Do you remember your college internship? I do. I was fortunate that my internship ended up being my actual job throughout my college career. And I loved it. I worked for a cluster of radio stations and let me tell you — I. Did. It. All. I worked the Sunday 4am shift, the Friday 8pm shift, I filed, I answered the phones, and once I had proven myself, I took on more significant tasks. I wrote proposals, I represented the station at on-site broadcasts, and I helped rewire a studio. By the time I left, I had done everything but climb the tower (and I totally would have done that if the opportunity had come up).
So, last fall when we, as a company, sat down to talk about the future of Willow’s internship program, I discovered I felt very passionate about it and wanted to be part of it. We’ve had many amazing interns, and despite what Olivia said, I really do remember them. There was Grace and Ashley, Joe and Kelsey, Holly, Annie, Caroline, Hannah, and Brendan. All of them memorable in their own ways. And I want to make sure that Willow is memorable to them — not only our culture, but the skills, tools and knowledge they will take away from their time here. Three, five, even ten years down the road, I want them to be a better employee… because they know why you need a 1-color and full-color logo, or how to set the table for a client meeting, or how to write a great agenda.
How do I build on the program we already have? I make it easy to replicate! I plan, plan, and plan a bit more, and then I document it. That way, when the fall interns start and I’m knee deep in a project, I’m not starting from scratch.
First, I create a timeline. It includes dates like when the internship will be posted, when I’ll schedule phone interviews, a few weeks for in-person interviews, when we’ll present the candidate(s) with an offer letter, and a planning period. I love a good timeline, and this helps me stay on-track.
Second, I need to figure out what the heck to do with these kids! To do this, I have to understand what is helpful to us as a company and what is helpful to them. I broke it down like this:
Doing: I expect this to be about 35% of their responsibilities. During orientation, interns will be given a 12-week project based on their interests, skill sets, and backgrounds. They will be given a brief on the client, definition of internal support/roles, a detailed explanation on what the final deliverable should or should not include, milestones, and a deadline. The project is designed to teach them how to create a campaign for a client — identifying the company’s audiences and messaging, brainstorming, researching, strategizing and, finally, presenting.
Observing: This will take around 25% of their time. I want them attending internal and external meetings, taking meeting notes, job/project shadowing, coaching sessions, and professional development. Note: professional development is one of my favorite parts. There is going to be downtime for an intern, so why not make it useful? They receive weekly emails with videos to watch, and books or articles to read. I’ve included office favorites like Simon Sinek, important topics like failure, and timely content like using social media for trade show promotion. And I ask for feedback and takeaways, not a book report.
Participating: This should consume around 25% of their week, attending meetings with participation expected, reviewing documents and offering opinions, proofreading, website testing, and assisting with research.
Office Administrating: AKA “intern work,” this will take about 15% of their time. Totally unglamorous, but we still need the supply closet stocked, meeting rooms prepared, and phones answered.
The program is a work in progress. I sometimes get off-track, caught up in a project, or simply push my “intern program to-do” to the bottom of my priority list. But thankfully it keeps moving, due in large part to a team that is all in, and committed to giving our interns a great experience!
I’d love to know how you structure your internship program. How do you keep them engaged? Do you encourage them to job shadow in all departments? How does your staff delegate work to interns? Let me know!