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What makes an internship valuable?

This question can be posed from both sides of the internship relationship - the employee and the employer.  The answer is the same for both - an internship is valuable when it's result is a win-win for both parties.  As a student/employee you will want to produce work that contributes to the company while learning new skills and/or building upon existing ones.  As the employer, you want to have results from the employee that help your projects and overall goals while also developing a potential pipeline.

Here are some ways for employers to build internship programs that will result in the ultimate win-win:

  • Offer paid and unpaid internships. Paid internships are important for students to have during the summer and typically will be several hours a week since they aren't in school. Unpaid internships can be effective during the school year and should have part-time hours because the students will also be juggling school and extracurricular activities.
  • Plan the intern's work and offer varied tasks. Having a student show up without a plan for their day will result in frustration on both sides. Create a work plan with goals, timelines, and check in meetings so everyone can stay on track and consistently communicate changes.
  • Assign a mentor for each intern. Even if you have multiple interns in one department, each person should have an employee that will be their point of contact to ask questions, offer ideas, and get feedback from. There should be weekly communication with the intern to assess progress on work and address any concerns.
  • Determine strengths and potential long-term fit. As the intern learns about the company culture and begins to produce work, employers should be identifying what their pipeline needs are and how the intern could fill future positions.
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