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What defines an internship?

An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called interns, to work at a firm for a fixed period of time. Interns are usually undergraduates or students, and most internships last between a month and three months. An internship can be either paid or voluntary.

We all know these parameters of an internship, but how can an organization make sure it’s an impactful few months for each individual? Once you’ve decided to go for it and bring a motivated sponge to your organization, be sure to plan! My first recommendation is to absolutely give them interesting work. Don’t have them run around getting coffee and fixing the printer. Those days are over, and neither the intern nor the company will get anything out of that experience.

According to WayUp, which is an organization that celebrates internships and who released a top 100 list of Internship Programs; they found that the top 10 programs stood out as being the ones that focused the most on ensuring their interns learned as much as possible from executives, mentors, and one another.

Of course, some of the top were Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Chick-fil-A, IBM, and Disney. As you can imagine, those places have the capacity, money, and teams devoted to developing amazing internship programs. But if you don’t have all that, you can still create a stellar program.

Here’s how, based on an awesome experience I had during my college years:

In the summer of 2001, I secured an HR internship at Fourwinds Resort & Marina in Monroe County, Indiana. I was so excited! They offered an HR, Operations, and Sales & Marketing internship program that summer. The three of us started on the same day and were given a personal calendar of our eight-week program. Our summer was broken down into two-week segments. The first two weeks, I focused on the HR Department and was given a project. Before the end of the internship program, I had to develop job descriptions for each position in the organization. I spent the first two weeks overseeing orientation, learning their file system, and having a coffee or lunch with the HR Manager each day. This was my time to ask questions, develop a relationship, and receive mentoring.

Weeks three and four I spent in Operations, which meant I worked with all department managers who were running the hotel. I sat beside the accounting team and learned about their daily audits, I helped the maintenance and housekeeping teams on schedules, and even made beds and learned how to clean a hotel room in under 12 minutes. My last two weeks, I worked on the sales team and brainstormed marketing ideas for the busy fall season and was able to be a part of a launch of a new business development software system. By the time my eight weeks wrapped up, I was able to thoroughly yet easily complete my job description project, because I’d experienced it. I also was able to build trust amongst each management team and they were so appreciative to get a tangible job description for each position. This was not only going to help define role clarity, but also help them recruit better talent.

Internship programs can give back to organizations in enormous measures if they are built thoughtfully. If you are thinking about hiring interns, I’d challenge you to compile a list of projects that you haven’t been able to tackle. Which ones could someone complete – even if it isn’t easy to transfer to them? If you take the time, the relationship you will form and trust built will go beyond even the completed project. You might even nail your next best employee!

If you’d like to discuss ways to set up a successful internship program or to brainstorm projects that need completed, reach out to Purple Ink, or to me directly; I’d truly appreciate the opportunity to develop a program or assist in completing those projects!

Laura North
Laura North
Laura is a Consultant at Purple Ink. She thrives for all employees to understand their role and value within the company’s mission.

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