orienting your intern
The beginning days of an internship are often its defining days. When you give interns their first tasks, you are signaling what can be expected in the future. If you give them nothing or very little to do, it sends a message that this job will be easy—and boring. Interns don’t want that, and of course, neither do employers. The organization of your internship program will probably be the single most important influence on an intern’s impression of your organization, and thus the chances that he or she will come back. So how do you “plan for success?”
Many students are unfamiliar with the activities, environment, and objectives of business and industry. Even though your interns may have worked part-time to support their education, these experiences may not have exposed them to organizational politics, the need for confidentiality, the importance of teamwork, or the profit-making orientation of business. Including an orientation session as the beginning of the intern training process emphasizes the partnership and commitment to internships in your workplace.
The sooner your student interns understand what your organization does and how it operates, the sooner they can assume assigned responsibilities and become productive. You can communicate this information in several ways:
- Take your interns on a tour of the facilities and introduce them to the other employees.
- Give your interns company materials to read such as newsletters, annual reports, organizational chart, or memos from the CEO.
- Encourage your interns to spend break and lunchtimes in the places where employees gather.
- Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with them.
- Give the interns opportunities to observe (or participate in) professional meetings.
- Allow the interns to interview company personnel.
- Encourage the interns to walk around and observe others at work.
The success of an internship depends on the partnership between representatives of the organization, the college, and the student. These three parties need to agree on the conditions of the internship, the responsibilities of each party, and the reporting requirements. The site supervisor is the critical link. You guide your interns by providing direction and feedback. If a problem occurs, you counsel the students and contact the Enterprise Resource Center when necessary.