Have You: Developed Good Intern Policies?

When I was an undergrad, one of the requirements of my degree was completing an internship.  I remember spending a fair amount of time searching through hundreds of internship openings, trying to find the perfect one. Luckily, I was able to find a great internship at the last minute.  But there was no coffee fetching or doughnut runs for me.  No, it turned out to be an amazing opportunity to do all of the fascinating work that my bosses themselves did.  I will be forever  grateful to my employers for giving me a special hands-on opportunity to learn things that have actually turned out to be useful and pertinent to what I love to do.

I say all this because it is experiences like mine that clearly demonstrate why interns and organizations both  like internships. For interns, they are able to get hands-on experience and glean a little insight into worlds they might not have otherwise had access to. For non-profits, by expending little to no money they can gain an exponential amount of manpower.  And because many interns are hoping for a stellar recommendation, or seeking a full-time position, they usually learn quicker, work harder, and are more eager to please.

Yet, despite all of the advantages internships pose for both employers and interns, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility as well .  All too often, interns are taken advantage of, doing full-time work for little to no reward and relegated to fetching coffee and stamping envelopes.  Employers, in turn, gain bad reputations, and are left with sullen interns on their hands.

A happy workplace is the best workplace, for everyone involved.  So what can organizations do to create the best atmosphere for not only themselves, but their interns as well?

Organizations should keep the following in mind:

1.    Read and familiarize yourself with the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act, paying special attention to “The Test for Unpaid Interns”. (Find it here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm)
2.    Read and familiarize yourself with Texas law, particularly in regards to the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Find it here: http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/efte/advanced_flsa_issues.html).
3.    Think about what the organization needs (i.e. evaluate whether or not, and how, the organization can make proper use of interns and whether the organization is equipped to handle interns as far as manpower for training and supervision, budgets, casino online time, etc.). (A more detailed checklist can be found here: http://www.internships.com/employer/resources/setup/12steps).
4.    Think about what the intern’s needs might be (i.e. pay, college credit, or other forms of compensation, and get in touch with universities’ career services offices in order to explore the options).
5.    Think about creating an intern handbook or manual.
6.    Always ensure that the organization is 100% honest with intern candidates., Particularly in regards to what both sides will put into and get out of the internship.

At the end of the day, honesty is the best policy.  Your organization should  be completely honest with itself about what its needs are and what it can offer .  Internships are a give and take relationship, and the burden of giving shouldn’t fall just on the shoulders of the interns.  Treat your interns right, and you’ll find the organization will gain far more in the end.

For further reading, Forbes has an interesting article about internships today: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/04/20/lifestyle-us-fea-parenting-teens-internships_8426658.html?partner=alerts


For examples of intern manuals/handbooks, to give you an idea of how to compile your own, take a look at what other organizations are using:

CSU-Fresno’s Internship Manual:

The Colorado State Board of Pharmacy’s Intern Training Manual:

Westmont College’s Internship Supervisor’s Manual:

You’ll notice that no matter what type of organization it’s for, all of the manuals are very specific in regards to what is expected not only of the interns but also of the supervisors and organizations, include lists of objectives, and have basic time frames laid out.

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