Developing Internships

Internships can be of great benefit to host employers and students. Interns bring to organizations innovation and insight, assistance for temporary or seasonal projects, and the potential to be valued future employees. In fact, over 51 percent of eligible interns remain or return to host employers’ workforce. (NACE, National Association of Colleges and Employers). Below you’ll find tips on creating a successful internship and ways to connect with local universities and community colleges.

Starting an Internship Program

What does your organization hope to achieve from the program?

  • Are you a small organization searching for additional help on a project?
  • Is your organization growing quickly and having difficulty finding motivated new employees?
  • Are you a nonprofit that doesn’t have a lot of money to pay, but can provide an interesting and rewarding experience?
  • Does your organization want to identify potential sources of future talent and try out potential future employees?

A careful discussion with management can create a consensus on program goals that can be understood by all involved. The program and internship can be designed to best meet those expectations. As many staffing professionals know, in order for a program to be successful, it will require the commitment of management.

Carefully plan and write out your internship program and goals. Draft a position description that clearly explains the job duties and includes learning outcomes/goals. Do you want someone for a specific project? What about general support around the workplace? How about giving the intern a taste of everything your company does? Structure the internship ahead of time so that you can be sure to meet your goals and not find yourself floundering partway through. Things to consider:

  • How much will you pay the intern?
  • Where will you put the intern?
  • What sort of academic background and experience do you want in an intern?
  • Who will have the primary responsibility for the intern?
  • What will the intern be doing?
  • Do you want to plan a program beyond the work you give your interns?

How will you find those ideal candidates to fill your internship position(s)? The number one tip from those who have established programs is to get out there early! This cannot be overemphasized to organizations that want the very best interns. Begin searching three to four months before you need a student to begin. Some industries have even more advanced timelines; summer supply chain interns are typically hired by November. Starting early has other advantages: the longer you accept applications, the better your chance of finding the best person for the job. The sooner you get one, the longer you have to form a good working relationship with the intern.

Once you’ve hired a worker, you put them to work, right? That’s true for interns as well as regular employees, but with an intern, you’ll be making an important first impression. The beginning days of the internship program are often its defining days. When you give them their first tasks, you’re signaling what can be expected in the future. If you give them nothing or very little to do, it sends a message that this job will be easy — and boring. Interns don’t want that; of course, neither do employers. The organization of your internship program will probably be the single most important influence on an intern’s
impression of your organization, and thus the chances that he or she will come back. So how do you “plan for success”? Consider the goals of your program. The nature of the program and the activities that you choose to undertake should directly relate to your program goals.

Remember those goals you outlined before? A few weeks after the internship begins, it’s time to see how well you and your intern are meeting those goals. Evaluation processes differ. Yours might be as formal as written evaluations every three weeks or as informal as occasional lunches with the internship coordinator and/or the intern’s mentor. Some companies have the intern evaluate the experience and the company as well. Again, your structure is largely up to your organization’s culture and needs. As an added bonus, these evaluations will be handy later if you decide to interview a former intern for full-time work, or to publicize how successful your program has been. Consider using the NACE Career Readiness Competencies to evaluate your student interns and employees.

Maintaining program popularity will require hard evidence that your organization is getting a return on its investment. Some organizations have adopted a process of formal exit interviews. Through this process they can determine if interns are leaving the company having had a good experience, and it provides valuable feedback to managers for program planning in the following year. In addition to qualitative measures, a number of quantitative measures should be adopted. Some common measures include the number of interns that become full-time employees; repeat requests for interns from managers; and growing numbers of intern applicants. In order to successfully measure your own program outcome, you should return to the stated program goals, and address those outcomes.

Post Your Internship Opportunities

University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee utilizes Handshake to manage their internship database.

Learn More

Pellissippi State Community College

Contact Career Services to connect with their interns.

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Roane State Community College

Roane State Community College utilizes Raider Recruit to manage their internship database.

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Lincoln Memorial University

Lincoln Memorial University utilizes their Job Bank to manage their internship database.

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King University

Contact Career Services to connect with their interns.

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South College

Contact Career Services to connect with their interns.

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Maryville College

Maryville College utilizes Handshake to manage their internship database.

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Lauren Longmire

Director of Regional Enhancement

Have questions? Contact Lauren by email or call 865-246-2615.

Thank you to the University of Tennessee for allowing adaptation of their VOL Guide to Internships. For more information, the VOL Guide to Internships will walk you through the process of creating an internship in addition to providing pertinent information about the University of Tennessee’s internship processes and procedures.

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