Keep Interns Engaged

July 26, 2008 by  

It’s been a tough summer for my internship program. We rolled into June with three college students who were interested in spending up to 10-15 hours a week as an unpaid intern with my web development company. After having lost touch with our most promising guy, we’re down to zero interns.

A spate of bad luck? Yes. Could we have managed our interns better? No doubt. You could say we got what we paid for. But I’m not buying it.

I’m personally frustrated because after directly overseeing two successful internships last summer, I stepped back and let someone else run with it this time. After all, the interns were directly reporting to that person anyway.

Bottom line: We didn’t do enough to keep our interns engaged. It’s a lesson learned.

What was different from a year ago? Well, last summer:

+ We set office hours on a week-to-week basis. Be versatile, but insist on getting your intern in the office at least once a week. Rising gas prices probably hurt us more this time around.

+ We gave them general tasks at first, even if it had nothing to do with the skill they were interesting in learning. That way, when they did get to do work related to their field, it was as much a reward as anything. They appreciated the opportunity more.

+ Talk to your intern. Make sure they are satisfied with the general experience. To be fair, one of our interns jumped ship to take a full-time job (related to but not directly tied to his skill set) with benefits.

+ Dangle a carrot. Offer a cash bonus at the successful conclusion of the internship. Or better yet, the possibility of a part-time job.

I’m headed to a job fair this week. The goal is to land another intern or two. I’ll be thinking about our hits and misses from the last year and ways I can personally improve the intern experience. And I’ll take more of a leading role in keeping our interns engaged.

Unpaid and inexperienced they may be, but for a small firm like mine, interns are a godsend.

Blog originally posted at LI


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