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Teaching the Next Generation: Why and how to build a successful internship program

A solid internship program is a great addition to any organization, so if you’re not working with interns already, it may be time to consider restructuring your team to include new talent.

Bringing on interns not only allows you to delegate some of your day-to-day tasks, but it also allows you to play a direct role in the development of the industry’s next generation of professionals. Interns are often fresh in the workforce with lots of aspirations, so they bring a unique perspective and eagerness to the mix while also helping you to balance your workload and save some time. They can be a great addition to the team if you’re in a place where you need more help but can’t quite take on a new employee.

If you’re convinced that an internship program is a step in the right direction, you’ll need to take time to map out the program before launching it. Aim to have procedures, policies, and responsibilities set in place before announcing the launch of the internship program—this way, when the right person comes knocking, everything will be set to go.

Follow the rules

Following the Department of Labor’s guidelines write up a job description that outlines the position’s responsibilities so the expectations are clear. Determine whether the internship can be paid versus unpaid, also based on the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (see paragraph three for the Six Criteria link). Oftentimes, young professionals are eager to get their hands dirty in the design side of the events industry but you’ll need to be upfront that having an event-related career comes with a lot of administrative work as well.

When you’re ready to take the leap, go into the hiring process with a pre-established list of ideal candidate qualities. For example, if you value a self-starter, be sure to include some interview questions that will tell you about their work ethic. Keep your company culture in mind and select only those who will truly fit your brand.

Reach out to local universities and let your industry buddies know about your new internship program. Referrals are invaluable so if a trusted confidante sends someone your way, that candidate may be a better fit than someone who is simply applying to apply. Be straightforward during the interview process—it’s better to have the expectations out there from the very beginning.

Getting to know you

After you’ve handpicked the very best intern(s), it’s time to really get to know them. Although they may not be permanent additions to the team, they will still be your support system so it’s important for them to understand you and vice versa. Observe them and get to know their strengths and weaknesses. While it’s imperative to leverage their strengths, it’s just as key to help hone their weaknesses to help them prepare for the working world. Remember that an internship should be a win-win situation. They should get just as much out of it as you do, so consider it a teaching experience. This means being there to answer questions, helping them through certain things and checking in regularly to provide feedback.

Treat them with respect and communicate expectations with them so they’re aware of how to meet set standards. With benchmarks in place, it makes it simpler to wrap up at the end of the internship since you’ll be able to easily evaluate their performance. At the same time, you should also ask what they learned along the way and how you could’ve improved the internship. That way, you’ll know how you can be better in the future, too.

Last but not least, stay in touch. Even after an intern has left, follow up with them to see how they’re doing and offer to be a reference if were happy with their performance. It never hurts to keep your network close!

 

Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui. She is also the creator of The Tailored Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners to grow and improve upon their skills.