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Tips to Get Your Summer Interns Started on the Right Foot

Summer internships are an excellent opportunity for students and new workers to learn vital skills and gain on-the-job experience. They are also great ways for companies to engage new talent and potentially recruit them for future openings. The following tips can help your company develop a summer intern program to promote excellence.

Set Up an Orientation

Many companies need to pay more attention to this vital step in the onboarding process, which is a big mistake. A proper orientation prepares each summer intern for the work they will be completing. In addition, it is a critical chance for them to learn about rules, processes, and policies that will impact their performance. Ideally, this should be done at the start of summer internships in 2023.

Orientation is much more than a chance for new interns to learn about their roles and responsibilities. It is also an excellent opportunity for you to show them about your company, its culture, and what you have to offer.

Many companies can repurpose existing employee onboarding and orientation programs to meet the needs of summer internship programs with only minor changes. Be sure to include the following components to ensure a complete, comprehensive, and effective internship orientation program:

  • Establish expectations for summer interns

  • Introduce company policies and procedures

  • Review relevant industry terminology

  • Explain organization structure and the chain of command

Introduce Interns to the Whole Team

Many students entering summer internships do not have extensive professional work experience. As a result, they may be nervous about the upcoming experience and anxious about what is expected of them. Introducing interns to the rest of the corporate team is a great way to alleviate those concerns and get everyone on the same page.

If you cannot introduce interns to the entire staff, ensure they meet everyone on the team or teams where they will be working. This is critical to a successful program. Once initial introductions are made, pair each summer intern with a team member for the first week or two. This partnership gives them a safe place to turn for advice or simple questions.

Set Up Expectations for Them

You may know precisely what you want to be accomplished over the summer; however, interns will only deliver on those expectations if you communicate them. Therefore, you must be clear and concise when establishing expectations for behavior, productivity, and work quality.

Don't assume that interns will automatically know business etiquette. Instead, guide accepted policies from the start. For example, if your office has a dress code, provide details and examples to interns during orientation. Of course, rules go far beyond dress codes. You will need to detail policies such as:

  • The type, quantity, and quality of work you expect completed

  • Acceptable behavior in office settings

  • Company policies about social media posting or sharing of information

  • Confidentiality requirements

Remember during this process that you must also refresh expectations with your current employees. Ensure they know interns are not there to complete menial tasks; they are there as vital parts of the business structure and have valuable knowledge and skills to contribute to everyday processes. A gentle reminder that interns are only there to do some of the grunt work and get none of the glory may be in order.

Communicate Organizations Culture

Organizational culture must be discussed to build a successful summer intern program. New interns may feel out of place or unsure about behavior expectations during their time with the company.

Review what matters to the company and how that is conveyed to employees and the general public. You must also include details about inclusivity programs, such as diversity and equity initiatives, that interns should be aware of.

Ensure They Feel Supported & Know Who to Turn to

The onboarding process allows new hires to learn about your company, their roles, and how all the pieces fit together to create a positive and productive experience. Part of that is knowing where to turn when things are unclear or something takes an unexpected turn. Unfortunately, a company email list does not satisfy this requirement.

Provide each intern with a list of contacts and examples of when to use each. An organizational chart is an excellent place to start. It can show linkages between departments and staff that might otherwise not be clear to a new employee.

A successful internship program develops future leaders, helps companies recruit top new talent, and brings innovative new ideas to businesses. However, developing an internship program is not as simple as creating a job description and contacting schools. Instead, talk to an expert in experiential learning to learn more about the best ways to bring interns into your company.


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