Managing Effective Internships
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Growing organizations have high needs and low capacity. Students have high capacity and low experience. Sounds like a great fit, right?
Businesses and (especially) nonprofits appreciate free labor and college students need professional experience. In my experience as both the intern and the supervisor, internships can be a perfect match or a scarring disaster.
In this post, I hope to address both the supervisor seeking a student intern and the student seeking an internship.

First, to the organization and/or supervisor:

  1. Pull out your SWOT analysis or strategic plan. What are some areas on the back burner? What are ongoing tasks getting pushed aside? What aspects of your organization need to be readdressed with innovation and fresh eyes?
  2. Create a formal job description. This means posting the listing with local universities, accepting resumes, and completing interviews. Internships take staff time and energy. Therefore, it is important to find the ideal intern candidate for your team.
  3. Always draft up an offer letter, even if the internship is unpaid. Your offer letter should detail expectations, schedule, tasks/projects, and the supervisor overseeing the internship.
  4. Carve out (uninterrupted) time each week to check in with the student. Listen and ask questions. This is your chance to ensure expectations are met and provide coaching.
  5. Provide consistent feedback. This includes positive and negative feedback. Remember, you are shaping the student into a professional.
  6. Express your gratitude. Being a student with an internship can be stressful.

To the students seeking internships:

  1. Review your resume. What experience do you have? What experience do you want? What experience do you need? Review ideal job descriptions for ideas on what experience you need. Based on these answers, create some internship objectives (if your schooling has not already). These can be simple as: add a new marketing piece to your portfolio or gain experience with children.
  2. Research organizations providing a service you are passionate about. There are hundreds of organizations in East TN providing services from arts, animals, environmental, children, and advocacy. Your internship will be more enjoyable if you are working for a cause you are passionate about.
  3. Start contacting your organizations. Be professional, state your internship objectives, and have your resume ready. Treat the internship as a job opportunity. Many internship opportunities will turn into full time jobs or recommendations. It is so important to be professional, arrive on time, and work hard.
  4. Communicate and then communicate some more! Ask questions, ask for feedback, and ask for examples. You are there to learn and produce a product/task the organization can actually use.
  5. Hold yourself accountable and ask others for accountability. Create frameworks for accountability between you and supervisor. (Check out an example here)
  6. Express your gratitude. Your supervisor is taking time and energy to answer questions and clarify tasks. They are helping you get closer to your goal of working fulltime.

The Summit Team offers coaching services to leaders in our community covering topics like managing teams and interns. Call us at (423)283-7557 to discuss your current management needs. We have lots of resources and always love to help!


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