3 Tips to Reinventing the Internship


August kicks off with many of us putting our kids on the bus to return to school before we head to work again, saying goodbye to a key part of the summer workforce: interns. 

Chances are at this very moment, as summer internships wind down, your HR team is reviewing feedback and trying to evaluate a good or bad year’s crop of talent. 

Here are three quick tips to help you reinvent the internship.

1.  Start with onboarding them like a real employee

Set the bar early that their internship matters with onboarding.  I’ve seen it range from fun (Ask about their favorite super hero and then decorate their desk) to serious (putting them into an onboarding class with other professional new hires). There’s a great SHRM article that talks about how one-third of new employees leave due to a poor onboarding experience, and while you usually don’t lose an intern from a poor onboarding experience, what you will find is that they will be very vocal on how they feel to their friends, colleagues, and peers on social media.  Make it count from day one and enjoy the results.

2.  Make their internship matter by showing them the power of it

Show from day one how their task will impact the company.  My most recent intern just completed her internship and this was what stood out to her the most.  During the interview, we shared what her duties would be in a vacuum but it was during her onboarding we revealed the bigger picture of what she would be working towards.  Throughout the internship as major milestones were accomplished, we’d be sure to include her in team meetings to show how her work had played a part.  As the internship ends, make sure you offer the chance to not only tie what the works has done but how it will influence the company going forward.  This lets them walk away proud while leaving a mark on your company’s future legacy. 

3.  Never have them get you coffee.  Ever.

I’m going to say it again: Never have an intern bring you coffee.  Here’s why.  It seems innocent (and it’s probably often needed) but trust me in that you instantly diminish the role they came to perform for your company.   So many talent leaders I communicate with flat out refuse to have their staff assign menial tasks such as getting a coffee.  With a new generation of millennial workers interning and entering the workforce, if you want them to take the work they do seriously, start by taking them seriously.  Put them on a level playing field with your team from day one and you’ll notice a difference in output and behavior.

If you ever doubted the power of hiring early in career talent; look at the influx of attention being placed on internships.  This isn’t just coming from the tech sector but from every industry in every geography across the world realizing hiring the best and brightest often starts with the internship. 

Good luck and I look forward to hearing your success stories!   




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