Internship Best Practices

Posted by IFMA April 20, 2017

 

IFMA Education Foundation Internship – A Look into the Process Review

Meaningful Work Assignments

Interns want to be treated as employees and prefer to receive both short term and long term assignments. Long term assignments are a good way to ensure that the intern always has something to keep them busy and productive, especially when the supervisor is not available.

Orientation

Students want to know everything they can about an organization prior to starting the actual work. They are interested in things like: co-workers, working conditions, organizational chart, working hours, the mission of the organization, where to get technical assistance, employer expectations, dress code, tour of the facility, emergency procedures, company policies, schedule of work for duration of program, opportunities to network, offer of employment rates for past interns, customers of the organization and project timeframes.

Supervision

Students seek supervisors who are available, can answer questions, and who treat them professionally and respectfully.

Market to Employees and Colleges

The most common way that students learn about internships is by networking with family, friends, faculty and college alumni. A good strategy is to alert employees to your internship program as well as listing it on the College Board website.

Interview and Selection Process

Best practice is to create a very relaxed environment for the interview. Greet the candidate and have a casual conversation before actually starting the interview. When you begin to ask questions, do so in a calm voice. This comfortable environment and style of asking questions and should help the candidate to feel more comfortable, often resulting in better dialogue.

Compensation

Recommends that all employers offer some form of compensation. College credit is awarded by the student's college or university, not by the employer. Interns provide a valuable contribution to organizations and many organizations are beginning to recognize the value of developing strong internship programs. Internships offer a win-win situation for both the organization and the student while providing the organization with talented students who offer new knowledge and skills to the workforce.

Many employers often use their internship programs as a testing ground for hiring future full-time employees after graduation. The benefit is that employers are able to see first-hand what the intern has to offer should they be hired on full-time. Hiring interns has proven to be a much more effective hiring tool than the regular normal interviewing process.

If you are thinking of developing an internship program in your organization, here are some tips to follow to ensure that your program is a success:

  • Gain Management Support: Getting a commitment from the management team will help ensure that the organization will be able to focus the time, energy, supervisory and financial resources (if applicable) to developing a strong internship program.
  • Define Specific Eligibility Requirements: Determine eligibility requirements for all interns, including: currently enrolled college students, GPA, preferred/required major(s), specific skills and experience.
  • Maintain a Strong Working Relationships with Colleges: Developing relationships with career counselors at various colleges will help to promote your internship program as well as helping to find out what college students are looking for in an internship experience.
  • Define Internship Benefits as well as any Housing/Transportation/Food Stipends Available to Interns: Determine if the internship will be paid (salary recommendations based on entry-level positions in the field). Some organizations offer unpaid internships but require students do the internship for credit (which can add additional college tuition costs to the student doing an internship for the summer). Depending on the organization, many organizations offer housing and/or transportation stipends for both paid and unpaid internships.
  • Develop an Orientation Program for New Interns: Provide an orientation to acclimate students to the organization's policies and practices.
  • Provide Training, Supervision and Mentoring to all Students: Provide adequate staff to train and supervise students as well as assigning a mentor to guide students through the internship experience.
  • Provide Opportunities for Students to Learn: Create quality and meaningful work assignments designed to help students learn and gain knowledge in the field.
  • Develop Detailed Job Descriptions: Provide students with a detailed written job description outlining tasks and responsibilities of the internship.
  • Provide Students with Ongoing Feedback: Offer consistent feedback throughout the internship and provide students ample opportunity to provide feedback to immediate supervisors. 
  • Establish Guidelines for Turning Interns into Full-Time Employees: Oftentimes organizations will extend full-time job offers to students after graduation and may use internship programs specifically as a hiring tool for selecting new employees.

Employers are Recognizing the Value

Although there are still a large number of unpaid internships, many organizations are recognizing the true value of having highly educated and professional students fill their temporary hiring needs. Another benefit is that companies get to try out these "temporary employees" for a brief period of time with no commitment; but if they turn out to be motivated star players within the organization, they have the chance to offer them full-time employment once their "trial" period is completed. Having interns come in for brief periods of time offers employers huge benefits in meeting their future hiring needs. Employers not only learn the interns' aptitudes and abilities but are assured that the intern really knows what they are getting into since they've become familiar with both the work involved and the business environment. This ultimately means higher employee retention in new employees and less employee turnover for employers.

Attracting the Most Talented Students

When it comes to paid or unpaid internships, employers have an opportunity to attract talented students by offering a salary or monthly stipend. It has been said, if a student sees two internships that are basically the same, yet one is paid and one is not, it's no secret that they'll go after the paid one. Cash is an incentive for interns to do a better job.

Creating Equal Opportunities for Students

Paying interns also assures an employer that they are not overlooking successful students who can't afford to work for nothing or pay for college credits to complete an internship during the summer. Many employers require students to receive credit for the internship in lieu of pay, to justify that the student is receiving some type of benefit for doing the internship. The problem with this is that many students cannot afford to pay for college credit if they are not paid for the internship. Students doing internships during fall or spring semester can usually roll their internship in with their college tuition; but if they do an internship during the summer, they have to pay the college a per credit hour fee. At some colleges they have initiated transcript notations as a way to show their commitment in honoring the value of an internship experience without requiring the student to pay any college fees. Transcript notations can be used when an internship does not qualify for credit or if students elect not to do the internship for credit due to academic requirements or additional tuition costs required by the college.

Colleges Offering Funding

Recently more and more colleges are putting together programs that offer students a stipend or provide funds for those doing unpaid internships for the summer. This is a great incentive for students to get experience in the nonprofit sector while being able to make some money to help with their living and college expenses. Some colleges offer alumni the opportunity to fund internships and this provides a win-win situation for the student, the alumni, and the college. Alumni get the chance to assist students from their alma mater (perhaps even offering a fund in their name), the college gets good press for helping students get relevant work experience prior to graduation, and students gain the knowledge and skills they need when entering the job market that will put them on par or ahead of the competition.

The Future of Paid Internships

We are going to see more employers willing to pay their interns a salary as internships become more of an integral part of the employee hiring process; as well as more colleges who are willing to provide some form of compensation to offset the amount students are required to pay for receiving credit. These changes will provide more equality for students who have been unable to accept unpaid internships or for those who’s employers require that they receive credit in order to do an internship.

IFMA Intern Benefits

SPECIAL NOTE: Bring an intern for FREE with each paid registration to our Foodservice Fundamentals training & Marketing & Sales Leaders Forum.

Contact Becky Conroy at becky@ifmaworld.com for full details on bringing an intern to Foodservice Fundamentals.

Contact Laura Everly at laura@ifmaworld.com for full details on bringing an intern to Marketing & Sales Leaders Forum.

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