Posts tagged ‘internship questions’
Q. I’m confused by all the news articles focusing on the legal issues regarding internships. How can I find out what our company can do or not do in accordance with the law?
by the Intern Coach
A. Excellent question! Since so many students want internships and hundreds of companies are starting internship programs, the ground rules have been constantly changing. In the past, schools managed all the internship programs for their students, utilizing the same companies every year. Thanks to the growing number of online internship sites, such as internships.com, students have a far wider selection. As an employer, you are faced with figuring out what applies to you. Here are some tips to help you:
- Every day, a new challenge arises to question the legal status of internship programs. The sources that you might want to pay strict attention to (and those that will probably be paying strict attention to you) involve pronouncements by state or federal governments. Each state seems to be issuing different regulations or rules governing internships. Review what your state is doing and see if your program is in compliance. Also, monitor the federal legislation that is studying the internship situation.
- Confer with your legal department or company lawyer on the legal issues surrounding internships. You may find that your legal expert will err on the side of conservatism in terms of meeting regulations in order to protect you and your company. You’ll probably want to act accordingly. If in doubt about paid or non-paid internships or credit or no credit, you could appoint a committee to review all the legislation and discussion and make a recommendation on how your company should proceed.
- Compare notes on internship programs with other companies that are similar to yours, such as public or private, small or large, domestic or international, etc. Find out if they’ve run into any problems and if so, how they’ve solved them. You could also meet with the college career centers that send you interns and determine their requirements for your company before you agree to accept any interns.
- For further protection, you might ask interns to sign off that they understand and accept the conditions of the internship before they begin one at your company. Do remember that internships are win-win situations for companies and students, so don’t be put off by the confusing news articles on internships.
by the Intern Coach
A. That’s a tough question, especially if the student intern has performed his/her duties beyond expectation. First, take it as a compliment to the company and to your internship program that the student would like to become an employee. Then, consider the following ways to tell the student that you can’t offer employment:
- Begin by expressing your thanks to the student for an outstanding performance as an intern. Note specific accomplishments. You might take this opportunity to present a laudatory recommendation letter to the student or a certificate of appreciation from the company for a job well done.
- Explain that the company is not hiring anyone at this time. If the company has had lay-offs in the recent past, you might mention that, too. However, stress that the company’s future looks bright. Ask the student intern to stay in touch with you and the company. Assure him/her that when an opening occurs, he/she will be considered for the position.
- Offer to write a reference to another company to which the student might apply for employment. Or, if you know of any potential jobs in other companies, you might refer the student to the appropriate person, building the student’s networking opportunities. You could invite the student to go to a meeting or event with you, where he/she could network to connect with potential employers.
- Suggest that your student continue to intern with the company in a virtual internship if you would like to keep the intern as a possible candidate for future openings. Or you may have some consulting projects for the student that would extend the relationship. However, if you feel that the intern is not a good fit for employment, you would only be creating false hope. It would be much better to cut off any further collaboration, citing the recession and weak economy as the villains.
by the Intern Coach
A. That’s a sensitive issue. The answer is yes and no, depending on the pre-arranged guidelines governing the internship. The following suggestions may help you decide what’s appropriate in your organization.
- Check the internship guidelines to see if a survey is listed as one of the methods to assess the intern’s performance. If so, yes, you have clear permission to survey the staff for its opinion. However, your organization may want to have the same ground rules for the rest of the staff, so the intern doesn’t feel singled out. How are the staff members evaluated?
- If the survey is not described in written materials before the internship begins, then the answer is, in most cases, no. If you bring it up as an afterthought, the intern will be suspicious and think you are checking up on him/her. You might want to ask the department head or intern supervisor for his/her opinion before you make any decision.
- The staff may or may not like to be involved in such a survey. Some members might find they don’t have the time to do a survey or that it’s a waste of their valuable time. Others might feel that they don’t know the intern well enough to participate in the survey. If you have several interns in the company or in the department, the staff may feel overwhelmed by the survey assignments, especially if they haven’t worked closely with the intern.
- A word of caution: If you do a survey, you don’t have any guarantee that the results will be an accurate reading of the intern’s performance unless you customize each survey to relate to each intern’s assignment. Before you come to a decision, talk to the intern’s school to find out if staff surveys are the usual procedure or if they are frowned on by the career center. Then, proceed accordingly.
by the Intern Coach
A. You’ve timed your question perfectly. Inc. magazine just published an excellent piece, “How to Manage Interns.” (April 22, 2010). The article is loaded with great tips to help you structure your program to everyone’s advantage. The author writes that companies should first consider what internships can do for them, such as evaluate an intern as a potential employee. Also, the company can use internships as marketing tools to develop and promote its brand among potential employees, consumers, and the local community. Among the many helpful suggestions are the following:
- Offer interns practical work experience that matches their academic interests. Supplement their assignments with a speakers’ series or introduce them to colleagues in your industry, who might provide a continuing network after their internships.
- Select a company mentor or point person who can answer intern questions and resolve any issues. Encourage interns to move around the company, meeting various professionals, learning about the corporate culture, and developing new skill sets from numerous “teachers.”
- Estimate how much time the company will spend on training and advising the intern. Before the intern begins, ensure that he/she is willing to commit a certain number of hours a week to the internship, whether onsite or remotely.
- Be aware of generational conflict that could arise if most of your employees are of middle age. Having young people in the office may create tension, especially in use of social media and technology, and in terms of appropriate dress and behavior.
- Avoid legal snafus is one of the best pieces of advice in the Inc. article. Unpaid internships must meet several criteria, including focusing on the value to the intern and offering relevant educational training.