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Employers have been building up their college internship programs recently. While many employers see college internship programs as an affordable way fill in the gaps caused by departmental budget cuts or layoffs, the most successful internship programs are those that actually provide structured learning experiences and mentorship opportunities for college students.
Internships are perhaps one of the most important ways for college students to jump start their careers. They are great introductions to the cultures, the personalities, the hierarchies and the normal politics and the pressures of everyday work life. They are also important resume builders for recent college graduates. As a matter of fact, in many instances, companies are looking to progress talented interns into full time entry-level employees.
But gone are the days of thinking of interns as the coffee-fetchers or the copy boys/girls. Interns today are encouraged to look for structured opportunities that are specifically aligned to their career goals. Interns are looking for opportunities to work side-by-side with professionals who can help to teach and mentor them in their chosen profession.
If you are an employer looking for an intern, here are several things you should consider when posting an internship.
1.) Internships usually last one semester or 3-4 months. The best time to recruit for interns is 2-3 months in advance of the upcoming semester when students are determining their course schedules. When developing your internship program, realize that most students are looking for part-time internships – between 15-2o hrs. per week – and they often will ask for flexibility in their schedules. In addition to internships, these students are often also juggling college classes, part-time jobs and other extra-curricular activities.
2.) It is totally acceptable to expect interns to work for free, however, if you have a budget that allows for a small hourly wage, you will attract more applicants. In addition, if you have any other benefits to offer interns, such as a bus pass or mileage reimbursement, it always helps. Remember, you were in college once – every penny and dime helps!
3.) One of the greatest benefits to college students is if they can obtain college credit for their internship. Most local universities will work with you to fulfill the requirements necessary for a college-credit internship. It may require a little more work for the employer to make sure that the interns have completed assignments and/or papers related to their internship, but it is also a great incentive and motivator for the student.
4.) Be considerate of your interns! Make sure the internship is structured and that there are meaningful work projects for the intern to do. Don’t leave them hanging with nothing to do and don’t always relegate interns to licking envelopes or organizing databases.
Have someone at your company or in your department assigned as the intern coordinator that helps to recruit interns and also manages their time and deadlines and makes sure they are provided appropriate supervision and responsibilities.
In addition, set the expectations of the internship right away. Like everyone else, interns need to be held accountable for their projects and responsible for turning in assignments and completing their work.
5.) Make mentorship a strong part of the internship. These students are trying to get their foot in the door and want to learn from you how to start and how to progress their careers. Give them quality time each week and provide thoughtful advice and guidance and take a sincere interest in their futures.