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Janet Boston - 5/27/2014

Internships, at their best, function as a two-way street. In exchange for an employer providing a student with real-world working experience, the intern brings new energy, increased productivity, diverse knowledge and perspective, and much more.

We hear constantly from employers that they couldn’t keep up their level of productivity and quality of work without the help of interns. We have countless anecdotes of interns who went above and beyond, who saved the company money, who developed more efficient processes, who completed an important project that far surpassed expectations …

And the national conversion rate for turning interns into full-time hires is 48.4%, according to NACE's 2013 Internship & Co-op Survey.

There is no better testament to the value of internships than that. That is the true ROI.

The Indiana Senate, one of our 2014 IMPACT Awards Employers of the Year, lives the value of internships every day – 88% of its current legislative team is staffed with former Senate interns! Jen Carlton, majority staff director, explains that supervisors put in the time and effort to enable their interns to develop and contribute meaningful work.

“Our program includes extensive training and ongoing professional development,” Carlton notes. “The intention, beginning with orientation, is to provide the interns with the knowledge and resources necessary to be successful and enjoy an optimum learning experience.”

Whether you’re looking for short-term return during the internship timeframe only, or your internship program is a recruiting mechanism for your company, preparation and active support for your intern are the keys to a successful internship. As the summer internship season is upon us and you’re likely gearing up for new faces in your workplace, here are three ways to make sure you too experience the full benefits of working with an intern.

1) Create a detailed work plan
Compiling a list of your organization’s needs will help you develop your intern’s responsibilities and project work. Internships flow more smoothly when your intern has clear direction and a good grasp on what is expected. A packet detailing expectations, projects, deadlines and other relevant information will keep you and your intern on track. As part of this planning, make sure you also set an end date for the internship.

Keep in mind that students participate in internships to gain experience in their chosen fields. While administrative tasks need not be excluded, the majority of their work should be meaningful with real-world significance.

You can find additional best practices for intern objectives and work plans in our publication, Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow: The Indiana Employer’s Guide to Internships. An electronic copy is available for free download on 

2) Immerse your intern(s) into the company and culture
The best way to get your intern engaged is to expose them to as many aspects of the company as possible and involve them in the day-to-day dynamics.

ExactTarget, a two-time IMPACT Awards Employer of the Year, is a master at this. The Slingshot internship program is part of its recruitment efforts, and the company strives for a high level of engagement to maximize the quality of interns’ output. Throughout the 11 weeks, the “Orange” culture is a central piece of Slingshot interns’ experiences.

“We get our Slingshots out into the Indianapolis community and provide lots of philanthropy opportunities, because giving back is a big part of our ‘Orange’ culture. We give them visibility to our executives through ‘lunch-n-learns,’ as well as visibility to other roles in our organization through job shadow opportunities,” outlines Theresa Koch, global recruiting partner.

“We encourage our Slingshots to stretch themselves and reach beyond their projects to see where else they can make an impact. Ultimately, we look at our Slingshots as potential full-time employees who are making a business impact and will leave as ‘Orange’ ambassadors.”

3) Provide quality feedback
Feedback helps your intern learn. Tell them what they are doing well, and make sure they have opportunities to continue honing those skills. Also explain where they could use improvement, and help them understand the relevance of these skills through the internship and into their career.

Throughout the Senate internship, Carlton said interns are supported with regular meetings with program supervisors to discuss the interns’ questions, as well as provide feedback on the interns’ work performance. At the conclusion of the Senate internship, each intern may opt to have an exit interview to discuss the experience as well as gain practical support, such as recommendation letters or direct assistance with job placement.

The more thoroughly you communicate with your intern on your needs and their performance, the better they can help you. And you’re helping them in the long run.

To register for our free service, visit, or call (317) 264-6862 to speak with our staff about your internship program.