Managing Internship Programs

The Importance Of Managing Internship Programs Right

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What happens when a manager leaves mid-internship? Not a lot, if there’s no one to replace them. 

My first internship was with a commercial leasing company outside of Philadelphia. My particular role was mostly market research, data scrubbing, and credit analysis. I was not assigned a summer-long project, and there was no framework for evaluation.

I didn’t mind that so much since I was a rising junior and wasn’t looking for a full-time job offer. Besides, I enjoyed working with the group head, a Wharton MBA who I was learning a lot from. We went to the same college and he gave very frank assessments of various deals and the business.

Intern Without A Cause

All my work came from only one person, and Murphy’s Law kicked in after I’d been on the job for a few weeks. My boss’s wife became ill and he spent about two months working mostly from home to be with her. (She fully recovered.)

After the initial scare passed, my boss’s focus wasn’t really focused on the intern hanging around the office. I made some token efforts to find other work to do, but soon realized everyone thought I was a full-time employee. This was very flattering, but the unintended side effect was that no one knew I had no one managing me, so I was left to my own devices.

In the end, I didn’t get nearly as much out of the internship as I could have.

I read a lot of online news, played solitaire, and explored the various routes to the office cafeteria. Eventually, I just started leaving earlier and earlier each day. I didn’t get nearly as much out of the internship as I could have, and neither did my employer.

This experience left me with one very powerful lesson for anyone designing an intern program.

If each intern is assigned to a direct manager, always have a backup!

Why Managing Internship Programs Matter

Having a system can be very efficient because it makes it easier interns to get trained and begin completing work. If you’re allocating interns to group heads or other middle management types, be sure to have a backup manager lined up in case an intern’s primary manager cannot fulfill that role for whatever reason.

A reporting structure will ensure that each intern has a positive experience, encouraging them to accept a full-time offer, and help to keep all interns working productively.

A reporting structure will ensure that each intern has a positive experience.

As much as I loved counting steps on the way to the cafeteria during the summer, having some sort of redundancy built into my internship would have helped me get so much more done. Who knows, I might have kept coming back and worked there following graduation if had things gone differently.

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