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The Internship Process

  • Identify Internship Coordinator
    The first step in developing an internship program is to identify the person within your company or organization who will coordinate the program. This person will be responsible for implementing the various steps identified below to develop the program.
  • Assess Internal Needs

    The next step in designing your internship program is an assessment of internal projects or staff needs. The internship coordinator should work with staff to assess current projects and workload to determine appropriate situations where an intern might contribute. Each should consider:

    • What ongoing tasks take place in my department or organization?
    • What is the workload of our department or organization?
    • What projects are currently on the "back burner?"

    One great use of an intern is to devote time to projects that might currently be on the "back burner" due to insufficient time or talents among existing full-time staff. For example, do you have new materials you would like to develop, or existing brochures you would like to have updated? Would you like to redesign your organization's website, but just don't have the time? Interns can be a great source of assistance, given proper supervision, for these labor-intensive tasks. Similarly, an intern might conduct research for a report that another staff member will write.

    An assessment of internal needs will uncover "back burner" projects, as well as identify the ongoing projects and tasks where an intern can contribute to your organization.

  • Allocate Resources

    Long before your intern's first day with your organization, you should consider the allocation of resources. You will need to allocate financial, time, and material resources in order to create an environment where your intern can succeed. An example Resource Allocation Checklist can be found below:

    Financial Resources

    • Will your intern be paid? If so, at what hourly rate?
    • Will you offer a stipend for the total duration of the internship, or a project-based stipend?
    • Will your intern need a parking pass, or will your organization reimburse his/her parking costs?
    • Will your company reimburse mileage for the intern?
    • Will you offer a scholarship to offset your intern's cost if the internship will involve academic credit at the intern's college or university?
    • Will you provide a housing stipend for the duration of the internship?

    Time Resources

    • Will your intern participate in a new employee orientation session?
    • Will your intern's mentor set aside time for regular meetings with the intern throughout the duration of the internship?
    • Will others in the department set aside time to answer questions as they arise?
    • Will the intern work five days a week or an alternate schedule, and how will this impact the duties that may be assigned to him/her?

    Material Resources

    What will your organization need to provide for the intern? You should allow adequate time to organize these resources so that your intern can begin work immediately on his/her first day. Some resources you may need to supply could include:

    • a computer with particular software installed
    • an organizational e-mail account
    • a telephone extension
    • a voice mailbox
    • a parking pass
    • office supplies

    Planning ahead and providing these materials will allow your intern to start off on the right foot. Additionally, you might need to reserve a cubicle, desk, or workspace for the intern.

  • Identify Mentor, Supervisor, and Meaningful Work

    Each intern should be assigned to a mentor within your organization. The mentor may be a department head, project leader, or long-time employee who is knowledgeable about the project the intern will work on. The mentor's role should include some initial orientation for the intern, as well as developing an ongoing relationship.

    During your intern's first day, his/her mentor might fulfill some of the orientation roles. Ideas include:

    • Give the intern a tour of your facility
    • Show the intern the location and use of office equipment (photocopier, fax machine, etc.)
    • Introduce the intern to others in the department and organization with whom he/she will interact

    Throughout the internship, the intern will look to his/her mentor first with questions. The mentor should be prepared to offer guidance on project tasks and responsibilities, including instructions on how tasks should be carried out. The mentor should also be available for general questions pertaining to the company or the industry, so the intern can learn from the mentor's experience. The mentor might also be asked operational questions, ranging from use of the photocopier to the location of a local lunch spot.

    The role of the mentor should involve a commitment of time to the intern's experience. Suggestions include scheduling a lunch together on the intern's first day so that the intern and mentor can begin to get to know each other. Some mentors may choose to offer an "open-door" to the intern, and encourage him/her to stop by anytime with questions. Other mentors might prefer the structure of a regularly-scheduled weekly meeting, where the intern is encouraged to bring a list of any questions he/she might have from the past week. Either way, it is important that every intern knows that someone is available to answer his/her questions.

    A mentor can be a valuable resource for the intern in many ways. During the internship, the mentor might provide input and evaluation of the intern's work products. Additionally, the intern is beginning to build his/her professional network, so a mentor might look for opportunities to include the intern in meetings or to introduce the intern to other company and industry contacts. Finally, after the internship has been completed, a mentor might offer to be listed as a reference on the intern's resume. The mentor should also be in a position to advise management of the suitability of a later employment offer to the intern following graduation.

    Project Team and Intern Supervisor

    The primary goal of each student in seeking an internship is to gain "real world" experience in his/her future profession. It is beneficial for each intern to be integrated into a department or project team where he/she will not only learn from completing assigned tasks, but will also develop a sense of the organization and/or industry "big picture." Part of the learning experience should be an opportunity for the student to see how his/her own tasks fit into the timeline and outcome of the project as a whole.

    Integration into a department or project team can also provide the intern with an opportunity to refine teamwork and communication skills. Others in the team can provide guidance to the intern, not only about specific project tasks, but also aspects of professional work ethic and culture, such as time management, meeting deadlines, or managing interactions with a difficult customer. Team members can guide the intern in learning to overcome challenges and in learning from his/her mistakes. An intern can benefit greatly from the experience of others on the team.

    Interns should be assigned to a supervisor, like any other employee. The supervisor may or may not be the same person as the intern's mentor-that will depend on your organization's size and work structure. The role of the supervisor is to assign day-to-day tasks, monitor progress, and evaluate the intern's work products or outcomes.

    Meaningful Project Work

    In addition to integration into a department or project team, attention should be paid to the assignment of meaningful project work. Your intern is not looking to spend the summer making photocopies or getting coffee. Rather, your intern wants a chance to build upon what he/she has learned through coursework. Your intern wants to learn to apply what he/she has learned to a "real world" project. This does not mean that interns should be exempt from occasionally stuffing envelopes with the rest of the team, but the focus of the internship experience should be devoted to meaningful project work. There are several elements of meaningful project work to consider.

    Meaningful Tasks
    Within the scope of your project, consider tasks where an intern will be challenged to apply his/her knowledge or improve his/her skills. Remember, your intern is here to learn and gain experience. Consider your intern's skills and strengths, and give your intern a chance to make a meaningful contribution to a project.

    Goals and Milestones
    Set goals for your intern's progress. You can help your intern set goals for completion of various tasks including daily goals, weekly goals, and monthly goals. If the intern is working on a project with deadlines, setting goals can help ensure that these deadlines will be met. Guide your intern in breaking down larger tasks into action steps and setting goals for completion. Set milestones so that the intern knows he/she is working toward something, and has a sense of accomplishment when each milestone has been achieved.

    Time Frame
    Your intern will likely be part of your team for the length of one semester- approximately four months. Keep this timeframe in mind as you outline tasks and goals for the internship. It might be helpful to assign the intern to a project that will start and finish within the time of the internship. Alternatively, consider whether there are particular tasks an intern could finish within a project with a much longer timeframe. You can help provide your intern with a sense of accomplishment if he/she is assigned tasks that will be completed by the end of the internship. Furthermore, your intern will benefit from having a "finished product" for his/her portfolio.

  • Post Internship Description
    After you have assessed internal needs and identified where an intern will be assigned, the next step is to develop an internship description.

    Like any job description, the more detailed information you can provide potential candidates in the internship description, the easier it will be for you to select the right candidate. Elements of an internship description can include:

    • Information about your organization and/or the project
    • Description of intern tasks and responsibilities
    • Preferred majors/minors or coursework the intern should have completed
    • List of skills required
    • Start/end dates for the internship and typical daily working hours
    • Compensation
    • Academic credit (optional)

    Once you have completed this detailed description, post it on the Collegetown website, which will allow your internship opening to be seen by students all over Baltimore and by all the College Career Centers that are part of the Baltimore Collegetown Network.

  • Evaluate and Interview Intern Candidates
    Once you begin to receive applications, intern candidates will follow much the same process as other potential new hires. You will screen the applications to find those candidates who meet your criteria. You will schedule telephone and/or in-person interviews with your top candidates. You can find sample Intern Interview Questions in the Resources section in the upper right-hand corner of this web page.

    You will make an offer and define the internship start and end dates as well as any compensation. You may draft an internship agreement that defines goals and expectations. This should be signed by the intern and an appropriate representative from your organization.

  • Conduct Orientation

    You should plan to provide some level of orientation for your intern. If your organization will be hosting a new employee orientation session near the intern's start date, you might include the intern in this orientation so that he/she can learn about your organization and culture. If no organization-wide orientation is occurring, the orientation responsibilities may belong to the intern's mentor or supervisor.

    Offer your intern a tour of the facility, so that he/she will become familiar with the environment. Introduce the intern to your staff, and offer some explanation to the intern of various roles within the organization.

    Your intern will also want to know about the day-to-day aspects of work in your organization.

    • What are typical working hours?
    • When should he/she take a lunch break?
    • Where should he/she park?
    • Where are the restrooms located?
    • Where are various pieces of office equipment and of what special instructions should the intern be aware?
    • What is appropriate attire?
    • When are staff meetings held?

    In some cases, this internship will be a student's first experience working in a professional setting. Your intern may seek guidance with various issues that you would not normally encounter with an experienced employee, such as:

    • Answering office phones and taking messages
    • Writing professional e-mails
    • Identifying an appropriate amount of personal telephone calls or Internet use
    • Conducting research for particular projects
    • Using proper etiquette at business meetings

    You may consider developing an orientation packet for your interns, which includes the information outlined above, as well as important organizational policies interns should be aware of.

  • Program Review and Intern Evaluation

    As your internship program gains momentum, you may evaluate your program from time to time. Seek input from the intern's mentor and supervisor about the quality of the intern's work. Evaluate whether the intern possessed the necessary skills to carry out project work. Evaluate the quality of the intern's work, and how this additional human capital increased overall work productivity. Consider what other projects or departments might benefit from an intern.

    Each intern should receive ongoing feedback from his/her supervisor and/or mentor. You may consider a midpoint and final evaluation. Tell your intern where he/she has performed well, and discuss where he/she has room to improve. Sample evaluation forms can be found in the Resources section in the upper right-hand corner of this web page.

    If your intern will be seeking academic credit from his/her college or university, there may be additional evaluation forms to be submitted. While the requirements for academic credit are different at each institution, professors typically will want to know at the beginning of the internship about the type of project the intern will be working on. Professors will also typically request a final evaluation from the intern's supervisor. It is the student's responsibility to manage his/her university requirements, and a student's desire for academic credit does not typically involve increased work on the part of the intern's supervisor or mentor.

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