What Internships Should Be

August 27th, 2013 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

A mini-industry has grown up around internships.  Guidebooks and Internet sites tell you about the good, the bad, the paid and the unpaid.  Career Planning and Placement Offices, Career Advisors, and College/University faculty, encourage students to seek out internships.

Are you considering what an internship should be and the value for the students or the company that provides the internship?

My own two internships were for academic credit only.  No pay.  In fact, I paid tuition for the credits I received.  In other words, I paid to work.  Nowadays, it seems we invariably pay the students to work.

Today, many managers have started their careers with one or more internships.

Here are a variety of thoughts on internships.

Real Work: Paid or working for academic credit, the expectation is real work, not doing errands, making coffee or busy work.

Human Resource:  The internship should be a real life learning experience not a resume filler or an item checked off in the goal of obtaining a job after graduation.  The intern can prove to be a valuable human resource and should be treated accordingly.

Objectives Should Be Established:  The student should be measured against these and given feedback.  Allow them to do the job by providing “a place to hang their hat.”  Give them a desk, phone and computer access, reasonable supplies etc.  Demand value for the dollar, however allow the intern to take “ownership” in the work product.

Fresh Blood Equals New Ideas:  Book learning and theory are a foundation.  However, they do not always apply to the “real world.”  Supplementing the knowledge with experience facilitates additional learning as the student brings a broader perspective to the academic world.

Try Out a Career First:  The student obtains the opportunity to “try out” a career and perhaps refine the area of study for the major or minor.  A consequence of this experience is an enhanced resume.  The result should be a consequence, not the only goal.

Build a Portfolio of Skills:  Certain abilities come easier to some people than others.  An internship is a good place to confirm strengths and weaknesses.  If the internship is to help grow the student as well as the business, then both strengths and weaknesses should be worked on.  The portfolio of skills needs to be expanded.  Projects can be designed around both the company’s needs and the intern’s needs.

The Takeaway

Internships should be a two-way street.  In my experience it has been.  It is incumbent on both companies and interns to clearly articulate their expectations up front to maximize the return to both parties.

Those are my ideas.  Over to you.  Please comment below.

  1. Have you successfully utilized interns at your organization?
  2. What factors led to the success?
  3. How would you change or enhance an internship program?

 If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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