Key Mistakes to Avoid With Your Internship Program

How to make your internship program more effective, functional, and successful

February 24, 2021

With peak internship season rolling around, it’s time to reflect on your internship program and make critical adjustments for the next go-round. Though you may naturally look for what you should add to the program, it’s just as important to look for what you should remove. To optimize your interns experience and create productivity and efficiency within your program, avoid these five pitfalls in your own internship program.

Not teaching your interns about your company strategy

Taking the time to educate your interns on both your industry and company is critical to your interns success. In order for your intern to produce quality and functional work, they must be familiar with your company processes, mission, culture, trends, and goals. Disregarding the onboarding process is a detrimental mistake. Proactively walking your interns through the ins and outs of your company structure and strategy will maximize their work quality and expand their skill set. You will find your intern making less mistakes, adapting well to the corporate world, and growing more comfortable in their role each day (1).

Not providing your interns a mentor

The greatest gift you could give your intern is a mentor. It’s that simple. Mentoring is an easy, yet exciting way to integrate your intern, offer them a support system, and provide them access to knowledge about a particular career field. However, this mentor can’t be just anyone. It’s crucial that you provide your intern with a mentor outside of their management team and someone you feel they would get along well with. This person must be someone who can offer comfort and honesty in difficult situations, develop the intern’s professional and personal skills, and provide consistent guidance as your interns navigate their new roles. Letting your interns fly solo could easily interfere with your interns' success at your company. Thoughtfully selecting a mentor is a simple way to avoid that (1).

Not explaining the meaning behind mundane tasks

A common mistake is associating rather monotonous tasks with unimportance. Though not the case, this truth is neglected to be communicated with interns. It’s crucial that when you assign your interns a rather tedious job, you explain the significance behind it. Say you instruct your interns to proofread your citations on a research paper. To them, this task appears to be “busy work”. In reality, your research paper is capable of bringing meaningful change to society and them proofreading it allows for that to happen. By communicating this, your interns now understand the “why” behind their work. Ultimately this reasoning is motivating and exciting to them, as they now know they are being included on a project with great significance. Explaining the purpose behind your interns tasks results in higher quality work, and thus better outcomes (1).

Not providing any form of compensation

Your interns are key pieces to your business structure and your company’s success. In turn, they should be rewarded for it. However, you can compensate your interns in more ways than one. Depending on your company size, structure, and finances, your interns’ compensation isn’t limited to being monetary. Though often preferred, it isn’t always feasible and that is okay. If that’s the case, look to offer your interns other forms of payment. This can be weekly career development meetings where you connect your interns with professionals in industries of interest, a portfolio at the end of their internship experience, letter of recommendations from superiors they worked alongside with, or even travel. You have a variety of options, however not providing any form of compensation is not one of them. Your interns produce meaningful and productive work and they deserve to be rewarded for it (1).

Not including your interns in your teams branding conversation

It’s natural to assign your young, tech savvy interns with social media related work. However, don’t be so quick to throw your interns right in. Your company’s social presence and visibility can be incredibly important. It’s crucial you include your interns in the branding conversation your marketing team facilitates first. Social media itself isn’t a marketing strategy, rather it’s a tactic. With that said, involve your interns in your company’s marketing strategy, and not just solely social media. Allow them to share their perspective on social media and whether they feel it's a powerful marketing tactic for your company structure specifically. If it’s decided social media is a useful tool, be sure to educate your interns on your company culture, voice, and tone to ensure they stay within your company’s boundaries of taste, style, and edicate. Provide seminars for them to learn about measuring engagement and conversation rates, that way your interns can fully grasp the importance behind their social media tasks. Social media is far more complex than it’s portrayed. Thus, be conscious and meticulous with your integration of your interns into social media and ensure they are included in the branding conversation. Reducing the number of rookie mistakes your interns make is key to a successful internship program (1).

Applying these practices to your internship program will result in greater success and retention. Your investment on return will boost and your interns will leave your program feeling valued, knowledgeable, and powerful. That’s an exciting outcome.

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Sources: (1) (2)