More than Coffee Runners: Benefits of Interns

It’s that time of the year again – interns. The funny thing about intern programs is that it’s similar to Hallmark holiday planning – it never ends. This year, I’m co-chairing our office’s internship program. From recruitment to program planning to interviews – it’s a little overwhelming, stressful but oh-so rewarding. Interns bring with them new energy, a yearning to learn, and sometimes a naivety that helps bitter professionals (you know who you are) remember when there were no boundaries.

In a recent Bnet article, Robin Richards, CEO of Internships.com said, “Internships are valuable because they are a powerful means of expanding your social network. Personal connections and relationships are the easiest means to get you on the inside track for employment. With 7 out of 10 internships resulting in employment offers, we can clearly see a strong correlation between personal connections and success in employment.”

I agree with Robin 110%. My first internship is what lead me to my second internship, which landed me my first job – my dream job. So as I reflect on my previous internships and about our new group of incoming interns later this summer, I wanted to share my top 5 reasons internships are beneficial to us as professionals and to organizations as a whole.

1. On the job training … For managers: Interns provide first-time managers a chance to learn how to manage someone’s time, work through personal and personnel challenges and share both positive feedback and constructive criticism. This is a great role for middle managers who may not have direct reports to be better professionals. A successful internship program is one that utilizes the strengths of their interns, and helps the interns explore new skill sets. Interns walk away with a wider network and tangible work experience.

2. Expanding your network – interns and employees: Planning a comprehensive program requires people from different departments. An internship program involves every aspect of the organization and enables people who may not get to work together to plan and execute a collaborative project. For example, I’m co-chairing our program with a co-worker I attended one meeting with a year and a half. For interns, expanding their network is the most important thing they can do. My CORO internship opened up my doors to governmental affairs, non-profit, labor unions, media and communications and business. I continually run into people who were a part of the program or know of the program. It even connected me to my first job. Just one day of presentations, a solid introduction and a follow-up helped me get my foot in the door. You never know when you’ll meet someone who will help you 2,3,5,10 years from now. Every connection counts.

3. Recruitment: Internship programs are a great way to generate awareness and exposure for your company. When launching a program, there’s a lot of promotion that comes into it. From career fair booths, brochures, websites and the wonder of word-of-mouth marketing, internship programs generate awareness for your company and the great work you do.

4. Leadership visibility: I don’t mean coffee runs for your VPs or EVPs. Many times (all the time), our organization’s leaders are slammed. Running from meeting to meeting, and airport to airport. Finding time for our top execs to meet with interns can be time consuming. It’s what they walk away with that is the benefit. One hour to share ideas and remember why they created the organization is inspiring. And interns who have the opportunity to meet with C-suite folks helps them grow as professionals, build a stronger network, and ask questions from our seasoned and influential leaders.

5. Innovation: It’s common for us to get in a rut. New people bring new ideas and push us to learn that “we’ve always done it this way” is not going to pass for an adequate answer. When we talk about bright eyed interns, we say it with a little envy. The truth is – it’s that spark and energy that got us all where we are today. It’s what brings us into work in the morning – and why we are always looking for something new to learn! Interns are a reminder of that feeling – and it’s a reminder for us that we all have it, even if some of us think we might have lost it along the way. Trust me, you haven’t.

And although it’s not a number, it ranks high in each and every one of our key learnings – interns bring fun! Do you have an internship program at your organization or been in a great program yourself? Tell us about what you see the benefits are.

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Posted on April 4, 2011, in Leadership/Management, Personal, Professional, Public Relations and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. Great post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  2. After college I had a couple of intern jobs- and I have to say- they were invaluable in terms of experience and contacts etc. Excellent post about intern programs.

  3. I’ve directed a service learning program for our state university’s writing program–an amazing expereince. Your recommendations rock!

    Congrats on FP-ed! And hang on for the ride————-

    Kathy

  4. I agree and I hope it works for my son and daughter who are both in college and have had summer internships. congrats on freshly pressed status.

  5. Haha,.. i thinks it’s about coffee.
    but your writting still very iteresting.
    nice info.
    sharing unique information, please visit my blog:

    http://luwakcoffe.wordpress.com/luwak-coffee-unique-history/

  6. This is really interesting to see the benefits of an internship program for employers. I’m just about the graduate from university and I have done several internships in my life. (I think eight at this point). While I think they’re great opportunities, I think the statistic of 7 out of 10 internships leading to a job are far too optimistic for the current job market. Most of the places I worked had a hiring-freeze in place or were laying people off.

  7. I like what you say here: “Interns bring with them new energy, a yearning to learn, and sometimes a naivety that helps bitter professionals…”

    That is so true. I think many of those professionals have forgotten where they came from and become easily threatened by new faces. Graduates need a chance to get in the game, too.

  8. I am a journalist, but finishing my M.Ed. in counseling/human development and while working full time I am also interning. I haven’t made any coffee runs and have found that what I do is just as difficult/challenging as the people who are employed by the place. I am interning in a partial hospital for emotionally disturbed children and I am learning so much. Soon I will be heading over to work with alcohol and drug clients and my site expects that we do more than be whipped around by others there. Thanks for this post!

  9. Very informative read! I actively recruit for a company that utilizes those 5 beneficial tactics to help build a stronger diverse comapny.

  10. It sounds like your program would be loved by any intern. Before jumping into the salaried workforce, I worked 4 separate internships. Having them of my resume: Helpful. Actually working them: Practically Worthless. Most of the internships in my area don’t take advantage of those workers’ skill sets. It was incredibly frustrating to try to be useful over and over, but only ever get ‘file this, call them, print & compile those’.

  11. becariosalpoder

    Hey Laura, loved this post about interns. We’re working hard at KeyIntern to create an Internship Culture in Barcelona (and by extension Spain)and opinions like these are key to spreading the word so we’re referring you for sure! Our WP blog: becariosalpoder & we post in both English and Spanish. Thnx!
    Cristina

  12. Great blog! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  13. Congrats on the Freshly Pressed. I realize that internship programs are a lot of work and having some one who is completely green on the team can be rough at times. I was fortunate to be an intern in an office where people really made the effort to give me opportunities and meaningful work. I benefited hugely from the experience and only hope I offset some of my coworkers burdens.

  14. nice sharing .. keep it up

  15. Thanks for the tips, the company i work for are running our first internship program and although it got off to a rocky start your insight here have given me some great new ideas.

    Thanks!

  16. Hey Laura, I’m soon to interviewing and hiring a new intern to work directly for me, which is a totally new experience for me, so definietly agree with your first point, in that while they’ll be gaining valuable experience, so will I.

    Great read.Thanks

    Ben

  17. since I am planning on being an intern one day, this helped alot. It’s cool to see that interns arent just brainless dummies running around on coffee errands. Nice post!

  18. Soe of us have great memories of our internships – people genuinely enjoy mentoring young people. Nice blog.

  19. Wonderful post! I’m getting ready to graduate college and my internship has done wonders for me in regards to prep for the real world and grad school. Congrats on being FP! 🙂

  20. I’ve worked a couple of intern roles. One at a non-profit; one at a magazine publisher. I think like Olive mentioned they were good to have on the CV but since they really didn’t go over 4 months duration each, I don’t think either internship
    ever assisted me to land a job. I think it works better for people who do commerce and complete an internship in their penultimate year. If you do something like intern with a publisher, it’s more of a luck of the draw thing.

  21. Hey, I just found your site through fresh press. Congratulations. I really appreciated reading this post. I think it is definitely worthy of the “fresh” adjective.

  22. Good work!
    would definitely help many interns, but every intern must know, never ever reveal your intention of job when you go on to get an internship, you might be surprised when people reject you even though a viable candidate.

  23. I agree with your feedback on interns and internships! If it won’t trouble you, could you suggest reading material on Branding in Digital Era and on Branding and Social Media? I am working on a presentation and gathering some feedback and information. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  24. Good post. Valid and helpful.

  25. Great post.Straight forward and poiting out benefits.Good PR skills :).

  26. Nice post. You can really gain more on intern. Congrats for being in freshly pressed.

  27. Actually big organizations (like MSFT,Motorola) when they do mass hiring for interns, some departments end up getting interns when they don’t need them and invariably the interns end up being coffee runners. But i agree that internships eventually lead up to permanent jobs. It would be great if the article touched upon voluntary/unpaid internships a bit (like the pros and cons)

  28. Yeah. I totally agreed with you on having internship. Certainly internship helps to brush up my resume as well, I had 4 internship opportunities while I was in University and it certainly created an added advantage for me in looking for my first job.

  29. Great to read such a positive article and I totally agree with that “fresh different way of looking at things benefit” to get us all out of a rut. Nice one.

  30. A very timely post for me! Our department is in the early stages of developing a full-fledged Internship program. It’s nice to see that the benefits you cite here are the same as those we use to support our Internship Program for Senior Management.
    Thanks!

  31. It’s like reading a page from a college self-help magazine! haha congrats! 🙂

  32. I am a journalist, but finishing my M.Ed. in counseling/human development and while working full time I am also interning. I haven’t made any coffee runs and have found that what I do is just as difficult/challenging as the people who are employed by the place. I am interning in a partial hospital for emotionally disturbed children and I am learning so much. Soon I will be heading over to work with alcohol and drug clients and my site expects that we do more than be whipped around by others there. Thanks for this post!

  33. I like what you say here: “Interns bring with them new energy, a yearning to learn, and sometimes a naivety that helps bitter professionals…”

    That is so true. I think many of those professionals have forgotten where they came from and become easily threatened by new faces. Graduates need a chance to get in the game, too.

  34. Actually big organizations (like MSFT,Motorola) when they do mass hiring for interns, some departments end up getting interns when they don’t need them and invariably the interns end up being coffee runners. But i agree that internships eventually lead up to permanent jobs. It would be great if the article touched upon voluntary/unpaid internships a bit (like the pros and cons)

  35. I am losing my intern at the end of the week 😦 but there are always more! I remember what it was like being an intern and you’re right about everything. I actually got hired by the company I interned for and my company usually hires at least two or three interns a year so it’s a great way to get on the job training and potentially a future job.

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