Posts tagged ‘practical skills’
Although we’re deep in the middle of winter, many college students around the country have their sights set on warmer weather and the possibility of securing a summer internship. University career centers are already busy posting internship opportunities and scheduling employer campus interviews. Whether you’re an employer considering starting an internship program or have an established program in place, now is the time to be planning how summer interns will be best utilized by your organization. Do you know how your organization expects to leverage the energy, creativity, knowledge, and skills interns commonly bring to the workplace? And above all, and a factor often neglected by employers, is your internship program designed to produce genuine value and results to the student as well as the organization? Having managed internship programs for a university and a few organizations, the best and worst internship experiences often hinge on this last question.
For the student, the goal of an internship is to gain practical and relevant experience through the application of knowledge so far attained only in an academic setting. Whether interns are joining your organization to support an established team or tasked with a short-term project, assure that their theoretical learning is being supplemented in the role. Beyond practical experience in their core area of study, interns are also expecting to develop and apply other skills that are essential to their long-term professional success. Provide interns the opportunity to develop interpersonal, critical thinking, presentation, networking, and political acumen skills. Developing these essential career skills is just as important to their overall internship experience.
For the employer, it’s imperative to identify one or more projects where the intern can provide legitimate support or make a considerable impact. Employers might at times be reluctant to trust an intern with too much responsibility fearing that he or she will fail. On the contrary, from my experience, interns rise to the level of expectation and use their willingness to learn as an opportunity to contribute wherever they’re needed. Of course, this approach should be balanced with what an intern needs to learn in order to complete the assignment. Pinpointing the right opportunity, along with determining the appropriate amount of supervisory support, will go a long way in assuring an intern’s skills are used most effectively. Combining an intern’s specialized area of study, willingness to learn, and the right project will yield the best results where the organization most needs it.