Below is my continued conversation with Management Maverick Chad Kopitzke. Chad oversees the internship programs at UW-Oshkosh and is a perfect example of someone living right between the two worlds of the hierarchy and the network. In this part of our discussion we talk about specific actions both organizations and individuals can take to ensure successful internship experiences for everyone involved.
**What 2-3 things do businesses need to do to ensure a successful internship experience?
Now this might seem like a no-brainer but honestly I think it’s probably the most overlooked element in most organizations.
Basically that goes all the way down to telling new interns literally when you expect them to be there to what the dress code is. What is allowed for mobile phone use to is there grunt work involved in the job. You’ve got to talk about all of it.
I like to think of it this way….
Happiness = Reality - Expectations
If you can set the expectations up front, you’ve taken care this. A lot of people miss this and things can get off track quick.
In order to get something done, you need to have someone do it. You need to hold the students accountable. That means sitting down and laying out timelines and deadlines and being clear that if they don’t do this, there will be consequences.
I’ve found that if you do this during the internship, you’re able to more effectively assess the intern as a potential candidate for later on. By holding them accountable, you’re able to more clearly evaluate them and ultimately make a more strategic decision when it comes to hiring.
Constantly providing feedback is critically important. These students are starving for it. They know they can add value, but they know they don’t know everything. They’re looking for help.
This goes for our organization at the University as well. Every step in the process of interacting with the students, we’re ask for their feedback and in turn we’re providing it back to the students.
At a bare minimum, organizations and leaders have to be providing mid-term performance reviews and exit reviews. That’s bare minimum. If you want it to be a great experience, I’d recommend a weekly check in – 15 minutes to talk about what’s working and what’s not.
**What are students most interested in when it comes to learning about internship opportunities? What do they want to know about?
Top 2 things I’ve heard from student that they’re most interested in are….
1. How they can add value to the organization 2. Company culture
If they don’t understand the culture, if they don’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll have a hard time engaging them.
**What 3 things do students need to do to ensure a successful internship experience?
1. Take Initiative
Go in and take on what you can. Don’t sit back and wait. Jump in and look for ways to get involved right away. Make an effort to understand the culture and the environment.
The best feedback we hear from leaders is when they say, “wow they’re great self-starters.” Businesses love that. Don’t be afraid to ask about projects and more responsibilities.
2. Look for Opportunities to Add Value
Our students go in to these internships with a specific job to do, but they’re being invited to meetings so they have an opportunity to hear what’s going on and what’s being worked on.
I tell interns they need to start creating a list of things they’d like to do in the company so when that list of things you are supposed to be doing dries up or gets low, you can go back to that manager that mentioned a particular project before and say, hey I’ve got ideas around that. I think I can add value there.
Companies need to be mindful of this challenge as well.
I can’t tell you how many companies that have never had a student in will say to us, we need to have a students come in all summer for 40 hours a week. They think it’s going to be a full-time job but then what happens, the intern runs out of things to do.
I tell companies all the time, you’d better have a list that is so stinking long – because we underestimate how fast the interns can get things done.
A better way to frame up a task or a role is to say, we think this thing is going to take 2 months but I ‘m not sure how quickly you’re going to get this done so let’s keep communication open and work through it as we go.
Now you have flexibility to add and subtract work as you go.
3. Provide Feedback
I tell students this is about succession planning for future interns. You want to try to help the organization make that position better for the next student.
Again this plays out inside our organization as well. The first thing I tell a new HR intern is, “I’m going to need your help.” I need your help to make this job better than you found it. You’ve got fresh eyes. You can help us make this better.
This opens the door for them to provide feedback and pushes them to be innovative.
Do your part to make that internship better – Create a checklist of things you didn’t know about that would have been helpful to know. Simple things like where to park or where to go first when you check in. Making sure you have everything you need. Put that together and then tell the company.
Talk about a way to add value that goes far beyond the individual work they were initially brought on to do.