How to manage interns: Creating effective systems for student success in employer projects

May 9, 2024
5 mins
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Following the global pandemic, internship participation experienced a steep decline, with just 22% of students completing them in 2021. After the world adjusted, internship and experiential learning opportunities increased dramatically, with nearly three-quarters of students now participating. This shift underscores a growing appetite among students for real-world experiences that complement their academic journeys.

Businesses now face a golden opportunity to tap into this resurgence by offering internships that provide authentic, hands-on learning experiences. But connecting academic learning to practical application is no easy task. It requires a thoughtful approach to ensure internships are beneficial for both students and organizations.

In this article, we'll share key strategies for simplifying the internship management process. Our aim is to equip businesses with the tools they need to create impactful, mutually beneficial internship programs that pave the way for the next generation of professionals.


Why is it important to effectively manage interns?

When we talk about interns, we're discussing a group of bright, driven individuals (typically students or recent graduates) who are often eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work on what they're most passionate about. 

Their diverse backgrounds and fresh perspectives allow them to bring innovative ideas and solutions to the table. In fact, it is exactly this diversity of thought and experience that makes them a valuable asset to any organization.  

But here's the thing: intern management is crucial. It's about more than harnessing interns' potential for the organization's benefit. It's about creating a symbiotic relationship where both parties—the intern and the organization—stand to gain immensely.

For organizations, effective intern management leads to:

  • A dynamic, vibrant workplace.
  • Increased creativity and innovation, thanks to diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skills within teams.
  • Better decision-making and problem-solving as team members challenge each other’s assumptions and offer alternative viewpoints.
  • Identification of top talent and conversion of interns into permanent employees.
  • The development of mentorship skills throughout the organization. 

On the flip side, for the interns, effective management provides:

  • A beacon of guidance and support beyond mere task allocation.
  • A pathway for professional development with clear expectations.
  • Integration into teams for a cohesive work experience.
  • Regular feedback and meaningful engagement to foster skill enhancement.
  • Opportunities to deepen industry knowledge.
  • Chances to expand professional networks.
  • Essential groundwork for future success.

How to manage interns

Managing interns effectively is a vital component of both their professional development and the contribution they can make to your organization. Let's dive deeper into each step to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of how to implement these strategies.

1. Prepare for your internship program

Preparation starts well before the interns' first day. To lay a solid foundation, compile and share detailed information packets with incoming interns. These should cover organizational structure, key contacts, project overviews, and any logistical details like work hours and dress code. 

Equally important is preparing your existing team. Discuss the intern's role and how they can support the intern's integration. Encouraging your team to be welcoming and supportive sets a positive tone and fosters a culture of mentorship and collaboration from day one.

2. Set clear expectations

Setting clear expectations from the outset helps interns understand their role and the value they can bring to the organization. In the first week, hold a meeting to outline what you expect from the interns in terms of behavior, communication, roles, responsibilities, and objectives of the internship program or project involvement. 

Simultaneously, clarify what interns can expect from you, including learning opportunities, support, and feedback mechanisms. 

This bilateral clarity helps interns navigate their new environment confidently and understand how their contributions fit into larger organizational goals.

3. Assess their skills

Have a one-on-one conversation with each intern to discuss their skills, interests, and career aspirations. Use this information to assign tasks that align with their capabilities and push them slightly out of their comfort zones to foster growth. Tailoring tasks to interns' strengths and growth areas maximizes their engagement and productivity, ensuring a rewarding experience for both parties.

4. Orient and equip interns

Beyond a general welcome session, consider creating a mentorship program where each intern is paired with a more experienced employee. This mentor can guide the intern through the intricacies of the organization and their role within it. They will also be able to provide feedback on their performance. 

Additionally, it's important to ensure interns have all the necessary tools and access to systems from day one to avoid any unnecessary roadblocks in their work.

5. Delegate meaningful tasks that offer learning opportunities

Assign tasks that challenge interns and provide real value to your team. Projects that require critical thinking, collaboration, and real-world problem-solving will engage interns more deeply and provide a sense of accomplishment. These tasks should ideally contribute to the intern's professional portfolio and enhance their understanding of the industry.

Providing interns with meaningful work not only helps them develop valuable skills but also fosters a sense of ownership and investment in the organization's success. This, in turn, can lead to higher levels of engagement, a more positive internship experience, and a boost in innovative ideas.

6. Offer guidance, support, and feedback

Mentorship and feedback are essential for the professional growth and development of interns. Whether it is a dedicated liaison or a mentor, ensure that interns have someone who can provide guidance, support, and regular feedback on their performance. 

Encourage open communication and create opportunities for one-on-one check-ins to address any concerns or challenges the interns may be facing. Publicly recognizing accomplishments can also greatly enhance intern motivation and engagement.

7. Foster a collaborative environment 

Collaborative environments allow interns to learn more and develop essential soft skills, like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. As a result, both interns and organizations can benefit from a positive and enriching internship experience.

Ensure that your interns are integrated into the team and that they are actively involved in team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other collaborative activities. By doing so, they will feel valued, become closer to their colleagues, and gain a better understanding of the organization's operations.

8. Build lasting relationships

As the internship program concludes, discuss future opportunities, offer to stay in touch, and connect on professional networking platforms. Hosting a farewell event or debrief session can solidify these relationships and provide closure. These connections can be invaluable for both the organization's talent pipeline and the intern's professional network.

Systemize success for student interns: Automate & simplify with Riipen

Managing interns effectively requires both strategy and support. That's where Riipen steps in, revolutionizing how companies connect with and manage interns.

Riipen is a leading experiential learning platform that offers a single, user-friendly interface for overseeing your internships, whether in-person or virtual. With its extensive network of higher educational institutions and students, Riipen enables employers to easily find the right interns who match their specific project needs and organizational culture. 

This approach not only streamlines the recruitment process but also ensures a good fit between interns and projects, setting the stage for a successful partnership from the start. 

But Riipen's capabilities extend far beyond the initial connection. The platform also:

  • Automates many aspects of internship management, offering pre-built templates and tools designed to kickstart your intern program. 
  • Has smart-matching capabilities to help your organization quickly find interns who align with your project needs.
  • Simplifies the administrative aspects of running an internship program with tools that help manage schedules, tasks, and feedback.
  • Centalizes communication on a single platform, making it easy to keep track of discussions, project updates, and feedback.


Jump ahead:

Key takeaways

  • A successful internship management process requires careful preparation, clear communication, supportive mentorship, and a focus on collaboration and professional development.
  • Effective intern management can lead to a dynamic workplace, foster innovation, and help in identifying and nurturing future talent.
  • Platforms like Riipen offer a holistic solution to streamline the intern management process.

As competition for interns becomes more difficult, a well-structured internship program becomes essential. With Riipen, employers can simplify management and enhance intern experience at the same time. Discover how Riipen can make your intern management process more efficient, engaging, and impactful. Book a free demo.

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