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Elements of an Effective Internship

Post: Feb. 8, 2019


The first month of Spring Semester has flown by and college students are beginning to think about summer internship opportunities. College students understand the value of interning and getting real world experience to put on their resumes, but a good internship should be mutually beneficial. Developing a successful internship might seem challenging but there are several best practices that can help guide employers through the process.

SUNY New Paltz shared some elements that they believe help to build an effective internship program. The most important element on that list is ensuring that interns have a clear and specific project to work on. “The best internship experiences typically include one or more well-structured projects with clear outcomes and expectations. Internship programs that are undefined, lack structure, or limited to menial tasks, usually result in more work for the supervisor and lack of opportunity for the intern to develop much needed professional skills.” By identifying a project that coincides with the intern’s major and the company’s needs, both the intern and the employer can benefit greatly.

Once a project is put into place it’s important that the intern is given the proper training to complete the project. Having a structured training and on-boarding program will help to ensure the intern has the knowledge, skills and familiarity with the organization that’s needed to succeed.  

Assigning an on-site supervisor is also essential to the success of the intern. Regular supervision and feedback can provide the necessary structure and direction to make sure the project gets completed on-time and correctly. Assigning a supervisor also “provides the opportunity to mentor interns in the development of their professional skills.” Mentors monitor the interns progress, provide guidance and ensure that the employer is benefiting from the intern’s time and contributions.

Arranging networking opportunities has obvious benefits for interns but it can also be beneficial to employers. Introducing interns to staff in different departments can provide them with additional resources to lean on. It can also help your interns experience the totality of working for your organization.

Finally, it’s important to treat all interns as another professional staff member. Interns should be held to the same standards as other professional employees. Setting these clear expectations early on will help set the tone for the entire internship. Many employers hire interns that have come to love and value the company. There is tremendous benefit in hiring an individual that you really know, rather than hiring a stranger whose trial period is on your dime.  

Creating a successful internship program requires a certain amount of time and commitment for all employees involved, but the outcome is often rewarding and beneficial. These best practices are a great guideline on how to create a mutually beneficial and successful internship experience.  

You can find the full-article written by SUNY New Paltz here.