The quality of the internship experience often depends on the site and its handling of the student as much as on the talent and effort of that individual. Clearly, an intern who is challenged by the work, is learning new skills, and feels valued by the organization will be a more engaged and productive contributor. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to create a situation that fosters a successful working/learning relationship.
Step 1 - Develop a Position Description
The position description outlines the intern’s primary work/role, responsibilities, qualifications, reporting relationship, hours required to do the job, etc. Some mundane work may be part of the picture, but we require that internships be substantial, progressive, and challenging. As you create this description, it is important for you to also consider the following:
- Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guidelines
If this internship is unpaid, it is vital that you comply with these guidelines, the most salient of which demand that the intern does not displace a regular employee, the organization does not rely upon the intern to perform its primary functions (i.e. work can proceed normally without the intern), and the focus of the internship is for the educational benefit of the student.
- Learn about the benefits of doing an internship for academic credit
Step 2 - Post the Internship
Step 3 - Provide Orientation to the Organization and Training for the Job
- Orient the student to the organization and their particular area of focus
- Set clear expectations for behavior, dress, attendance, communication, etc. (remember your intern may be new to a professional work setting)
- Discuss company culture, office policy and procedures, and problem solving
- Integrate the student into the organization and help them feel part of the team
- Provide job-specific training
- Help the student develop specific skills necessary to the job (i.e. research, writing, computer, internet, leadership, communication, making presentations)
- Plan professional development opportunities (e.g. attend workshops, brown bag lunch seminars, and presentations by upper-management, conduct informational interviews, provide access to company/professional publications, etc.)
Step 4 - Conduct Ongoing Supervision and Feedback
- Set regularly scheduled meetings (weekly is great, bi-weekly at a minimum) to provide feedback and instruction, and for the chance for students to ask questions.
- Periodically review the progress of student towards the learning objectives on the contract;
Step 5 - Complete the Mid-term Evaluation and Return to Our Office
Reviewing this with the intern is a great way to provide feedback on the their progress to date, assess how the situation is working from both perspectives, and negotiate what will happen for the balance of the term. Return this to our office and we will pass it along to the faculty sponsor.
Step 6 - Complete the Final Evaluation and Return to Our Office
Your feedback is absolutely vital to the growth and development of the intern, so be clear, direct, honest, and constructive. Students will appreciate this; keep in mind, you do them no favors by avoiding giving feedback that is needed to help them succeed in the future.
The Internship Director routinely makes 20-25 site visits a term to learn more about how the internship is going and to offer assistance as needed.