7 Tips For Setting Your Intern Up for Success

This year, Gartner’s Emerging Risks Survey placed talent shortages as the number one risk faced by organisations globally. And with a war for talent raging, it comes as no surprise that businesses are starting to feel the heat. 

One way to gain an edge in this competitive market is to start your hiring funnel with interns. Internship programmes provide employers with an opportunity to tap into the emerging talent pool before they enter the workforce as graduates — not only does it develop a pipeline for the growth of your business, internships also expose your employer brand to a wider pool of prospective workers. And according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the conversion rate for turning interns into full-time hires stands at 56%, with significantly higher retention rates than those without previous experience in the company. 

So whether it’s future-proofing your business or simply having that extra set of hands for an upcoming deadline, the advantages of interns have been firmly established. But to fully reap the benefits of having an intern in your company, it’s vital you provide a programme that will have them singing your praises — and hungry for more.  


Here are our seven tips for setting your intern on the path for success: 


1. Set Tasks With Goals in Mind

Setting the expectations of the internship — for both parties involved — is an obvious, yet instrumental, first step to the process. Establishing what your intern hopes to gain from the experience — and what you expect in return — sets you both on the course of leaving the arrangement all for the better. Take the time to consult with them about where their strengths and weaknesses lie and what they hope to gain from the experience — setting them real tasks with these objectives in mind. Not only will they appreciate your consultation, a well-planned programme with clear objectives is likely to increase their engagement and enthusiasm for the experience from the get-go. 


2. Assign Them a Mentor

Providing a mentor for your intern not only provides them with a support system, it creates an avenue for dynamic, continual feedback.The idea? to establish a relationship where the intern is comfortable asking questions — from those seemingly trivial ones to hard-hitting career advice.  A mentor will be the most familiar with the intern’s work and progress, so is in a position to offer the most constructive feedback throughout the course of the internship. And it’s a win-win for your business — not only can you rest assured knowing someone is keeping an eye on your intern, mentorship programs provide an excellent testing ground for potential leaders. It gives the mentor a chance to fine-tune their leadership and management skills — and allows you to spot potential where it was perhaps overlooked before. 


3. Look for Their Insight

Interns are your link to the latest batch of Gen Zers — make the most of that. Having an insider’s perspective could ready your business for the imminent rise of Gen Z — as both consumers and employees. And as explained in our HR Manifesto, you can’t see the label from inside the jar — so it’s more important than ever to bring an external perspective and vision to the table. Fresh blood offers an invigorating outlook on your business. So in order to make the most of these potential benefits, give them that push to speak up in internal meetings and brainstorming sessions — since they’re not full-time employees, they may not be sure just how much their input is appreciated. 


4. Strike A Balance 

Creating a well-rounded picture of your business through your internship programme is all too important — after all, it’s an opportunity for an intern to discover what aspects of the job and the industry interest them. But getting the balance between exposure and real experience is no easy task. At the early stages of their career, interns are generally enthusiastic to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Provided they have intellectual curiosity, exposing them to your daily activities is more beneficial than you would think. And while no intern wants to be kept in the filing room all day or completing jobs fabricated to keep them busy —  incorporating administrative or hands-on projects into their programme gives them the chance to get familiar with tasks and develop particular skills. Interns don’t want to feel like a burden — so appreciate any opportunity to actively contribute to the team. 


5. Importance of Feedback

Establishing a structure for constant feedback is as important for you as an employer as it is for the intern. Good feedback means you get good work from your intern  so not only do they grow as an employee, their contribution to the business does correspondingly. Similarly, encourage your intern to give their own feedback on the programme throughout the process — if you’re missing the mark in a certain area, it’s important to know. And don’t put it on the back burner— regular communication means you can iron out any areas of concern in good time and both get the most out of the arrangement. 


6. Offer Advice

Experience is an expensive asset and the senior employees in your company have an abundance of it. Allow your intern to tap into this mine of knowledge by providing them with the chance to pick the brains of the best and brightest in your company. Arrange a weekly coffee for your intern and each of these team members to have a chat, and open the door for that all-too-important transfer of knowledge. Not only does this expose your intern to the faces that form the cornerstones of your business — it gives them ample opportunity to network and learn from the best. 


7. Keep in Touch

You never know what opportunities will arise for your interns in the future  — or what doors they may open for your business — so make sure you maintain contact with them as their internship draws to a close. Potential employment is an obvious incentive for keeping in touch — since they are already familiar with your company culture, interns are worthwhile considering if they left a good impression. And if a job isn’t on the cards in the immediate future, keep them on file. The beauty of a boomerang hire means that while you’re hiring someone you’re already comfortable with, you’re benefiting from the experience they accumulated during their time away. A simple LinkedIn connection leaves the door open for reconnecting — and you never know how much that could benefit you both. 


An internship programme can breathe fresh air into your business — not only is the additional enthusiasm around the office infectious, your work benefits from a set of fresh eyes and a new perspective. And interns talk. A good experience will spread like wildfire around college campuses and young professional circles — which can do wonders for your recruitment pipeline. So take the time to design an internship programme that serves to benefit you both. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

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