives, office traditions, or the overall work environment, it’s important to allow your interns the opportunity to feel like they’re part of that culture.

Team building events like escape rooms, scavenger hunts and charity initiatives can also provide perfect ways to onboard and welcome interns or thank them at the end of your program.

5. Internships work both ways

Interns aren’t just there to learn, they’re there to learn from. With a fresh perspective and unique insight, they can help companies avoid the pitfalls of groupthink and actually spur innovation.

Take your intern to a brainstorm meeting and encourage them to contribute ideas, get their feedback on something you’re working on, and most importantly, maintain open lines of communication.

6. Have realistic expectations

We all have to start somewhere. College Recruiter’s Rothberg warns that you shouldn’t expect your interns to hit the ground running:

“By definition, an intern has little to no experience, so it’s unfair to treat them as seasoned employees.”

7. Don’t look to cut corners

If you’re thinking of hiring an intern to save you money, don’t. They’re actually more expensive than someone with a year or two of experience when you factor in the cost of employing, training and supervising them.

8. Reward your interns

While many interns are willing to work for free to gain vital experience, Kate Holzman of ScriptEd recommends that employers should reconsider unpaid internships:

“Many qualified and motivated students from low-income backgrounds are unable to access unpaid summer opportunities, which represents a great loss both to them and to the companies and industries where they otherwise might have worked.”

9. Know the law

Last but not least, don’t forget to check current labor regulations before you determine a job description for your new intern!

This article was written by David Goldstein from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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