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5 Ways to Create a Positive Internship Experience

Written by Meghana Machiraju on September 27, 2022
4 min read

As a program manager, is the question “why do early talent candidates renege or leave a job?” always bothering you? We might be able to provide a pain-killer here! 

According to Zety, poor work-life balance, a toxic work environment, and a lack of professional development opportunities are the top three factors that push Gen Zers to leave a job or renege an offer. 

If you want to attract and retain this group, providing a positive internship experience is the bare minimum. Wondering where to start? We have a few ideas.

1. Meaningful Mentorships

Mentoring is an essential component of a comprehensive internship program. The primary reasons why students choose to participate in internships all focus on developing new skills, gaining experience in their fields of study, and gaining a realistic preview of the workplace. All of these are areas in which a relationship with a mentor can make an incredible difference in your interns’ experience with your organization. Here are some opportunities you can create for your interns as their mentor:

  • Organize meetings where your interns can interact with different departments in the company. Besides providing them an opportunity to network and engage the leadership on career-related questions and what it takes to succeed, these meetings also enable interns to identify future mentors who can coach them even after they leave the company.
  • Invite senior leadership to sit in on final project presentations. This can add tremendous value to your interns’ resumes and overall experience as it is a great chance to develop presentation skills, professionalism, and get feedback. It can also fuel their sense of belonging and offer a better understanding of the company’s bigger picture. And if you foresee converting your interns to FTE, this is an opportunity for senior leadership to get acquainted with potential early talent candidates.
  • In work allocation, give your interns tasks that allow them to interact with others, especially the leadership team. Doing this not only helps interns to expand their network, but also provides an opportunity for your employees to share and learn new ideas. Employees can also give insight on whether the intern can be a long-term fit for your business and whether to hire them for a full-time position in the future.

2. Provide a Solid Onboarding Experience

You don’t want your interns coming in wondering how Day 1 or Week 1 of the internship is going to look like. Your pre boarding and onboarding processes are the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the value and confidence your company places in its interns. During preboarding, even though your intern hasn't begun working for you yet, it's crucial to maintain contact in order to establish rapport and begin building relationships. Use the weeks leading up to the internship to provide all onboarding resources in one place, educate them on how the company operates, and keep them informed of any company developments. By leveraging tools such as Symba, you can keep in touch with your interns from pre-onboarding to alumni intern engagement. 

3. Assign Challenging and Meaningful Projects

Gen Zs (17%) are the most likely to stay at their current job because of upskilling/reskilling opportunities compared to Millennials (9%), Gen X (7%), or Baby Boomers (4%), according to a study by Lever. Assigning challenging and meaningful work to interns is a great way to build their skills and competence. The best projects for your interns are those that challenge them intellectually. While you might not ask an intern to solve complex company problems, assign tasks that will allow them to work on something substantial enough to test and build on their emerging talents. Here are a few suggestions on how to engage your interns meaningfully:

  • Assign leadership roles: Although taking on a leadership role can be intimidating for interns, it is one strategy to help them showcase their talent. Giving them an opportunity to oversee some company processes and projects enables them to learn and put their skills to use. This also shows the interns that the company values their role.
  • Set performance parameters: Make sure the work you assign your intern has defined parameters for success, and hold them accountable for the results. Assigning a vague project without a clear end goal might lead to failure and can also discourage your interns.
  • Allow interns to shape tasks: As much as interns need guidance on what you want them to do, it's also important to give them a chance to influence their output. While giving your intern direction on “what” needs to get done, give them leeway to determine the “how.”

4. Recruiter Coffee Chats

A coffee chat between a recruiter and your interns is a low-stress, low-risk approach to getting to know one another and learning from each other. Recruiters can meet interns for a one-on-one casual talk and answer questions about their company, career paths, or any other professional topic. Coffee chats can help allay fears that interns may have about their career choices. These conversations can also cover other topics related to personal interests, such as the interns’ hobbies. In the end, coffee chats allow your company/recruiters and interns to know each other at a deeper level and determine how their plans fit.

5. Regular 1:1s with Intern Manager

Having the intern manager hold regular 1:1s with their interns can foster a positive internship experience. These meetings could help convey valuable information about the intern's experience and gauge how satisfied they are with their work environment. Here are specific ways regular 1:1s can improve the intern experience:

  • Career development: 1:1 meetings between intern managers and their interns can help shape interns' career aspirations. Intern managers’ coaching skills can greatly help your interns make the right career choices.
  • Confidence and trust: Regular touchpoints contribute to the development of manager-intern trust and create solid working relationships. Mutual trust improves confidence, reduces fear of failure, and creates stronger teams.
  • Enhanced engagement: Regular meetings between managers and employees enhance employee engagement by up to three times, according to a Gallup study. Employee engagement leads to better performance and higher productivity. On the same premise, regular meetings between the intern manager and interns can lead to more engaged, productive interns and a positive internship experience.
  • Understanding of the company mission: Daily tasks completed by interns can seem unrelated to the company's purpose. Holding regular 1:1 meetings is an excellent strategy for clarifying the link between routine tasks performed by interns and their contribution to the company's mission.

Create and develop a positive program experience for your interns by leveraging Symba. Symba has helped over 5,000 internship programs come to fruition, and yours could be next. Schedule a demo today to elevate your internship program! 

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Meghana Machiraju

Meghana Machiraju is a B2B content marketing professional at Symba. Previously, Meghana worked as a Content Marketing Lead for a SaaS healthcare startup. She holds a Masters in Marketing from Schulich School of Business, Canada, and an MBA in Advertising from Symbiosis International University, India. Outside of work, you will find her traveling or looking for the next vegetarian restaurant to go to!

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