Making a Valuable Internship Experience
Orientation and Expectation Setting
Before an intern arrives, employers should prepare for the student, along with creating an orientation. This includes, but is not limited to: providing a name badge if necessary, coordinate parking arrangements, setting up a work space, etc. In addition, creating a schedule for that first week will help the organization prepare for a new intern, and make the intern feel welcome. During this first week, the supervisor should take time familiarizing the intern with the organization and the people with whom he/she will be working. Take this time to also lay out exactly what you are expecting of the intern, beyond what is defined in the Internship Contract. Suggestions to make your intern feel like part of the team include inviting him/her to lunch with other staff members, opening up staff meetings, and making introductions so the intern can start getting to know your team.
Personal Work Space
If possible, give the intern an area that they can call their own and where they can comfortably complete the tasks and projects outlined in the job description and Internship Contract. This space should include the things the intern needs to successfully complete projects, such as a phone and computer. It is important to have these details worked out before the intern arrives.
Weekly meetings with Supervisor
Establish a weekly or bi-weekly time for the intern to meet with their direct supervisor. This is a time to discuss current and future projects, set expectations, teach new "on-the-job" skills and help the intern learn not only about your organization, but also about the world of work in your industry. This type of relationship is critical to providing a valuable internship experience - for both the employer and intern.
Organizational Culture Lessons
Organizational culture is very different from the academic culture to which most students are accustomed. Keep this in mind as you work with interns and help them discover the differences. Remember this may be their first professional working experience. Working with students now, teaching them the ropes and how to address issues, will help them be more valuable in the workplace later. Providing an intern with an official mentor in addition to a direct supervisor is a good way for them to gain additional experience and feedback during their internship so they are productive and engaged.
Creative and Challenging Experiences
The best internships are those that are creative and challenging to the intern. When thinking about projects and assignments for your intern, try to keep them both interesting and helpful in terms of the learning that will happen as a result of the work. A good test is to think if you would enjoy completing the internship as it is designed. The intern is with your organization to learn about the world of work, and to better determine if the career path they have chosen is really what they want. Projects that provide interns with material for their portfolio are highly recommended. Students completing internships are required to do a PowerPoint presentation about their internship experience. Part of this presentation includes presenting a project that they worked on either individually or as part of a team. It is recommended that projects given will useful in the intern's presentations and professional portfolio.
The best internship experiences are those where the intern feels they are a valued member of the organization. Since our students receive academic credit for their internships, our expectations for their learning are high. Internship projects and assignments should relate to their major of study and/or career interests. While some administrative tasks are helpful for an intern to do, please make sure that there are learning opportunities beyond the scope of general office work.
Below are some guidelines set by the federal government on proper policy in regards to paying interns:
Covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, students must be paid at least minimum wage if:
- They provide essential services to the employer; or
- They are working in a position where someone is normally paid; or
- There is a history of paying someone to do the work; or
- Other people are currently paid for the same or similar work.
Students are not considered employees and do not need to be paid if all six of the following criteria apply:
- The experience is similar to that which would be given in a vocational program;
- The experience is primarily for the benefit of the student (this is accomplished if the internship is part of a school curriculum);
- The student does not displace other employees and works under close supervision;
- The organization derives no immediate advantage from the student's activities and on occasion may be impeded;
- The student is not entitled to a job with the organization at the completion of the internship or training; and
- The student and organization understand that the student is not entitled to wages or any other form of compensation for the training.
Who to contact with more questions?
Manager of Internships