Why a bird’s eye view of the workplace is a greater starter for the young professional: 6 tips for making internships meaningful

What really makes education matter so much?

Most would opine that the overarching impact of education is to offer an individual the chance to find his/her true calling, determine one’s purpose in life, and channel the same into a fruitful and lasting professional career.

While classrooms and lecture sessions can make a difference – and are highly needed – the true test of any idea is in its execution. This is a real differentiator, changing the game for any new entrant, offering an understanding of how people work, and what actually happens out there.

This is why internships are so important, and are now a given for a well-rounded curriculum. Today, internships vary from stipend-driven to a larger, learning & experiential space, equipping young professionals with the know-how and skills-sets vital for a successful entry into the working world.

So what makes an internship a genuinely value-driving initiative? Is there a specific set of key elements, HR teams and other senior managers or divisional heads must keep in mind, while architecting an internship program?

Let’s begin by discussing what an internship should ideally achieve for the candidate:

1. The application of classroom learning in outside environments

To begin with, as mentioned, students can apply their learnings and approaches, or models for thought and interpretation, in the real world. This helps to garner new experiences, assess the market and other relevant factors, and realize what works and what doesn’t. This industry-specific knowledge and technical evaluation of the thoughts and notions studied at college (or elsewhere), could massively cultivate a candidate’s expertise.

2. The ability to gain wider exposure in one’s own area of work

For many students, it’s tough to ascertain where they’d truly belong and what would work for them. This would require the need to exit the classroom, and test the waters – as it were – gaining a sense of their field of interest and all it entails.

Internships are a great way to action the above, helping students/new entrants get a feel of their chosen profession, go through its highs and lows with minimal risk, and ultimately make up their minds.

 

3. The development of critical networking connections

Work happens through the people one meets, the connections made, and its future ramifications.

An internship is a smart way to make inroads into one’s professional area, learn new things, meet new people, study their ways of working, and develop a network that could bear fruits, at a later time.

4. The creation of a well articulated resume

With internships, comes work experience and a more nuanced resume. Students can carry out one or more internships, gather the experience certificates or certifications, if any – thereby building a solid work profile, which could he/she send out during interviews and recruitment drives.

Now, for HR leads and teams, it’s important to create a detailed internship plan, that renders the tenure into something of real value. Too often, interns are merely made to sit around, work on iterative or irrelevant tasks, and not really imbibe any of the real factors at play, in the workplace.

This is detrimental both to the candidate – who simply passes through, with little to show for the time spent – and for the company, which fails to create a talent pool that can eventually drive tomorrow’s business agendas.

Here are 6 things to remember when envisioning an internship program:

  1. Define a clear project-based pathway:An internship shouldn’t be built on merely hanging around the office premises; this will hardly make any difference, and the time spent in the program will have been wasted. A defined and pre-determined project, with clear tasks, goals, targets, assessments, and a final evaluation will help to keep the candidate focused and enthused to push forwards, and assimilate real learning.
  2. Identify a robust metric for measurement:Once the project has been actioned, and the candidate has been inducted, it is important to create a numbering/monitoring & measurement yardstick. This will help set realistic goals, keep an eye on performance, and finally review the candidate’s capability, and delivery quality.
  3. Connect and converse with the intern, regularly:Sometimes , interns are assigned a task – and then left to their own devices, with minimal interaction. This has a negative effect, and doesn’t help his/her cause. The assigned manager, the HR designate, and other collaborators must consistently check on the candidate, watching how he/she copes with the task, offer assistance if needed, and keep a steady communication channel going.
  4. Explain how the business operates:Even as the intern works on a particular project, it is prudent to take him/her through the entire business blueprint – detailing what the company does, its industry, competitors, market factors, and its product/service lines. This will set the tone, and contextualize the project, the intern is working on.
  5. Prepare the candidate for the road ahead:While the intern is working on the project, HR teams and reporting managers, must continuously speak with the candidate, sharing current trends, talking about future roles – both inside the company, and other external possibilities – thereby, inspiring the applicant to work harder, and derive real insights from the program.
  6. Share regular feedback:Possibly, the most vital of all of the six ideas shared, feedback and performance reviews are crucial to the intern’s growth-path. This would help him/her fine-tune approach to work, better assess what needs to be done, and ensure engagement and morale is at an optimum.

That’s it then. With these six cogs or value-adds, one can shape a truly successful internship plan. We must remember that an intern requires a degree of hand-holding, and sensible management, and will, at the end of the session, become valued future resources  and brand ambassadors for the company. So prepare well, manage with wisdom, and a certain sensitivity!

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