Tips on how to make the internship opportunity a win win for all.
As an educator and marketer I am often asked about internships. I am a huge fan of internships for many reasons, mainly this is a great way for young professionals to get their feet wet in an industry or with a company. Students can put what they are learning in the classroom into practice. Companies and interns alike have the opportunity to see if the corporate culture is one where they feel they will thrive. Prime candidates are looking for organizations where their work will mean something. Through internships Companies can showcase how they are making the world a better place by the work they do. I don’t get many arguments about why internships are good, but rather how to make the experience one that is beneficial for all.
Here are a few tips to consider when hiring an intern and what you might want to implement to ensure that internship is meaningful for both the student and the company.
- Ensure the experience is credit-worthy so the student can get actual college credit for it.
- Pay the intern. Their time is valuable and should be compensated accordingly.
- Be sure to put it in writing. Have a contract that clearly outlines the objectives and expectations.
- Have a special project with a start and end date for the intern to work on.
Make it Count – Ensure the experience is credit-worthy so the student can get actual college credit for it. Work with the advisor of record to understand how many face-time hours are required to get a college credit. Be sure you complete all desired paperwork, but don’t make this all your responsibility, assign these tasks to your intern to coordinate. It is part of the learning experience and will solidify your commitment to their continued education.
Here is some feedback I received from an incoming intern on this topic:
“This internship with Epiphany is awesome and I am so blessed to get the opportunity to do this for the summer.” Cam
Important highlights for me so far:
- Work with my university and advisor to coordinate what will happen to ensure the internship and work I am doing meets their requirements to get credit for graduation.
- Happy to be getting paid for my time while I learn with experts in the field I am looking towards post-graduation.
Fair Pay for Work – Pay the intern. Their time is valuable and should be compensated accordingly. A competitive wage is the right thing to do. Look at the work they will be doing and the hours to come up with compensation that is agreeable to all parties.
If you are unsure if you want a paid or unpaid internship here are some points to consider:
- If unpaid, both parties must agree in advance that there will be no monetary compensation. The Department of Labor has a “primary beneficiary test” with requirements that must be met to ensure the unpaid internship is legal.
- If paid, the same laws that cover your employees also apply to the intern. i.e., If state minimum wage is higher than federal, you must pay the intern at least the state minimum wage; if overtime is paid for over 8 hours a day or over 40 hrs a week, this applies to the intern as well.
You can do a quick google search for Everything You Need to Know About Hiring Interns for your Small Business or better yet you might want to check with your friendly employment attorney before making these decisions.
Create a Contract – Whether you hire them as an employee or on a special contract you really need to put it in writing. Have a contract that clearly outlines the objectives and expectations. This way there is no misunderstanding on the start, end dates, and what happens in between. This will also help with the college credit aspect of things. While not required, it does help the advisor of record understand what the student is learning while interning.
Make it Special – Have a special project with a start and end date for the intern to work on. Think of something you would love to get done but don’t have the time. Something with a start and end date that can be accomplished during their stay. A project that they can leave their stamp on and include in their portfolio is always an added bonus. Take the time to train the intern and give them the appropriate time to get acclimated to the pace of the company. Have the intern create a timeline of the project with checkpoints and a deadline. This will give you a chance to ensure a nice workload balance and provide checkpoints to take a pulse on the project throughout.
Here is some feedback I received from a former intern on this topic:
“Getting an internship was important to me to help me get experience I didn’t have, and to be able to apply what I learned in books to the real world. I’m a bit of a visual/hands on learner so being able to get that real-world experience really helped. I feel books can only teach you so much before you need to take that knowledge and apply it, which is what an internship does.” Carrie
My key takeaways included:
- For me, a meaningful internship is one that gives you hands-on work but knows you are learning so they are there to help you and teach you. When I was looking for an internship, there were SO many that wanted you to have experience already; experience to GET experience, this didn’t make any sense to me. If I already had 3+ years’ experience I wouldn’t have been looking for an internship. So being able to find an internship that was willing to take me despite my lack of experience and willing to teach me, to help me grow, for me, was very meaningful.
Final tip – Having an intern doesn’t have to be stressful. Following the above mentioned guidelines will help make the experience meaningful for all. One last tip, get to know your intern, cater to their strengths and what they are interested in taking away. Like our client – no intern is alike. Trying to make the intern fit into your general box is a big mistake. Get feedback after each internship, you can learn how your company can do a better job of hosting your guests in the future.
- At the beginning and end of the internship be sure to get feedback, ask:
- What they learned/would like to learn
- How they feel the internship helped/will help them
- Things about the internship they feel worked/will work well
- Add self reflection : Areas for improvement as a company and a candidate.
If you are interested in having an intern or want to discuss this amazing opportunity, I would love to chat, please reach out so we can have a virtual cup of tea.