As summer rolls to a close and the fall semester starts, it’s about time to welcome a new cohort of interns into your workplace – physically or virtually. But adding fall interns to your team isn’t as simple as following a standard onboarding process. There are several things you should do to set your new temporary team members — and your company — up for success.
But what do successful internships — and interns — really look like? Here are nine ways to help create the right environment for interns and set them up for success.
1. Create Real Opportunities
Fall interns shouldn’t be twiddling their thumbs wondering where they should be or to whom they should be reporting. Instead, make time to foster your interns, and provide them with opportunities to create meaningful contributions to your brand and your business. You might do that by adding them to a specific project’s team, or establishing a contest among the interns, rather than having them do busy work, like administrative tasks.
2. Establish a Mentorship Program
To help your fall interns succeed, try assigning each intern an employee mentor from your team’s roster. Make sure to set clear parameters for the mentor-mentee relationship, she advises.
For example, the mentor might be responsible for setting up networking opportunities for the intern or allowing the intern to shadow him or her on the job; the mentor might host weekly check-in meetings, during which the intern can ask questions and share his or her concerns.
3. Expose Interns to Your Larger Mission
According to Jill Tipograph, co-founder of Early Stage Careers, interns “should be exposed to the larger mission and vision of the organization by hearing from more senior leaders, having training about organizational history, [and] learning about other divisions.” And don’t expect your interns to learn this through osmosis, even if you have a small company, Tipograph says.
Instead, “these things should be planned for” in advance of the internship, she says, so “that your interns walks away with a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the firm.”
4. Expose Interns to Different Departments
You might be tempted to set interns up in a single department. But that would be a mistake. Instead, spread your interns out according to their skills or college majors.
On the flip side, too much exposure could be a bad thing. Some internship programs may try to fit too much work into a short time, which can make an intern’s experience much less meaningful. It’s important to strike a balance between finding a home base for each intern while still providing cross-team exposure.
5. Require Real-World Deliverables
Give your interns a sense of purpose — and the chance to show off their skills — by assigning them tasks that produce a tangible work product. Not only can this help allow your interns to contribute to your company, but it can help give them something to showcase on their resumes.
6. Invite Interns into Your Community
A successful intern will have had the chance to meet your team members in both formal and informal ways. It’s important to make them feel like part of the company during their time as an intern.
To help your fall interns feel more at home and a part of your team, consider opening morning meetings with icebreakers, send out a company-wide email with their bios and photos, or even invite them to a company happy hour or after-work hours event.
7. Set the Tone for Continuous Learning and Growth
To set interns up for success during their internship and after, consider giving them access to things like online learning options and webinars to help them learn additional skills.
Another way to help them learn and grow is to encourage company leaders to “walk the talk,” so to speak, and share their own stories of success and failure. They should also share how they have learned and grown from their own career mistakes.
8. Acknowledge Interns’ Successes
It’s important to have a reputation as an employer and workplace that can give credit, acknowledgment, and recognition to your interns — and frankly, to all team members. To do this, have your leadership verbally thank interns for their insights and contributions during team meetings. The more you can validate your team, the more lasting an impact your company can have on an intern’s success!
9. Teach Interns to Thrive on Feedback
Just because you praise interns when they do something well doesn’t mean you should sugarcoat it when they make mistakes. Doing so doesn’t give you much room to provide adequate feedback to your intern, which in turn can stunt their growth at your company. Always think of feedback as constructive criticism.
When the internship is coming to a close, make sure there’s an exit interview schedule. Create a detailed agenda to cover all of the successes and opportunities for growth that you noticed during the internship.
Professional Development Beyond an Internship
Professional development doesn’t have to end with the exit interview — no matter if you’re a current intern or are helping an intern thrive at your company! Find open positions in your industry on Glassdoor from thousands of employers, or join the conversation around your current employer by providing insights and reviews.