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Using Internships to be a pipeline

Did you ever have an internship when you were in college or first starting out?  Some schools require internships as a way for a student to experience real work in their chosen field.  “Real world experience.”

Both my daughters did internships at several companies while in college and it was such a great learning experience for them.  My daughter Alex announced to me after one internship: “Mom, I know for sure that I don’t want to work at a financial services company. It’s not as fast paced as I like.”

When I had a special short-term project for our marketing department, with no other options, I recruited a friend’s 16-year-old daughter as an intern and 15 years later she still talks about all that she learned. It was her first real job, and she learned the basics of working in an office, having deadlines, the importance of proper grammar and spelling and about being on time for work! Plus, we got our project completed without hiring a full-time employee.  Luckily, she was fast and accurate, so we were able to give her more work than originally planned.

Many company leaders I talk with “sigh” when I mention internships.  Like it’s a big hassle.   A temporary employee needs to learn everything because they don’t have much experience, and right as soon as they get trained, poof! 

They return back to school.

That’s a fixed mindset way of viewing an internship.  All the negative aspects of it and “why it won’t work”.

How about approaching internships with a growth mindset as a low-risk way to evaluate potential future employees?   Or as an economical way to get small projects done.  Even though someone may be a college student and only available for a short window of time (3-4 months), it is so easy to identify a future rock star.

Over the years, I had dozens of fantastic experiences with summer interns. Here’s how I ensured a positive ROI on the investment:

1.  I would ask all my department managers in early January if they needed  a summer intern to do special projects.  Even operations and finance would occasionally have special projects or analysis they needed done and a college level summer intern would be perfect to complete them.

2.  Before I started advertising for interns, I made sure I had a need, and identified what skill levels were required.

3.  I confirmed there was a department manager or senior supervisor who the intern would report to as part of the process. This encouraged them to be invested in the interns’ success.

4.  For summer interns, I posted the open positions in January and February as that’s when most students are looking for summer internships.

5. All my internships were paid and I made sure the hourly pay was competitive with other internships in our area (pretty easy to google for this information). Internships can be part time or full time, depending on the need.

***And this is what makes our internships the most successful:

During the last week of each internship, the intern would present their observations and learnings from their work experience to a group of my company’s employees.  I always attended and included all the department managers, and usually invited ANY and ALL employees who wanted to attend the presentation. Their presentation was usually PowerPoint and this gave them a chance to practice their presentation skills, public speaking skills and most included photos of who they met.  Afterwards, we hosted a luncheon in their honor and everyone who attended the presentation would join in.  It made the intern feel special…..and it promoted our company’s culture as inclusive, respectful and curious.  Many times, my employees told me how much it meant to them to be included in the presentations and celebratory luncheon, and they would ask if THEIR kids, nieces and nephews could apply for an internship next year!

Doesn’t that sound like a win-win approach? While fostering a positive company culture, you may be able to identify future employees who you wish to return the next summer or after graduation.  We had several multiple-summer interns and hired many interns to become future company employees.

Right now, is the perfect time to be looking ahead to the summer for intern worthy projects!

Onward and upward,

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