How to manage a successful summer internship programSpring will be over before we know it, and summer internships are on many people’s minds. Internships can and should be more than just college students making copies and trying to avoid real work—a good internship program helps build your business and can potentially bring you valuable future employees. When they are executed correctly, they are highly beneficial to everyone involved.

Here are six strategies that will help you ensure your summer internship program is successful. 

1. Make them feel like a part of the team.

This is perhaps one of the most important tips to making your summer internship program a real success. Making your interns feel like a part of the team, and not just an outsider, is essential to your program being successful one. A good way to help your interns feel like a part of the group, is to ensure they have a mentor. Mentoring is one of the best ways to make sure your interns become included, and get the most out of your program.  Having a mentor for your interns doesn’t just help your interns, it also helps your employees. A mentoring program ensures that your current employees understand their own responsibilities in regards to interns. Also, it forces interactions between interns and employees that are more than just, “Please get me some coffee.”, or “I need 20 copies of this as soon as possible.”

2. Be real from day one.

Being upfront about what your company can provide for your interns is also extremely important. Interns will rightly want to know just what they can expect in terms of pay, experience, and future job opportunities. This helps to stop any hard feelings from arising at the end of the internship.  However, if you have employment opportunities available, it will let the interns know that their internship can have a real impact on their future with your company.

3. Involve interns in long-term, real-world projects.

A long-term project, preferably one that wraps up right before the end of the summer, is a great way to really involve your interns. It will help manage their time, give them a meaningful way to contribute, and add something valuable to their resumes. By giving interns more than just busy work, you will ensure both you and the interns will get the most out of the summer internship.

4. Be flexible.

Being flexible is a must-do for any internship program, especially since most interns are students with hectic schedules. Getting the best work from your interns may require you to give them a non-traditional schedule. Fortunately, most summer internships do not run into many of the scheduling conflicts that spring and fall internships do. While some interns may have summer classes, most will take the summer off from school to do exactly what you want them to do: be an intern.

5. Pay them.

You should almost always pay your interns—even if it means decreased numbers of interns or decreased hours of—so you can avoid potential lawsuits or penalties. If you can’t feasibly pay, make sure you check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s six-question test to determine if an internship can be unpaid. You can learn more about paying interns in our article, Should I Be Paying My Interns? 6 Questions to Help You Decide.

6. End on a high note.

In some ways, how the summer internship ends is almost more important than how it begins. There should be some recognition of your program coming to a close (preferably, more than just a simple handshake and recommendation letter.) There are numerous ways to close your internship program, and they don’t have to involve balloons, over the top parties, or ceremonies. Ending with a presentation or exhibit that highlights the interns’ accomplishments for the summer is an excellent approach to bring it all full circle. If big presentations are not appealing, then try exit interviews. Exit interviews let interns know what their individual strengths and weaknesses are, and they allow for some mentoring.

In Conclusion

Summer internships are a fantastic way to build rapport with potential employees and expose them to real-life work situations and projects. The above tips can help you make sure your summer interns have an outstanding experience with your company—and entice them to come back as full-fledged employees after graduation.